The Utah chapter of the NAACP this weekend became the latest and most prominent critic of a controversial statement earlier this month by Black Lives Matter Utah that called the American flag a “symbol of hatred” and anyone who flies it “a racist.”
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Utah State Conference, said in a prepared statement late Saturday that her organization stands in opposition to such rhetoric.
“The NAACP does not agree with that statement and rejects the idea that flying the American flag is a racist message,” Williams said in the statement. “The flag stands for all the people who have lived and served to bring about the best of the American Experience, that all people are created equal. Real American Patriots have stood for equality and justice for all.”
Williams added that even though the United States remains fraught with problems related to race, statements like the one made by BLM Utah are ultimately self-defeating.
“While we recognize that the history of our nation is marked with both failures and successes in the treatment of minorities,” Williams wrote, “we know the way forward starts with respect and togetherness for all Americans.”
On the Fourth of July, BLM Utah and its founder, Lex Scott, sparked national controversy with a social media post made in reaction to the far-right white nationalist group Patriot Front marching through Philadelphia while carrying the American flag.
The post read:
“When we Black Americans see this flag we know the person flying it is not safe to be around. When we see this flag we know the person flying it is a racist. When we see this flag we know that the person flying it lives in a different America than we do. When we see this flag, we question your intelligence. We know to avoid you. It is a symbol of hatred.”
In the wake of the NAACP’s statement denouncing that post, Scott took to social media again.
Her Saturday night response post noted that she first met Williams nine years ago, and though “I did not really feel like I fit there,” she said she has tried to remain supportive and encouraged others to continue supporting the NAACP’s work, even if the two organizations frequently disagree on the best paths forward.
The problem with the NAACP post, in Scott’s view, is that Williams played right into that dissension.
“That is OK. What I will not tolerate is wh1te [sic] organizations pitting Black organizations against each other,” Scott wrote. “This happens frequently. People are constantly trying to pit us against the NAACP. It is not right and I will not fall for it. The NAACP took the bait.
“… The NAACP has done a lot of good work in the past. They do not like me, they do not like us. What they did today was hurtful,” Scott continued. “They have every right to their opinion. They have not had to be at protests with wh1te supremacists weaponizing the flag against them. They have more wh1te validation than we do. We do not play respectability politics here.”
The two organizations’ respective viewpoints on the American flag were on full display Saturday night.
The NAACP statement discussed how the flag can be a symbol of good and hopefulness.
“The flag represents the highest aspirations expressed from the founding of the Union, through the Emancipation Declaration, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, to the millions of Americans who support their fellow citizens of all races, national origin, and color,” Williams’ statement read.
Scott, meanwhile, doubled down on her original statement, speaking to Williams directly to make her point.
“You have every right to your opinion on the American flag. I stand by my words now more than ever,” Scott wrote. “The amount of hate and death threats I have received is inhumane. People have told me that they will murder my family, Jeanetta, over a piece of cloth. And they have proved my point. We said it was a symbol of hate and they came to spread hate. And you co-signed that hatred. It hurts, but please understand that I am not your enemy. The enemy is out there.”