(Photo: AP Photo/The (Hilton Head) Island Packet, Rachel Heaton)
Typically, African-American students across the country are involved in speaking out against the display of the Confederate Flag, but at one South Carolina university, a young Black man sees the flag as a positive symbol and is speaking out in support of his own right to hang it proudly.
"When I look at this flag, I don't see racism. I see respect, Southern pride," 19-year-old Byron Thomas, an African-American student at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, told the Associated Press. "This flag was seen as a communication symbol" during the Civil War.
Thomas sparked a campus controversy when he decided to display a Confederate Flag in his dorm window, but was asked to remove it by university officials in late November after about two dozen students complained.
Although Thomas initially removed the flag, the school has since sent an email to students and staff stating that "the university cannot and will not prohibit these flags or other symbols that our students choose to display," citing the First Amendment, which prohibits infringing upon freedom of speech. Now, Thomas says he is considering putting the flag back up.
"I've been getting a lot of support from people. My generation is interested in freedom of speech," Thomas said.
Thomas claims that he knows the history behind the flag and why some are upset, but he says that after completing a recent research project on the matter, he has come to believe that the flag’s true meaning has been misconstrued and hopes his display will force people to think more about the conceptions they have about its meaning.
While his feelings about the confederate flag are shared by many Southern whites and confederate pride groups, regardless of their position, the flag still makes many other African-Americans uncomfortable as the flag is seen as a reminder of the country’s harrowing history of slavery and oppression.
However, despite news that the university won’t take any action against Thomas if he puts the flag back up, he says there is one more constituency that he fears repercussions from: his parents. Thomas told reporters that his parents aren’t pleased with his views and since they are footing the bill for his education, their disapproval is unnerving.
"I don't want to make my parents mad," he said.
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