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Those in flag photo should know better

In the end, happily posing by a Confederate flag a couple of years ago did not politically harm Scotland First Selectman Daniel Syme.

He easily cruised during the Nov. 7 municipal elections, winning another term leading the small town that once was a part of Windham, a job he’s had since 2011.

Given Syme’s dedication to his community, both as the town’s top elected official and as a leader in the Scotland Volunteer Fire Department, his victory was probably deserved.

Scotland can still benefit from his experience and leadership.

But make no mistake, what he did during that infamous Fourth of July party in Hampton was wrong.

Dead wrong. Flat-out wrong. Morally wrong.

Syme isn’t alone, however.

The photo circulated on social media the week before the election showed Scotland’s leader was joined by many past and present town officials from Hampton and Scotland.

They were wrong too.

Like it or not, the Confederate flag is and has been, for many generations, a symbol of hate to the nation’s African-American community.

For people of color, the flag reminds them of a time when a group of American states were so opposed to freeing their African slave ancestors, they were willing to secede and go to war.

In addition, the Confederate flag is, often, prominently displayed at hate group rallies, including the Ku Klux Klan.

A simple internet search shows the “Stars and Bars” are usually not far from these evil proceedings.

And KKK rallies are something folks from Scotland, especially those around in 1980, should be sensitive to.

When hundreds of national, state and local KKK figures gathered at a private field in Scotland more than 37 years ago, it made national headlines for the fact this rally happened far, far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Ever since that day — fair or not — Scotland and surrounding communities have forever been linked to the mindset of what happened that day.

This makes the actions of these local leaders a couple of years ago that much more disturbing.

There is absolutely no evidence any of the folks in the photo, all of whom have served their communities well for the most part, partake in the evil ideologies of groups like the KKK.

None.

But they all should have known better, both because of Scotland’s history and the political mindset going on nationally.

Their knee-jerk justifications of the photo, that they were celebrating “history” and “patriotism,” simply do not fly.

They should have said that, in hindsight, it was an unfortunate decision and something they would probably not do again.

After all, times may have changed since the photo was taken, but the Confederate flag issue was still high on the national conscious when the party took place.

To her credit, Windham/Willimantic NAACP Chapter President Leah Ralls didn’t attack the character or persona of the folks in the photo.

Rather, she invited them to a race forum slated for Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Betty Tipton Room at the Eastern Connecticut State University Student Center.

Ralls did confirm the Confederate flag is seen as highly offensive to African-Americans, going so far as to call the flag a “symbol of hate.”

She did say anyone, especially elected officials and those who defend them, could benefit from attending the forum. She is right on that mark.

 

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