Opinion: Bag The Flag?

This+February%2C+a+teacher+at+Northport+High+School+was+told+to+take+down+a+pride+flag+displayed+in+their+classroom.+The+reasoning+behind+this+was+that+a+complaint+had+been+made+by+a+community+member+about+the+flag+being+in+the+class%2C+and+the+district+bent+to+the+pressure.+

Tumblr

This February, a teacher at Northport High School was told to take down a pride flag displayed in their classroom. The reasoning behind this was that a complaint had been made by a community member about the flag being in the class, and the district bent to the pressure.

Liam Mickulas-Mesco, Freelancer

This February, a teacher at Northport High School was told to take down a pride flag displayed in their classroom. The reasoning behind this was that a complaint had been made by a community member about the flag being in the class, and the district bent to the pressure. 

While some time has passed since this event occurred, I wanted to take the time to talk about it and explain why it’s important, as the removal of symbols of social justice is happening all across the country. 

The flag had already been challenged previously by an upset member of the community. Initially, the district backed the flag, pointing out that it was relevant to the subject matter being taught, and they also agreed with the teacher, Mrs. Klein, who said the flag was signaling to students that their classroom was a safe-space. 

As a student in Room H211, where all this has taken place, I can attest to both of these statements. I am enrolled in one of Ms. Klein’s electives, Racial and Gender Inequality, in which we discuss topics relating to exactly what that flag represents. To me, it’s really wonderful that the school recognized and stood behind the flag.

The second time the flag got challenged, things didn’t go the same way. This time around, the complaint alleged that the flag was not inclusive of white people. Mrs. Klein was asked to take the flag down.

It is important that I explain what this pride flag looks like before continuing, as that complaint may be confusing if you are imagining the traditional six-striped symbol of the LGBT community. The flag in question is a fist with stripes of color ranging from dark-brown to white, representing different skin tones. All this is circumscribed within a black circle placed on top of the familiar rainbow flag. 

With this understanding, the complaint about the flag being exclusive of white people has resulted from an interpretation of the Tumblr post in which the flag was first posted.

In it, the creator of the flag says, “[T]he QPOC [queer people of color] design showcases all the skin tones of queer people of color from the lightest (North Asians and biracial people, not white people) to the darkest.” The quotation goes on to say that the inclusion of the fist was to represent the unity of queer people of color in the LGBT community. While initially the “not white people” statement may seem jarring, it’s important to understand that this flag is literally called the “QPOC flag” for a reason.

The intention of the flag is to show that within the LGBTQ+ community, people of color are demanding visibility; the flag is a way this underrepresented community is showing itself. I find it interesting that the complaint then ignores the 165 words before “not white people”; if they had paid any attention to this section of the post, they would understand exactly why QPOC people are wanting to be seen. The post gives various examples of how, within the LGBTQ+ community, people of color are erased and fetishized; it also emphasizes the importance of their identities being respected and understood.

Mrs. Klein was not aware of the Tumblr post when she put this flag into her classroom. The flag was first posted to Tumblr at least five years ago by the user “queerwitchqueenofcolor.” This, however, is not something that is known to most who see this flag, even when you search for it by name. Even pride march organizers like TriPride didn’t know the origin of the flag, writing in a related article that “TriPride has not discovered the [flag’s] original creator.” 

Regardless of the poster’s intent, visually, the flag looks like it does in fact represent white people, as shown by the white stripe at the top of the fist. No student in my class complained about the flag, and from what I had heard when I asked around, nobody in her other classes became angry at the flag either. As a matter of fact, students were angered because it had been removed. 

So, as a final word of advice to Northport High School that I learned in my News Literacy class: Context always matters, and you should not only allow yourself to listen to only one perspective. ”

— Liam Mickulas-Mesco

After this event initially occurred, in both my News Literacy and English classes, we spent roughly half of the period discussing what had occurred and how it relates to our nation’s current events (for example, school book bannings related to race, gender, and sexuality around the country).

I think the intention of Mrs. Klein is what matters here. She believed the flag was displaying support for social justice and symbolism for two marginalized groups within the United States. The school’s initial decision to side with her was, in my opinion, entirely correct; having her take it down was wrong. 

Now that it has been some time since this happened, I think it’s quite insulting that this school would make the decision to ban a flag because of a complaint that leaves out the context of the creator’s post. Mrs. Klein has since put up another flag after being given, what I would consider, a nightmare of a flag dubbed the “Together We Rise” flag. It puts out the same message as the QPOC flag did, which is a good thing. 

But that leaves me wondering: Will this happen again? Is another person going to complain, and is the school going to bend to the pressure? 

So, as a final word of advice to Northport High School that I learned in my News Literacy class: Context always matters, and you should not only allow yourself to listen to only one perspective.