Free Expression, The Confederate Flag and the Ku Klux Klan


epaselect epa04811723 The Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House Building in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, 20 June 2015. Debate about the Confederate flag from the US Civil War that still flies on South Carolina's State House grounds in Columbia has flared since the racially motivated shooting in Charleston on 17 June, in which 9 people were murdered. 21 year-old suspect Dylann Storm Roof was arrested in North Carolina on 18 June. Calls for taking down the flag have grown on social media after the flag was seen flying at full staff, while the South Carolina and US flags flew at half staff in honour of the victims. EPA/JOHN TAGGART

The current discussion on changing the name of Forrest Hall and the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag are both crucial ones to be had. However, the arguments are primarily centered around the question, “is it right or wrong,” when we need to be asking about the rights of the people and organizations donning these flags/titles.

To start this conversation, we first have to realize we cannot ban things because they offend us. 

In 1969, the Supreme Court set the precedent for this sort of issue in the landmark case of Brandenburg V. Ohio. The gist was this man, Clarence Brandenburg, was a leader of the KKK and he wanted to host a public rally. He clucked on about the suppression of the Caucasian race and said really hurtful things about other races. Brandenburg was then arrested for inciting violence, although it wasn’t something he’d actually done. In response, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction and clarified that while you can’t say “let’s go kill this guy,” you can say “I wish this guy was dead.” One incites danger, one is just messed up.

Similarly, we can’t ask rednecks to remove the Confederate flags just because we don’t like them. There are a thousand arguments for whether it is a symbol of racism or a symbol of history, but regardless, we all have the right to fly whatever flags we want. Also, as much as we believe that the confederate flag desensitized Dylann Roof to the idea of racism, it is just silly to suggest that this symbolism somehow drove him to kill those nine innocent people in Charleston.

People, even the bigoted ones, have the right to wear Rhodesian flags, Confederate flags, swastikas or whatever fits their fancy as a part of free expression. We can hate it all we want, but we can’t say free speech only applies to people saying things we agree with.

While I firmly believe that the First Amendment protects the people who want to fly flags I don’t support, I also know for a fact that the same amendment grants us the right to petition.

Don’t be disheartened by someone else’s rights, but rather use your own to better your community. Now I’m talking about Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall.

We, the students of MTSU, can petition our brains out. We’ve started amazing movements on Facebook and Twitter to gain hundreds of followers in just two days. From what I’ve seen, the census seems to be that we are against the current name, and fairly aggressively against it. So much so that President McPhee had to speak out to clarify the history and try to get the students to level with the administration.

When an authority speaks back, we’ve stirred change. That is what makes this a movement, not just a Facebook trend.

We are effectively the school’s market or constituency. In other words, they can’t ignore us. Therefore, if we vigorously ban together and reach out to our Student Government Association and our faculty, there will be no way around having a serious discussion about the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall, and ultimately making change.

While we can’t suppress other citizens’ rights, we can use ours to make the authorities understand and aid in our cause.

We cannot ask people not to share what we believe to be wrong, we can share what we believe to be right to drown out that with which we disagree. Understand your rights to free expression, but make sure to respect the rights of those opposed to you as well.

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To contact Editor-in-Chief Meagan White, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Vann Rimpsey
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    As Americans we are all entitled to our own beliefs. This is pretty much the land of the free. With that being said if you want to wear a Confederate flag that is your individual business. If you want to wear a swastika that is your business. No one can tell you what you can hate, who you can hate, and how you should hate them, that is your personal agenda. With that being said just because that’s your individual agenda doesn’t mean the majority has to celebrate you for it. As a black student at MTSU Forrest Hall is only one of the many examples of racism displayed throughout our campus. After over 50 years of integration our school is still very much segregated unfortunately. Our mascot has heavy ties with the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the years MTSU has been a pretty racist institution and have done a good job at attempting to repair the schools image to promote diversity and equality. MTSU is a public university so peoples tax dollars fund the school, with that being said I don’t want my tax dollars helping keep up a building that celebrates a person who committed atrocious acts against my people. It’s disrespectful to have Black ROTC students go to a building day in and day out that honors someone who wanted them oppressed and didn’t think of them as equal. There has to be more to the solution than to just tell black students “to get over”. How can we be true blue if cant even support our student who feel offended.

  2. laurenMTSU
    March 18, 2016
    Reply

    When it comes to the confederate flag, many people will think about racism and the ku klux klan. However, the confederacy wasn’t all bad- not everyone was a racist, owned slaves, or even supported the KKK. We as Americans have a hard time differentiating between what’s right and wrong because we are given so much freedom. But, this freedom is being taken to the extreme. Politically correctness has created this mindset that everything can be turned into an offensive phrase or meaning. I understand why some people are offended by the confederate flag and how they can relate it to the KKK, but why would it go to the extreme to band the flag, and now at MTSU, put up a petition to rename a building that has been on this campus from the beginning? We are not the same country and people that Americans were back then. That being said, it is a part of our history and it’s in the past. We can remember it as a positive thing- like how we overcame slavery. Look at the Holocaust museum? I don’t think anyone has an issue with it having things about Hitler in it. No one is trying to tear it down. The Holocaust is one of the most devastating, and morbid events to happen in the world and it was based around racism. But, they keep it up to remember what happened, to remember those who suffered and were pulled through the ringer, to learn from mistakes, and to put it in the past. In my opinion, I find it ridiculous to take down a name just because someone is offended by the past.

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