The symbols of the Confederacy are powerful for many

Dear Editor,

I am writing as a 14-year Dolores resident, homeowner and as a parent, in regard to the recent controversy over "hate symbols" at Dolores Schools. These events have caught my attention not just as a proud community member but because I am what most would term through my outward appearance, an African-American.

I grew up in Golden, Colorado in a school district that was predominantly Caucasian. At that time, racial slurs, overtones and symbols were not often actively addressed. While racism did not dominate my school years it was prevalent, and I learned to brush off or ignore a number of affronts including "jokingly" being called the "n-word" (along with many other derivations such as "Kunta Kinte"), bullying based on my appearance and symbols such as the Confederate flag. Ironically and as a dysfunctional coping mechanism, I learned to accept these affronts so entirely that I was actually "friends" with people who assaulted me in this manner.

However, I was a well-educated child. I knew that the confederacy represented a time when our country was divided. A cornerstone of the confederacy's secession was the belief in the right to engage in human trafficking or slavery or servitude of the African race. Black people/African Americans were lynched, referred to in disparaging terms, and they were not considered an equal "species". Therefore, I found displays of the confederate flag and all the things associated with it offensive, intimidating and upsetting.

That said, the symbols of the confederacy are powerful in many realms. To some, they represent a spirit of rebellion, the treasured American independence, or a simpler, less complicated time in the land of Dixie. But one cannot deny the reality that this symbol also represents slavery - a violation of human rights throughout history, not just practiced because of an individual's skin color, but because of their religion and societal class.

Thus, in understanding what constitutes "hate", we must strive to understand the perspective of others. "Nobama" in and of itself is an expression of political belief. But, when emblazoned with the confederate flag it becomes an entirely different thing. From my perspective, (and the perspective of millions of other Americans), this symbol is a threat -an expression of hate.

Further, the philosophy expressed by this type of symbol is nothing new - it has been simmering in our country since 2008. It is the elephant in the room. There are a great many people who are very uncomfortable with the fact that a black man was elected President of the United States. The not so hidden message is that Nobama combined with a confederate flag implies that if there were still slavery, we wouldn't have a black President. Is that an expression of cultural/political belief or hate?

As Americans, it is our right and our duty to challenge the politics and policy of our country's leadership. That makes us a democracy. I disagree with a great deal of the Obama administration's direction. Ironically, due to the color of my skin it is often assumed that I automatically support everything President Obama does. The fact is we should never let race indiscriminately drive our passion for or against our President, a teacher or anybody! The same goes for gender, race, national origin, religion, age, marital status AND sexual orientation - this is common in most modern anti-discrimination policies including (I assume) Dolores Schools.

I urge our community to place high value on the perspective of others, to be cognizant of threatening or hateful expression. Indeed, freedom of speech allows us to express our beliefs. However, and as related to this incident - we are within our rights not to agree with a homosexual lifestyle, we cross a line when we threaten or intimidate that lifestyle.

The ban implemented in December was legal and constitutional. Period. But the opportunity should have been better taken to educate around this issue, so that if a ban on hate symbols was appropriate, it was arrived at from a measured, informed and fair perspective understood by all.

I welcome the school board's move to bring in a diversity and inclusion consultant. I encourage our community and parents to support and work with our school superintendent, administration and board in a unified direction and with a common goal - to provide the best education for our children possible.

Most of all, I hope to send my daughter to a school environment in Dolores that does not confront her with the well disguised hate that I encountered as a child. I have grave concerns about that given current events. Hate is hate and should never be hidden under the guise of culture or heritage.

Gareth Martins