Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The rebel flag debate at UA continued

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 9:10 AM

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More today from the University of Arkansas newspaper, the Traveler, on student efforts to discourage display of the Confederate flag at the recently concluded Bikers, Blues and BBQ rally in Fayetteville.

The undergraduate student senate amended then effectively killed a resolution on the subject shortly before the rally. Organizers of the event declined to get involved, citing participants' free speech rights. The resolution urged that the flag not be flown, so as to to create an atmosphere devoid of racism.

The article notes that, in response, the Graduate Student Congress created and passed a similar resolution, almost unanimously. One member didn't vote.

“We know that diversity has become a popular term for those seeking positions of leadership on this campus,” said GSC Speaker Scout Johnson in her State of Graduate and Professional Students address. “Many spoke about the need for greater diversity within this very organization, the Associated Student Government. Speaking and acting are two very different things. We choose to act.”
The debate to date — whether it is representative of all students or not — has had some unfortunate moments. One was opposition to the resolution by a senator who feared financial retribution. Another was the hoary "Southern heritage" defense of the flag.  Then there was this in today's report quoting the student senator, Clay Smith, who had moved to indefinitely table the resolution.

While he did not have problems with the intentions in the resolution, Smith said he worried about physical or verbal violence that would put students in danger.

“I personally know people who have really strong feelings about the Confederate flag. Those people can get very offended and make some rash decisions,” Smith said.
Indeed. Little Rock, Birmingham, Selma, Philadelphia, Miss., and so many more stand as testimony to that. You might wish for a little more backbone nearly 60 years later.

Lots of interesting quotes in this article. They include defense of tabling of the resolution because it was "divisive." That's a fallback you hear often in today's Red Arkansas. Criticism  of contested policies — think laws legalizing discrimination recently passed here — is said to be "divisive." In other words: "Shut up."

Graduate student congress member Alex Marino put it this way:

“If we do something positive, these boogeymen, these other people are going to get more dangerous, and therefore, we shouldn’t do the good thing,” Marino said. “It’s an old excuse that hasn’t been proven true and is a go-to excuse for those who are against doing the right thing.”

The original resolution was amended because some were offended by a recitation of dark events in the nation's history, such as slavery. Some differing opinions on that:

“It bothered me that the history of the United States had been boiled down to division hatred and terror,” Smith said. “All the good our country has done in 250 years was totally thrown to the side.”

Marino said the student responses were unsettling.

“As a historian, I found it very disturbing that students were upset that we mentioned that slavery existed at the founding of this country,” Marino said. “It blows my mind that students on this campus don’t know American history.”
Free speech, including a free press, does seem to be flowering, regardless of outcome. Some students chose to boycott the event, which drew the usual huge crowd and many representations of the Confederate battle flag.










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