Black Lives Matter Utah on the Fourth of July called the American flag a symbol of hate on social media, setting off a robust response.
“When we Black Americans see this flag,” the post read, “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.”
Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, says she knew the posts would cause a reaction.
“The point of the post was to make everyone uncomfortable,” Scott said. “The American flag is taught to us from birth to represent freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Scott says she was angered by photos of the far-right group Patriot Front marching through Philadelphia on Saturday carrying the American flag. The march was disrupted by counterprotesters, who chased them away.
Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
“They’re flying American flags. The Ku Klux Klan is flying American flags. The Proud Boys are flying American flags. They climbed the Capitol for their failed insurrection and were beating police officers with American flags. I have not heard any outrage from Republicans or the right about the use of the American flag as a hate symbol,” Scott said, adding, “We are seeing that symbol used in every racist hate group’s messaging across this nation. The problem that I have is no one is addressing the people who are using it for hate. I am telling you when I see an American flag, I begin to feel fear for the simple fact that every time I am faced with hatred, it is at the hands of someone carrying an American flag.”
The Utah group’s posts were widely circulated on social media over the holiday weekend.
Utah Republican Chairman Carson Jorgensen says he’s no Pollyanna when it comes to American history, which he acknowledges is less than perfect. But he does not see the flag as a symbol of hate.
“The American flag is a symbol of freedom and opportunity to the world,” Jorgensen wrote in an email. “We are the shining city on the hill. We are not perfect, but we will never cease to improve.”
He says support for the flag is not a partisan issue, as both Republicans and Democrats are supportive. He also says Scott’s broad-brush condemnation of the flag because fringe groups are using it is unfair.
“This banner has been flown for the liberation of millions and millions who have given their lives in honor of what the flag represents, “ Jorgensen added. “We are stalwart in our support and love for the American flag and all of the good that it stands for.”
Sen. Todd Weiler says he disagrees with Scott’s message, but it’s her right as an American to say it.
“The vast majority of Utahns, regardless of their race or politics, continue to look to the U.S. flag as a symbol of unity and perseverance for our nation’s past — and hope for our nation’s future,” Weiler said. “There have always been those who try to divide us. I am grateful to live in a county that allows dissenting voices to be expressed.”
Scott says those who accuse her of being anti-American miss her point.
“People are going to say that Black Lives Matter hates America. We don’t hate America. We hate the system of white supremacy. Our ancestors built this country. We have every right to criticize,” Scott said. “It’s not hatred to call out hatred.”
Scott says it’s not all venom on the page and that they’ve received dozens of messages of support, too.