Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Slinky, Confederate, and Glittery -- Now Available in M, L, and XL

Alright, but who thought this was a good idea?

Teen sues over Confederate flag prom dress

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (AP) -- A teenager is suing her school district for barring her from the prom last spring because she was wearing a dress styled as a large Confederate battle flag.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court claims the Greenup County district and administrators violated Jacqueline Duty's First Amendment right to free speech and her right to celebrate her heritage at predominantly white Russell High School's prom May 1. She also is suing for defamation, false imprisonment and assault.


Alright, now this is a tricky subject. Should this teen be allowed to sue? More than the Confederate Flag representing a bunch of states who were all about slavery, they also represented pride in a rebellion against the United States -- a full-fledged secession from the country.

Does freedom of speech cover that? Well -- when a teen uses a permanent marker to write 'Die, N*ggers, Die!' on his or her t-shirt, should the schools also be forced to allow it on the grounds of freedom of speech? What about out in public, without a school being in the mix?

Free speech is important for free discourse and educated democracy. However, there is a line that should be drawn -- namely one in which an entire group is hurt or demeaned by your act. Free speech is okay when no one gets hurt -- and vocalizing an unpopular reasoned argument helps democracy function, but there is no good reason why a hateful, hurtful regime like the Southern Confederacy should be honoured in lieu of reminding blacks of the injustice that was done to them by that very power.

This teen may be proud of her Confederate roots, but the flag is more than just a symbol of her Southern heritage -- it is a symbol of death and oppression to many Americans, and a source of one of the U.S.' greatest wrongdoings. By wearing the flag as a dress, the girl is not simply showing pride in her Southern lineage, but is also (intentionally or unintentionally) invoking the other associations that are stirred up by the flag. One cannot separate slavery from the Confederate Army, or vice versa, but that is exactly what this girl was trying to do -- by claiming that "I'm proud of where I came from and my background."

(Let us not forget one thing -- is it really a 'pride' thing to wrap yourself in a flag, to cover up all your wobbly bits? I mean, wearing a Canadian G-string wouldn't really be patriotism, in my opinion. It's about half a step removed from wiping your ass in the Maple Leaf.)

Look at it from the side of the school, as far as liability. True, this girl was trying to make a statement about her background, but, by displaying the Confederate flag with pride, she was, irregardless of her intentions, also telling the world that she supports all that the Confederate flag stood for, including slavery and secession. While this may have been her right to free speech, the school she attended (what I gather is a state-sponsored public school, because there is no evidence to the contrary) was forced to make a choice. If they let her wear the dress, they would be condoning such a message, themselves; simply because the girl wanted to wear the dress to a school event, she was forcing the school to either be for or against her. They chose against her, probably because of liability and PR issues, and I believe they did the right thing -- a public school is supposed to serve the entire local community, and regardless of the racial makeup of the students, they cannot quietly condone a message of exclusion and hatred by allowing one of their students to openly promote it at a school event.

Again, this seems like another one of the wolves crying oppression that I mentioned in my 'Religious White' post. I'm tired of it -- quit caving to the peer pressure, white people. Oppression isn't fun. Can't you let the minorities have anything -- even the shit you fling at them?

Oh, and one more thing -- four years spent designing your prom dress? Get a life, little girl: prom's important, but not that important. And also, since when did the excuse: "they told me not to wear it, but I didn't have another dress, so I decided to just wear it and hope the administrators would change their minds" ever fly in the real world? Yeah... "the law says I shouldn't kill people, but I really really wanted to, so I did it, hoping that when they caught me, they would change their minds about it being a crime". The school should be ashamed of more than this little PR flub -- they should be seriously worried about the 'quality education' this teen received.


Blogger a_little_groovin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/22/2004 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This one truly is a lot tougher. I, like you, am extremely disturbed by this recent "trend" of racist rednecks hiding behind the confederate flag as a symbol of American culture. It's essentially the same thing as we discussed about Bush's loophole to provide funding to the missions. It's using culture, patriotism and heritage to create blind support for something that should not be receiving it. And God forbid someone say something unpatriotic. I could go into a rant about that, but I'll save that for a blogging sometime.

However! This reminds me of the KKK demonstration when we started at CU. My initial reaction was, "those jerks should not be allowed to rally", but that is very dangerous territory. I think we do ourselves more damage by saying "well, in certain cases freedom of speech is not allowed", then to allow Assholes to be Assholes and use our own free speech to counteract them. The Supreme Court has drawn the line for us at fighting words, as well as treasonous speech and I think we need to be careful where else we try to draw lines. I would instantly detest someone who wore a confederate flag as their dress, but as it is my right to hate them, it should also be their right to wear it. Preventing them from wearing it gives them more feul to their fire as we can see by the fact that it became newsworthy and a burden on our legal system. I believe it would be almost better to look at a person like that and feel pity for them because in their blind hate and the cowardice of hiding behind culture and heritage, they're missing out on the opportunity to benefit mankind and they will live unfulfilled lives full of hate.

12/23/2004 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Tarek, I tend to agree with you as far as where to draw the line. I also was thinking about the KKK demo when I posted my opinion. Should the KKK be allowed to demonstrate? I tend to be more civil liberties oriented than most people, so I feel that if you're on your own, then freedom of speech should be allowed.

I was careful, therefore, to speak about this event in the context it was in. This was a school event, and a public school MUST by definition be an open and 'safe' (well... safe in relative terms anyways) environment for ALL local students. If the teen had decided to wear her dress and walk down the street, it may have been a questionable act, but not necessarily something that should have her be arrested or something. What would be the difference, in that case, then someone being arrested for protesting the war in Iraq or something?

I think she crossed the line only by trying to go to a school event. Otherwise, I don't have to like what she has to say by making a Confederate flag dress, but I don't think she should not have the right to wear it down the street.

And James hates me for this opinion. :) I think he's of the opinion that the KKK should not be allowed to demonstrate, ever, which I understand but don't agree with.

12/23/2004 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I never said she should never be allowed to wear a dress like that. I think the inclusion of the girl wearing her dress into a school event crosses the line. This story reminded me of the recent segregationist high school prom about six months back. The entire "heritage, not hate" justification some white Southerners use to incite black rage is speech protected under the First Amendment, so long as the speech occurs in a public forum, not controlled or influenced by any governmental organization.

A public school is a state-funded, state-authorized socialization tool, where future full-fledged American citizens are taught American social and civic participation statutes and mores. Any individual allowed to promote race-based symbols of hate as permissible in such a protected space co-opts the sociopolitical force of the communal body politic's executive will to support said hate speech. For that reason, the allowance of a Confederate flag dress during an authorized public school event, such as a prom, is an impermissible as it is replusive.

Barring this girl from the prom was the school's only logical option. Any capitualtion allowing the girl's attendence while wearing the Confederate battle flag in any form would only suggest that the local government (the majority will of the local community) supported the ideals and postions the Confederate battle flag represents. To hide within the First Amendment when hating fellow citizens is weak. A strong young white girl would wear this dress on the streets of SE Washington, DC, or in Atlanta, Georgia. Whatever happened after that, of course, would be another issue. ;)


12/23/2004 06:15:00 PM  
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