By Curt Peterson
RUTLAND—As of Monday, Aug. 20, the Rutland Area National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathered 3,946 signatures on a petition (RANAACP) asking management of the Vermont State Fair to prohibit display or sale of Confederate symbols or flags at last weekend’s event.
The RANAACP Facebook page said, “Taking the step to ban the Confederate flag at the State Fair would be a way of making a very large statement. Rutland welcomes and supports people of color, as well as others who may face discrimination or bias in their lives.”
In response to the RANAACP’s concerns and to complaints received from fair attendees last year, event representatives agreed to “ask” vendors to refrain from displaying the Confederate items, but stopped at establishing a formal policy.
The petition began circulating the day the fair opened.
“We are happy to report,” Tabatha Polhl-Moore, president of RANAACP wrote in an email to the Mountain Times, “that for the first time, there were NO Confederate flags or Confederate flag merchandise spotted at the Vermont State Fair this year.”
Neither the Confederate nor the Nazi flags bear benevolent connotations. They are at the center of current national and local controversy because of the meaning with which humans have imbued them.
“Both symbols represent… an intent to dominate other races,” Pohl-Moore wrote.
“Even white supremacists know [the Confederate flag] is a symbol of hate meant to intimidate and incite fear – that is why they use it,” Pohl-Moore said.
Both the Confederate and Nazi flags are symbols of governments that famously lost major military contests, and both symbolized white supremacy.
One of several early Confederate flag versions had a purposefully prominent white background. Defending that design, William Tappan Thompson, editor of the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, wrote in an April 1863 editorial, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.”
There are many references from the Civil War era claiming slavery was a right which the Confederacy supported, and which the Union wanted to invalidate.
For a few decades the Confederate flag received limited attention. Then, in 1948, Senator Strom Thurmond inspired the “Dixiecrat” movement, rallying much of the South to fight desegregation of schools, and the flag became a popular symbol of anti-civil rights sentiment.
The swastika that adorned the Nazi flag was the symbol for German nationalism based on Aryan race supremacy. Today it is against the law to display the swastika or the Nazi flag in Germany.
There is no national law against displaying the Confederate or Nazi symbols in the United States.