Girl Suspended for Confederate Sweatshirt Needs a Clue and a New Style

Confederate flagWelp, here we go again. Another generation is taking up the guard for the good ol’ Confederate flag. Hooty hoo! And here I was all worried that that piece of nostalgic paraphernalia might fade into oblivion.  

Last week, 14-year-old Torri Albrecht was suspended from her New Jersey middle school not for wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt to class, but for refusing to take it off when the principal asked her to. Though she was born in Virginia and lived there for only one year, the Garden State resident is committed to celebrating her people — as in Southern people — despite the consequences.

Not surprisingly, the eighth grader has the full support of her mother, Jane West, who says if Jewish people can wear yarmulkes and Indian folks can sport turbans, than her child should be able to wear Old Rebel. Wow. Did she really say that? 


It’s impossible to turn your nose up at the kid when her mama is spouting nonsense like that, that’s for sure. She didn’t really stand a chance.

Funny thing is, when asked if she knew what the flag meant, she couldn’t even answer the question. How can you pump your kid up to wear the flag as a show of pride in her heritage when she doesn’t even know the history behind it? Surely if you’re going to plaster something across your chest, rock it to school, and defy administrators when they tell you to take it off, you should be informed enough to know what you’re standing up for. At least be able to touch on the basics.

Even funnier: mama didn’t know much about it either. She just knows it’s Southern and evidently, that’s good enough for her. So everybody’s just wearin’ it but has no idea what it means. Since we’re drawing comparisons between casual street wear and traditional religious and cultural garb, I’m sure a teen in a turban or a yarmulke could, at the very least, explain the meaning behind them. Just sayin’.

And that is part of the ignorance that irks my soul. Not even that it’s offensive to some black folks when they’re confronted with it. Whenever I see the Confederate flag — flying above someone’s home, dangling from their rearview mirror, draped across the back of their Harley — I instantly proceed with caution because I think I’m dealing with a redneck. In some instances, I definitely was and they let me know, in clear and certain terms, that they were batting for Team White Power. I even had an encounter with a real-life Klansman at an outdoor market in Maryland a couple of years ago as the Confederate flag flapped overhead.

But in other cases, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the person on the other side of the flag wasn’t an n-word slinging bigot, but someone who just had no idea that the flag evoked any kind of reaction other than deep-rooted Southern pride. But even when that information has been imparted to them it, to my knowledge, has never stopped an Old Rebel fan from continuing to fly the flag.

That’s an even bigger up yours than when the flag supporters were none the wiser about its offensiveness in the first place.

My argument will probably never change, but because folks tend to have a real “get over it” attitude about black people’s issue with what that flag represents, let me put it in a more general perspective: if something is offensive to a whole group of people and you claim to not want to be insensitive in this grand ol’ American melting pot, then why is not flying — or, in this case, wearing — the flag such a big deal? If using a word is offensive, you stop using the word. If sporting the flag is offensive, you stop sporting the doggone flag. It should be simple as that. Alas, we know it’s not or else we wouldn’t even be continuing to discuss this. In 2011.

West now wants 1) a formal apology to her daughter, 2) a repeal of the suspension, and 3) permission to transfer Torri to another school in a different district, which she may need to do anyway because the poor kid is receiving death threats. All because she wants to wear something she doesn’t even understand.

Is her mother right to challenge the school if the sweatshirt is offensive to other students?

Image via fauxto_digit/Flickr

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