Tumwater School District leadership did well to apologize last week after a Confederate flag was displayed during a school Veterans Day assembly.
This particular flag is emblematic of slavery, racism and the treasonous, break-away government that fought the Civil War against Union troops. Make no mistake: It was a bid to prolong the South’s barbaric practice of human slavery.
That a student of color ended up helping to carry that flag was a monstrous error. Never mind if it was one of 14 flags representing U.S. history since 1775 that were shown. It has come to light that his was a longtime practice at Bush Middle School, it was wrong to equate the flags of legitimate governments with illegitimate ones.
Though a case can be made that Confederate soldiers were just following orders, that doesn’t justify a display lacking context — and it misses a chance to examine the experience of those bootstrapped into unjust wars.
District spokeswoman Laurie Wiedenmeyer may be right that public outrage about the program was spurred by evolving public views of the Confederate flag. Well, better late than never, Tumwater.
Superintendent John Bash did well to issue a public apology, to say it never should have happened, and to call the student’s family to apologize.
Karen Johnson, co-founder and leader of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, deserves credit for turning the situation into a teachable moment at the Nov. 9 Tumwater School Board meeting. She applauded the district’s response and encouraged district schools to teach values such as love and citizenship, according to Olympian reporter Pemberton’s news story.
“I find it necessary to point out that while many say that (a Confederate flag) is a symbol of heritage, and not hate, we must understand and recall that the heritage was hate and slavery and segregation,” Johnson told the board.
“Having the flag there at all was an act of insensitivity and failed to meet our standards for a safe, respectful, and culturally sensitive school environment,” Bash told the board. “… Beyond the regret that this happened, I want to express regret this incident overshadows really what we should be celebrating right now, which is the service of all of our veterans here in the United States.”
More lessons can be learned. This was far more than a lapse of judgment by a single teacher who over saw leadership students who participated. It is particularly inexcusable in a middle school named for black pioneer George Washington Bush, who with his wife Isabella and children was among the earliest settlers in the region.
We’d like to think an ounce of accurate history can prevent a pound of inflammation in our political discourse.