For many students, the sight of a Confederate flag may not cause a second thought, but for others, it’s is an offensive symbol of racism.
Although the flag is now banned in six U.S. states, it can be seen in windows, on bumpers and even as decorations on laptop computers on the campus of Castleton University.
“The confederate flag is something that shouldn’t be allowed on campus because it is offensive to African American people. It’s like the swastika to me. Why would you hurt somebody’s culture?” said Tondi Mushandu, a black student originally from Zimbabwe.
Castleton, which currently does not have a policy on Confederate flags, has a black population of just .8 percent and a white population of 87.9 percent, according to cappex.com.
But despite Mushandu’s displeasure at seeing the flag on campus, not all students feel the same way.
“It’s a second amendment right,” said Rob Pinnock, a black student at Castleton. “I don’t judge them for having a confederate flag, just like they shouldn’t judge me for my Jamaican flag.”
But communication professor Sanjukta Ghosh, a native of India, said the flags are very different and questioned Pinnock’s logic.
“Putting up a Confederate flag and putting up a Jamaican Flag is not the same. The Jamaican Flag unifies a whole people into a country, to one identity. The Confederate flag is a flag of hate,” Ghosh said.
Carnelius Green, a black student who grew up in Florida, agrees with Mushandu that the Confederate flag should go away.
“Because I’m from the south, I’ve always been taught the history of the Civil War. The rebels were fighting for the right to slavery. We are in Vermont (a Union state), what is the point of having a Confederate flag?” he said.
A detail perhaps worth mentioning, however, is that the Confederate flag that we know was never the official flag of the Confederacy during the war. According to a PBS article in June, 2015, the flag was actually the battle flag for Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army of Northern Virginia. It was rejected as the official flag of the Confederacy and only become the most prominent flag of the Confederacy after they lost the Civil War.
For some students, seeing the flag stirs emotions that are difficult to deal with.
“For me personally, it makes me feel like people would prefer I work on a farm or a field rather than attend a university,” says Israel Dudley, a black first-year student.
Ghosh questioned why students or anyone would want to openly display the flag knowing what it signifies.
“What kind of culture are we creating that somebody feels comfortable enough to display a symbol of hate? What kind of campus are we creating that some person feels comfortable displaying a symbol of hate?” she said. “It’s not a question of whether or not we should get it removed, but step back and say ‘what are we doing wrong that is encouraging students to embrace symbols of hate.’”