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Remove the Confederate Flag from BYU Freshman Housing

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This petition is a formal complaint regarding the display of a Confederate Flag in BYU freshman housing, as well as a proposal to remove the Confederate flag as it is a form of discrimination and contradicts BYU morals and values.

By definition, a flag is “a piece of cloth…used as the symbol of a nation, state, or organization as a means of signaling” and also as a representation of the area in which it is positioned (flag 2016). Currently in Helaman housing, there are a multitude of flags hanging in dorm windows and representing a wide variety of geographical locations, moral opinions, and political ideals. Under the First Amendment, American citizens are allowed the right to freely express their opinions through a variety of means, including, but not limited to, freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Historically, judicial precedent has defined the flag as a form of symbolic speech.

Since its creation on May first, eighteen sixty-three, the Confederate flag has been used to represent the branch of a nation in which ideas of racism, segregation, and white supremacy were perpetuated as a social norm and expectation. In recent history, the representation of this flag has remained unchanged, most notably by the perpetrator of the Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer, Dylann Roof’s Facebook page is littered with photos of him holding the Confederate flag, all of which have racist overtones due to his comments on and off the posts containing references to the Ku Klux Klan and his hatred for blacks.

It is no surprise that in the past, the flag has been used as a means of racial intimidation and segregation. It is important to note its use in history as a symbol for the southern confederacy. However, what is most interesting about the flag is that the life of the symbol died on May fifth, eighteen sixty-five in accordance to the dissolution of the confederacy. What is surprising is how willing citizens today are to ignore the problematic and controversial history of the flag and fly it under the guise of southern pride. However, there is hope. On July tenth, two thousand and fifteen, The South Carolina state government held a ceremony to take down the confederate flag from statehood grounds. How then can the flag be justified as a symbol of southern pride when the south is not proud of the flag?

BYU’s lack of response to the presence of a Confederate flag on campus does not speak to BYU or church values, and therefore causes BYU appear hypocritical of it’s own. Historically, members of the church who initiated segregated congregations, or thought in favor of furthering inequality throughout church policy, were southern church members, supporters of the Confederate flag. As students of BYU we are representatives of the BYU mission: “to develop students in faith, intellect, and character” and “assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” (BYU Mission and Aims 2016). Second Nephi 26:23 states that, “all are alike unto God.” The first presidency declared that, “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past or present, in any form.” The message students represent as attendees of BYU, and as faithful members of the church, is exceptionally incompatible with the inherent significance of the Confederate flag.

If we choose to ignore the flag are we not thereby acquiescing it? If we allow racist or thoughtless actions to co-exist with pure and compassionate gospel principles, do we not detract from the efforts “to develop students in...intellect and character?” If, as members, we choose to support the statements of our church leaders only in speech and not in action, how much does our contemporary mindset truly differ from the racist actions of some of our predecessors? The inconvenient, yet unavoidable truth is that it doesn’t. As children of God it is imperative we learn to practice love not only in thought, but in action. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we are obligated to our choices, including the one of to act or to comply, as they define us as greatly as do our words. And as students of Brigham Young University, in order to remain in accordance with our objectives we must remove the Confederate flag.


Respectfully,

Amaia Kennedy and Kalli Roberts 

 

Works Cited

"The Definition of Flag." Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

"BYU's Mission and Aims | BYU Admissions." BYU Admissions. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.



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