Confederates lose elementary battle

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The school recruited a professional artist in the "early 2000s" to recreate a student's doodlings, school officials said. (Photo from Facebook/David Clark)

Heritage or hate?

You might run across that short question when reading news articles about the Confederate flag, statues or Daisy Dukes.

I have a long history with that now-reviled flag.

For most of my life, the “Rebel” flag was the primary component of the state flag of Georgia. It was flown outside every school I attended. It flew over yours too, if you went to a public school in Georgia between 1956 and 2001.

My high school’s athletic teams are still called the Rebels and Rebelettes. I don’t claim to be a Civil War historian, but the books I’ve read  never mention the Rebelettes at any major battle. That’s probably a good thing for the United States. In high school, our “girl teams” won more often than the boys.

Our team colors are gray and red and the “Stars and Bars” appeared everywhere, including the walls of the cafeteria and football field house.

Our mascot is a tiny Southern aristocrat who resembles Colonel Sanders looking for a bucket of chicken.

As strange as all that sounds, it is much stranger today in Tennessee where local residents are angry an elementary school painted over a mural showing a young rebel watching an opponent dangle from a tree.

Despite multiple headlines, the mural at South Cumberland Elementary in Crossville, Tenn., located three hours north of Atlanta, did not show a “lynching” but it’s still plenty shocking.

Local news reports said the gym wall art depicted a boy carrying a Confederate flag standing between a tethered eagle and a tree. A person in a blue outfit hangs by his jersey from a branch. Nearby is a covered wagon with a white flag. The dangling person represents the South Cumberland Rebels’ main rival, the North Cumberland Patriots, school officials said.

Ask yourself this: Do elementary schools need rivals? If so, do children need to see their rivals hanging from trees?

In the revised painting, the branch holding up the “Patriot” is gone and he appears to be flying. The rebel boy’s flag lost its stars and bars. Confederate flags on another wall were painted over and now say “Dread the Red.”

The mural was changed after a custodian, David Clark, noticed it while visiting from another school. Starting in December, he repeatedly complained about the mural to the superintendent and other school officials but nothing happened, he says.

He posted a photo of the mural on Facebook March 2. The mural was painted over within days.

A community that is 96 percent white, 3 percent Hispanic and 0.3 percent black vented their frustrations on Clark’s Facebook page.

  • “Stars & Bars baby wear my Southern Cross proud. The true meaning of the flag! BATTLE FLAG! No racism about this. You kind of people have made it racist, by these acts of hatred. God bless!” wrote one woman.
  • “As we say down South ‘Well Bless Your Heart,’ Tidy Bowl Man. And you must have studied toilet cleaning at [the University of Tennessee Knoxville] instead of American History. ha ha ha!” wrote another.
  • “You aren’t from here. Your family didn’t fight for that flag, Civil War was about states rights. Go ahead and paint over it but we will fly that flag for OUR family members that died for it,” a man wrote.

Heritage or hate? Often, it’s both.

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