Poor Old Glory

On Cinco de Mayo, students at Live Oak High School in California were asked to leave campus because they wore an American flag in a display of patriotism.

The fact that the American flag cannot be displayed in an American school is upsetting, yes.  But not terribly shocking.  We've come to expect such stupidity from our inept public school system. Public schools have become notorious for catering to minority groups, finding themselves in the news for doing such incongruous things as mandating a presentation outlining Islamic faith during school hours, while putting the kibosh on after-school Christian prayer sessions. 

What's most upsetting about this case, though, is that the Latino student body was actually offended by the wearing of an American flag.  Apparently, a student named Annicia Nunez thinks the students should apologize. She said, "We [Latinos] don't deserve to get disrespected like that. We wouldn't do that on the Fourth of July."

Maybe Annicia wouldn't. But there are plenty of Latinos who have done far worse than wearing a Mexican flag on an American holiday. And what's more, their right to do so has been vigorously defended by many.  

Take, for example, the roustabouts at Montebello High School in California.  On March 27th, 2006 many Hispanic protesters demonstrated in support of immigration reform.  They congregated at the school and had the audacity to fly the American flag beneath the Mexican flag, and upside down.

We, as Americans of all colors and creeds, certainly don't deserve to be disrespected in that way.  Yet that didn't stop these cretins from doing it.  We let them disrespect us because in this country, Americans have the right to freedom of expression.  So even though most Americans were outraged and offended by the incident at Montebello, the protesters were still allowed to express themselves.  This is a right that the students of Live Oak were denied

The handling of this incident by the faculty of Live Oak High School is not only pathetic, but it highlights a heinous double-standard.  It is acceptable to trash, demean, defile, and burn the American flag under any circumstances, but we cannot dare to simply wear the American flag as a show of patriotism, at least not when there's an outside chance someone may be offended.   And apparently, some Latinos are offended by it.

It's becoming more and more apparent that many of the Latino community's vocal representation is a throng of hypocrites.  On the one hand, they want us to believe that race should not be a focus, and that Latinos just want to be counted as Americans.  But this incident, along with countless others, proves that many American Latinos value their own race more than their identity as Americans.   

The most tragic truth exposed by this incident at Live Oak High School is that some American Latinos see Old Glory as a symbol of "disrespect," or a symbol of white bigotry. 

It is not a symbol of disrespect, Annicia Nunez.

The American flag is the symbol that binds us together in our endeavor to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Without this flag, we are just a bunch of white people and brown people, Christians and Muslims, rich people and poor people.  The flag is there to remind us that things like your race, religion, or financial status do not matter, because if we are Americans, we can unite under this one banner as brethren. 

The emblem of stars and stripes represents the struggle and sacrifice necessary to forge a nation where all men are created equal, and yet it is being torn down and desecrated by those who wish to segregate men by their ethnicity.  It is being destroyed by those who wish to identify themselves as something other than Americans. 

As an American of Mexican ancestry, I am offended that some American Latinos could find the flag of our country offensive.  But all at once, I'm outraged and saddened that it seems our beloved flag no longer has a home in our schools and workplaces.

Least of all in California.

William Sullivan