A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Look Away! Look Away!

A Farmington, MO teenager and his family are fighting to wear Confederate symbols to school:
A legal skirmish may be brewing over the Confederate battle flag being displayed on a cap and T-shirts that a student wore last month to Farmington High School.

The freshman student was suspended and then withdrew from school.

His family is preparing to challenge the suspension, through legal action if necessary, an attorney for the family said Tuesday.

The student, Bryce Archambo, 14, of Farmington, was suspended from school for a day on Sept. 28 after a physical education teacher told school administrators that he was offended by the Confederate flag and accompanying slogan, "Rebel Pride," on his clothing.

Farmington is a city of 16,000 in St. Francois County, about 65 miles south of St. Louis. Farmington High has about 1,200 students.

Bryce Archambo said Tuesday in a telephone interview that school administrators told him not to wear the cap and T-shirts to school any more because they were offensive and disruptive. Bryce's father, Marc Archambo, called the school and told administrators that his son had the legal right to wear those articles of clothing, the youth said. Marc Archambo removed his son from the school and has been home-schooling him, Bryce Archambo said.

Students elsewhere have been punished for wearing Confederate symbols in school, and the courts often have upheld a school district's right to keep order. A Belleville East High School senior got an eight-day suspension in 2001 after refusing to cover Confederate flag stickers on his car while it was being worked on in the school's automotive shop.

The Archambo family has hired lawyer Robert Herman of St. Louis to challenge the suspension. Herman has experience defending free-speech issues in area courts. He has represented the Ku Klux Klan, among other groups, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Herman said Missouri law bars school officials from ordering students to remove clothing, emblems or insignia that are "worn in a manner that does not promote disruptive behavior."

Bryce Archambo said he merely wore the cap and T-shirts and did nothing that was disruptive.

Superintendent W.L. Sanders of the Farmington School District replied, "It is our position that principals have the authority to prohibit any emblem or symbol that they deem disruptive to the operation of the schools."

Bryce Archambo said he viewed the flag as a symbol of his family's Southern ancestry and not as something racist or offensive.

I wonder if a wary judiciary will throw the case out instead of taking a stand, given that the Archambos have withdrawn their son from attendance in the district? It's a common tactic --remember the infamous Pledge of Allegiance case?

I remember long ago as a child I went to Six Flags Over Texas --back when it was THE only Six Flags-- and purchased a replica of a Confederate "Stars and Bars" flag. After all, one side of my family was from the South, so I hung it up in my room. Once I realized exactly what it stood for, I got rid of it. Venerating your ancestors is one thing. Venerating your ancestors' mistakes is another. Venerating a potent symbol of the Klan is yet another thing-- sure, the swastika was an innocent ancient Native American symbol once, too.

It sounds as though the argument being made by the family and its representatives is that he is being oppressed for merely publicly claiming his "heritage." After careful examination, I have never found any reputable hypothesis that "Southerner" or "Rebel" is an ethnicity. Would Mr. Archambo's family like to see minority kids in their school wearing shirts with the slogan "White Devils?" The connotation of the Confederate flag is one of intimidation and torture, for depriving one group of people of freedom for the comfort and enrichment of another group. If he and his family don't see that, then perhaps they could use a little education.


At 10/19/06, 8:03 PM, Blogger Fred said...

We had a huge issue on campus last year when students wearing Puerto Rican flags were being taunted by those wearing Columbian flags.

We prohibited flags being worn on t-shirts, and suspended a few of the students that were taunting. Many parents threatened to sue.

The suspensions were ultimately lifted, and the flag ban has stayed in place.

No one has sued, and it's been over a year nos.

At 10/19/06, 8:58 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

It would seem that once again we agree.

I don't have to enjoy the history of where I live by draping myself in a symbol that causes so much division. There are so many other ways I can honor my ancestors without causing others to be uncomfortable. I think one of the best ways to honor southern heritage if someone feels a need to do that is to educate themselves from all points of view.

The south has too much going for it to wallow in and perpetuate(sp?) the flag flap. What about moss covered trees, dinner on the grounds, exploring grave yards for long lost relatives, tail gate picnics before a DAWGS game, family reunions, a tall glass of sweet iced tea, a big bowl of grits swimmin' in butter, or my...er....OUR personal favorite...a platter of fried green 'maters?

Nope, there's too many other things this southern gal prefers to wrap around me than that piece of cloth.

It's amazing to me that after all this time southern youth tend to be so attracted to that image....unfortunately it's a rite of passage for many southern teenagers to adopt that symbol for a year or two anyway.

At 10/20/06, 12:12 AM, Anonymous MellowOut said...

I think what's wrong is that the Confederate flag is seen too often as a symbol of rebellion and not the reason for the rebellion it truly represents. If some of these guys really want to honor their ancestors, I suggest they start by reading about the history and issues surrounding the rebellion.

On another note, I think you ahve the wrong Indian on the swastika example. It's a Hindu symbol. When my hubby and I were looking at houses, we went to one that had a small red swastika carved on the door. I was offended until I realized the family selling the house was Hindu.

At 10/20/06, 12:56 AM, Blogger Coach Brown said...

Unfortunately, the Confederate flag is a common sight with a certain group on campus, and none of it is addressed. Then again, although I think that it is a disgusting symbol of the South trying to cecede from the secede, arguments could be made for protection of political speech. I know, it sounds like I'm making excuses, but swastikas and the Confederate flag are two separate issues. The Confederate flag primarily became a race issue during the Civil Rights Movement, not during the Civil War.
Personally, I hate the damn thing, but in this society, that doesn't make it illegal.

At 10/20/06, 5:39 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

fred- that is exactly what I think the authorities here were trying to avoid.

eht-- you forgot cheese grits. MMMM-MMMM. and now I'm cravin those 'maters. Darn. And you had me up till the DAWGS remark. What? Who? Go Sooners!

Mellowout-- actually both kinds of "Indians" used the symbol. For Native Americans it was used by the Navajo and other southwestern tribes. The Tibetans also used it.

coach- I see your point. But the meanings of words and symbols are contantly in flux. I once had an assistant principal who jokingly called me a hussy. That word has changed in meaning since its origin, and I don't think she was a specialist in Middle English. Likewise with once completely harmless words like "faggot' and "gay," not to mention, so help me "booty." The Confederate flag has been associated and used as a symbol by the Klan for much more than a century, not just during the Civil Rights Movement, and it is a symbol of threat, oppression, and violence-- hardly honorable qualities. That is, unfortunately, what it is associated with today- and I'm not too sympathetic with what it stood for during the Civil War either, frankly, but that's my personal opinion as a patriotic American.

I honor my ancestors, including those who fought for the Confederacy. But that doesn't mean I honor their "cause."

At 10/20/06, 7:43 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

I am in agreement with you, Ms. Cornelius. I posted about it here.

They teach American History from the Southern viewpoint around here. I shocked my daughter once when she was speculating that if this or that had happened we might have won the Civil War, and I said that I didn't necessarily consider the Confederacy "we". Yes, I was born and raised in Mississippi and I'm glad to be a Southerner, but I am a loyal American.

At 10/20/06, 8:43 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

We don't have to worry about this kind of thing at my jhs. We have school uniforms.

On the other hand, ANYTHING that creates a disruption at ANY school should not be allowed, be it symbols, styles of clothing, logos on clothing, etc.

The rights of the majority should be most important.

If that family wants to fly their CSA battle standard over their home, let em. I know that in my family history, a branch living in Ozark Co., MO., was visited on Christmas Eve, 1864 by "supporters" of the Stars and Bars. They burned down my ancestors house and most of their belongings and if he hadn't been given a couple minutes warning, my fourth ggf, who returned from service in Mexico an invalid (mostly blind) Sgt. Elisha Luna/Looney Co. B., First Tenn. Vol. Inf., outta Marshall Co., Tenn.) These "southern warriors" woulda shot him down in cold blood just like several other men they gunned down on this raid.

At 10/21/06, 2:34 AM, Blogger Freudian Slip said...

Interesting discussion. I have a good friend who is a huge war buff (he is a history professor) and he collects all kinds of stuff. He has some Nazi things hanging up in his study. Of course he hates Hitler and everything he stood for, but he does respect the history aspect, and how one man could become so powerful. He obviously means no harm in displaying these items, but that doesn't mean people wouldn't think he was racist if they saw his study! The point I'm trying to make is you have to look for the meaning behind something, the problem is some people shoot first and ask questions later!

At 10/21/06, 3:59 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Laura- So is your opinion in the minority there? I mean, Ole Miss is the home of Jefferson Davis...

Polski-Could it have been Quantrill? Missouri was especially torn during th Civil War. There's a really good book about it called, I think, Inside War: The Guerilla Conflice in Missouri During the American Civil War by Michael Fellman.

Matt- you are so right. But I persoally would not display any Nazi regalia that my family has-- and we have some. War loot, I think.

At 10/23/06, 12:23 AM, Anonymous fredthefish said...

We have an on-going symbol discussion. When I started teaching at my school, confederate flags were everywhere, including drawn on an ID index card by one of my bi-racial students ("I'm a redneck," he said). Last year, we had a flag on flag confrontation similar to Fred's. This year, the administration is cracking down on symbols/language on clothing (Big Pimpin' hat has to go, as does the Hooters shirt).
I had a lengthy conversation with a girl about her love of the Playboy bunny. "I don't read the magazine," she said. "I don't like pornography." But, I said, do you not see yourself as advertising therefore advocating therefore giving the greenlight to the company that owns that symbol?
"We should just wear uniforms," she said.
Me, I sighed.

At 10/23/06, 10:12 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Ms. Cornelius, it's hard to tell whether I'm in the minority or not. Lots of white people agree with me. Others do after I put forth my argument. Our black mayor argued against moving the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue back to Elmwood Cemetary and changing the name of that city park. It's a complex issue.

At 10/24/06, 1:21 PM, Blogger LiteraryTech said...

I think something important is being missed here. It is significant to the argument that one is "honoring" your "heritage." This would suppose that you actually know what you're talking about.

The "Stars and Bars" that is typically used as the "Confederate flag" is not. It is a (and not the only) Confederate battle flag. If you want to see the actual Confederate flag, go visit Six Flags. You will find it flying there along with the old flags of France, Spain, Mexico, Texas (the Republic), and the current flag of the United States. I'm not certain, but I don't think I have ever seen anyone put the actual Confederate flag on a hat or shirt.

Here's a novel idea: every student who comes to school wearing the Confederate battle flag should be force to stay after school and attend a class in the history of the Confederacy (including flags) and a history of slavery and the abuse of Americans that occured for a hundred years after the conflict because they could be identified by their skin color.

At 10/24/06, 6:21 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

We had a conversation at home about the wrongness of whatever is perceived to be the Confederate flag being a component of a state flag. Here's the way I explained it to my daughter.

Suppose that there were a country somewhere, where you would have no rights at all. You could be assaulted, robbed, raped, killed, and no one would have to answer for it. No protection under the law. Nothing your daddy or I could do about it. Then suppose that you looked at the state flag flying over the courthouse in the city where you live, and saw that the flag of that country was incorporated into it. Wouldn't you feel uncomfortable? Like you didn't really belong? Like your rights could be taken away from you at any time?

Heritage, my foot. That was a dark time in my country's past. Why in the world would people want to glorify it.

At 11/23/06, 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the "bad" things associated with the Confederate flags (whichever type) are ALSO true of the U.S. flag. Slavery was legal under the original 1787 Constitution, and for 70 years thereafter. (In fact, Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves right up till the end of the war, while Robert E. Lee had freed his own BEFORE.) The destruction of Native American tribes took place under the aegis of the U.S. flag. Every imperial adventure since the 19th century up through Vietnam and Iraq were undertaken under the sign of the Stars and Stripes.

At 11/28/06, 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think we would be having this debate if a black student had been in trouble for wearing a Malcolm X shirt. It's his right to wear it. It's not offensive. If it's taken as offensive, then perhaps the mindset of the adults involved should be changed. By the way, I know this young man. I live in Farmington. Well played, Bryce!


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