A BAN ON HERITAGE?!
CANTON, Ga. -- 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.
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.
Walter C. Butler Jr., president of the Georgia State
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."
(SEE Ban on Heritage, page 2)