Skip to comments.Dixie's dilemma
Posted on 01/06/2003 7:55:23 PM PST by stainlessbanner
At the beginning of the school year, Dixie Outfitters T-shirts were all the rage at Cherokee High School. Girls seemed partial to one featuring the Confederate battle flag in the shape of a rose. Boys often wore styles that discreetly but unmistakably displayed Dixie Outfitters' rebel emblem logo.
But now the most popular Dixie Outfitters shirt at the school doesn't feature a flag at all. It says: ''Jesus and the Confederate Battle Flag: Banned From Our Schools But Forever in Our Hearts.'' It became an instant favorite after school officials prohibited shirts featuring the battle flag in response to complaints from two African-American families who found them intimidating and offensive.
The ban is stirring old passions about Confederate symbols and their place in Southern history in this increasingly suburban high school, 40 miles northwest of Atlanta. Similar disputes over the flag are being played out more frequently in school systems -- and courtrooms -- across the South and elsewhere, as a new generation's fashion choices raise questions about where historical pride ends and racial insult begins.
Schools in states from Michigan to Alabama have banned the popular Dixie Outfitters shirts just as they might gang colors or miniskirts, saying they are disruptive to the school environment. The rebel flag's modern association with white supremacists makes it a flashpoint for racial confrontation, school officials say.
''This isn't an attempt to refute Southern heritage,'' said Mike McGowan, a Cherokee County schools spokesman. ''This is an issue of a disruption of the learning environment in one of our schools.''
Walter C. Butler Jr., president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, said it is unreasonable to ask African Americans not to react to someone wearing the rebel flag. ''To ask black people to respect a flag that was flown by people who wanted to totally subjugate and dehumanize you -- that is totally unthinkable,'' he said.
But the prohibitions against flag-themed clothing have prompted angry students, parents, Confederate-heritage groups and even the American Civil Liberties Union to respond with protests and lawsuits that argue that students' First Amendment rights are being trampled in the name of political correctness.
''This is our heritage. Nobody should be upset with these shirts,'' said Ree Simpson, a senior soccer player at Cherokee who says she owns eight Confederate-themed shirts. ''During Hispanic Heritage Month, we had to go through having a kid on the intercom every day talking about their history. Do you think they allow that during Confederate History Month?''
Simpson said no one complains when African-American students wear clothes made by FUBU, a black-owned company whose acronym means ''For Us By Us.'' Worse, she says, school officials have nothing to say when black students make the biting crack that the acronym also means ''farmers used to beat us.'' Similarly, she says, people assume that members of the school's growing Latino population mean no harm when they wear T-shirts bearing the Mexican flag.
Simpson believes the rebel flag should be viewed the same way. The days when the banner was a symbol of racial hatred and oppression are long gone, she contends. Far from being an expression of hate, she says, her affection for the flag simply reflects Southern pride. ''I'm a country girl. I can't help it. I love the South,'' she said. ''If people want to call me a redneck, let them.''
It is a sentiment that is apparently widely shared at Cherokee, and beyond. The day after Cherokee Principal Bill Sebring announced the T-shirt ban on the school's intercom this fall, more than 100 students were either sent home or told to change clothes when they defiantly wore the shirts to school. In the weeks that followed, angry parents and Confederate heritage groups organized flag-waving protests outside the school and at several school board meetings.
''All hell broke loose,'' said Tom Roach, an attorney for the Cherokee County school system. When principals banned the shirts at other county high schools in the past, he said, ''there was no public outcry. No complaints. No problems.''
But the Confederate flag was a particularly hot topic in Georgia this year. Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes was upset in his re-election bid in part because he successfully pushed for redesign of the Georgia state flag, which was formerly dominated by the Confederate battle emblem. On the new state banner, the emblem is reduced to a small icon. During the campaign, Barnes' opponent, Sonny Perdue, called for a referendum on the new flag, a position that analysts say helped make him the state's first elected Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Elsewhere in the South, civil rights groups have mobilized to remove the banner in recent years. Activists had it removed from atop the South Carolina statehouse and from other public places, saying it is an insult to African Americans and others who view it as a symbol of bigotry and state-sanctioned injustice. But that campaign has stirred a resentful backlash from groups that view it as an attack on their heritage.
''We're not in a battle just for that flag, we're in a battle to determine whether our Southern heritage and culture survives,'' said Dan Coleman, public relations director for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of the groups that joined the protests at Cherokee High School.
The battle over Confederate-themed clothing has made its way to the courts, which generally have sided with school dress codes that prevent items that officials deem disruptive.
In a 1969 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District that school officials could not prohibit students from wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, but only because the court found that the armbands were not disturbing the school atmosphere.
By contrast, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit earlier this year revived a lawsuit by two Kentucky students suspended for wearing shirts featuring the Confederate flag. The court said the reasons for the suspension were vague and remanded the case to a lower court, where it was dismissed after the school district settled with the students.
Also, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit earlier this fall sided with a Washington, N.J., student who challenged his school's ban on a T-shirt displaying the word ''redneck.'' The student was suspended from Warren Hills Regional High School for wearing the shirt, which school officials said violated their ban on clothing that portrays racial stereotypes. The school's vice principal said he took ''redneck'' to mean a violent, bigoted person.
But the court overturned the ban, saying the shirt was not proven to be disruptive. School officials, noting the school has a history of racial tensions, have promised to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
''Since last year, we have gotten well over 200 complaints about the banning of Confederate symbols in schools,'' said Kirk Lyons, lead counsel for the Southern Legal Resource Center, a North Carolina-based public-interest law firm that works to protect Confederate heritage and is in discussions with some families at Cherokee High School. He said the center is litigating six lawsuits and that dozens of others challenging Confederate clothing bans have been filed across the country.
As the controversy grows, Confederate-themed clothing has become more popular than ever. The owner of Georgia-based Dixie Outfitters says the firm sold 1 million T-shirts last year through the company's Web site and department stores across the South. Most of the shirts depict Southern scenes and symbols, often with the Confederate emblem.
''This is not your typical, in-your-face redneck type of shirt,'' said Dewey Barber, the firm's owner. ''They are espousing the Southern way of life. We're proud of our heritage down here.''
Barber said he is ''troubled'' that his shirts are frequently banned by school officials who view them as offensive. ''You can have an Iraqi flag in school. You can have the Russian flag. You can have every flag but the Confederate flag. It is puzzling and disturbing,'' he said.
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I'll place my order. Bump!
Sorry Mike but it should read:
'This is an issue of the truth getting in the way of the good teachers in our government propaganda centers forcing lies of the north upon young impressionable minds here in the South. We can't have anything in this school except an abject worship of the 16th President and his total ignorance of the Constitution of these United States. You let that happen and these kids might actually start thinking they have rights!!'
Also, there are some emails re: issues in this article under the Interesting Emails link.
Hey, what y'all got against rednecks up there, eh? :-)
On a staff and waving in the breeze with the word "Tennessee" under it. The one question I'm asked most isn't "are you a racist," but "are you from Tennessee?" I look at them and say "No, but I couldn't spell Mississippi."
They have a "dixie chicks" T-shirt! Yippee!
Your view of History is rather simplistic.
U.S. Grant's wife, Julia, brought along one of her slaves on all of her visits to Grant's headquarters during the Civil War. When Julia was with Grant, their youngest son, Jesse, was in the charge of "black Julia," the slave that Julia had used since her girlhood.
By contrast, in 1858, Robert E. Lee wrote, "There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil."
The Civil War was not a simply matter of "slavery" vs "emancipation" although it was certainly that simple to some Southern planters and some Northern abolitionists. U.S. Grant, fought to save the Union and tolerated slavery in his own family and had one of the four family slaves in his own Union Headquarters. Robert E. Lee, fought to defend his native State from attack and personally detested slavery.
What would Jesus do? Maybe, as seen in Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-13, he would see 19th Century Americans from both North and South as men of their time just as he saw the slave-owning Roman Centurian as a man of his time.
If you demand pure simplicity in your History and demand that a nation fighting a war be judged solely on the basis of it's recognition of slavery and what one of the belligerents considers "illegality" and "treason", then the next flag you would have to ban would be this one:
Is it unreasonable to ask Black Americans how they react to Senator Robert C. Byrd wearing a white sheet and hood?
For some unfathomable reason, only southerners and conservatives have no rights. I agree with Dewey Barber, the situation is very disturbing and even more disturbing that this rabble continues to force decent people to bow down for them. History, the part that is no longer in school history books, tells a very different story about the South and the blacks; many black Americans fought under that flag.
Seems to me that people had better turn their attention to the people who could care less if you are white, black, democrat, republican, liberal or conservative. They are out to kill you especially if you are a Christian, Catholic or a Jew anywhere in the world, but especially America.
These petty people call themselves American and all they can do is argue about trivial matters, not the preservation of their Republic. What a bunch of cowardly Idiots!
The only disruption I see here is being caused by those who are threatening violence against those wearing the shirts. I reckon its just easier (and PC) to ban the shirts than to deal with those who are making the threats. Its sort of like saying that ATM's cause crime because people get robbed while using them.
Non-Sequitur, do you happen to wear a towel wrapped tightly around your head? ;)
"Here's your sign."
(A Bill Engvall bump!)
I spent eight years of my youth being herded by an 80 year old, 5 foot tall nun with a 6 foot ruler, they're lucky I'm allowing blue jeans...
My father was stationed in Naples, Italy when I attended kindergarten and first grade. I was the only student in my class, towered over by what looked like four 8' tall nuns. I still have nightmares. My children are receiving an excellent education a private Christian school where Dixie Outfitter and Confederate Cotton shirts are allowed, toy guns are used as props for the cowboy themed homecoming decorations, and a history teacher asked me for a copy of my CNN LIES bumper sticker. Life is grand.
Old friend Kirk Lyons of Andres Strassmeir/Dennis Mahon/Tim McVeigh/OKC Bombing fame fame. Having been chased out of the neo-Nazi movement, he has recast himself as a defender of Southern Heritage. Southern Heritage does not need this guy around.
Read about St. Andrew and his relationship with Jesus and how he (Andrew) was crucified. Then read about the history of the CBF and St. Andrew - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
I think it was Lenny Bruce who did a comic routine suggesting that JFK should introduce his cabinet saying, "n*****, n*****, greaseball, greasball, whop, honkey, ..." so that the words would lose their offensive power. The black community could learn a lot from that kind of thinking.