The Barre City Council deliberated for months on a proposal to fly the “Black Lives Matter” flag in City Hall Park, a measure first proposed last spring. They finally resolved the matter in a way that only an all-white group of desperate politicians could devise. They decided the BLM flag would fly through the end of December, and that for January it would be replaced by the “Thin Blue Line” banner, a bastardized version of the American flag that’s favored by the pro-police crowd.
Talk about both-sidesing an issue.
The only thing stupider than the final resolution was its original version, which would have seen 22 different flags displayed for one month apiece. That roster included the flags of England, Italy and France, as well as the Star of David, an Autism Acceptance banner and the flag of the Green Mountain Boys.
Talk about 22-sidesing an issue.
That idea was floated by Councilor John Steinman, a very conservative dentist who once ran unsuccessfully for the House. I couldn’t hazard a guess as to why he chose England, Italy and France (white people white people WHITE PEOPLE WHITE PEOPLE!!!!), or why he cast his net so widely, but somehow that proposal was actually adopted by Council at its November 17 meeting — only to be replaced by the two-flag plan the following week, presumably after an outpouring of laughter and derision.
I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s such an affront to tie those two flags together, but let’s give it a shot, shall we?
First, a caveat. I’ve been white all my life, and I consider myself partially woke. This is my take on the issue, and I welcome constructive criticism.
“Black Lives Matter” is an organic movement that fights against America’s centuries-old practice of using law enforcement as a tool to enforce racism. It started with enabling and protecting the slave trade. After the Civil War, the South used the law as a way to keep black folks down. And through the present moment, people of color are far more likely than whites to be victims of police violence. White people have been privileged throughout their history on this continent. Flying a “Black Lives Matter” flag, or painting it on a city street as in Montpelier, is a statement that it’s time for Black lives to matter just as much as white lives.
Its goal is not to punish or shame police — except for those who commit unjustifiable acts of violence, such as killing Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and uncounted others. I mean, we find out about such incidents now thanks to ubiquitous smartphones. One must assume that police were much more likely to act violently when they could safely assume that no third party would record what they were doing. (Honestly, any cop who commits an outrage anywhere in public view is just fundamentally dumb.)
The “Thin Blue Line” flag gives absolution to any cop doing anything anytime anywhere. At least, that’s the message being sent by those who wave it. As the presidential campaign went along, it almost entirely displaced the actual American flag at Trump rallies. It is a toxic representation of racism. People of color see it as such. And when it flies over downtown Barre, many of its citizens will feel excluded.
The TBL banner is decidedly not the “other side of the issue.”
“Black Lives Matter” stands on its own. It is a call for America to finally live by its supposed ideals of freedom and equality. It should fly on its own.
If the Barre City Council couldn’t bring itself to fly the “Black Lives Matter” flag without any artificial “balance,” it would have been better off not flying any special flag at all. That would accurately represent the city’s official position, which is apparently to ignore our racist heritage and our ongoing plague of race-based violence by police.