Why Continue To Offend?
To the Editors of The Crimson:
When Bridget Kerrigan pinned up her flag in her dorm room window two weeks ago, she perhaps did not anticipate that so many Harvard students would associate her flag with centuries of brutal lynchings and dehumanization. That the flag is the symbol of choice for the Ku Klux Klan, and a symbol which few southern Blacks can embrace with pride, may have escaped her and the others currently displaying the flag. But now that so many students have clearly delineated this for Kerrigan and the others, how can they be unaware of what their continued display of the Confederate flag is saying to Blacks at Harvard?
Many have commented on the right of those displaying the flags to free expression. We and most others have never questioned this right. Preoccupation with this point distorts and distracts from the true issue: by continuing to display the flags despite their clear injury to the sense of wecome of Blacks and others on Harvard's campus, Kerrigan, Tim McCormack and Dianne Reeder confirm that the concerns of Blacks are worthless to them, even worthy of abuse.
Since the controversy began, every Harvard official who has entered it has clearly affirmed the right to free speech. How can the flags, as Reeder asserts, be "symbols of free speech"? What sense is there in mounting so offensive a defense for a right that has never been threatened?
As an expression of regional pride, the flag is also unneeded. Is not a state flag a better expression of regional pride? Less inclusive, perhaps, among territorial lines; but not so exclusive, at least, among racial ones.
The hangers wish to emphasize their right to offend freely, to rub in the fact of their privilege to insult. For better or worse, our response cannot be to shut them up. The insult now stands, neither to be obviated nor obliterated by the flag's forcible removal. Hopefully, those responsible will someday realize what they truly communicate. Regardless, if we can bring most other students to understand the communication, we may be victimized by fewer reckless and damaging assertions of "pride" and "rights" in the future. Ben Hansen '92 Helena Hansen '91-2