On Friday, the far-left Snopes did a “fact check” on the Betsy Ross American flag, asking whether President Barack Obama really had them fly over the U.S. Capitol at his second inauguration. Spoiler alert: he did! but Snopes argued that the flags were racist anyway, because Donald Trump.
Conservatives raised the issue after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained that the Betsy Ross American flag was racist after Nike adopted the flag on a new set of sneakers. Kaepernick noted that America had slavery at the time the flag flew.
Nike caved immediately, but conservatives rightly noted that the Betsy Ross flag — a circle of 13 five-pointed stars with the 13 red and white stripes, both numbers representing the original 13 colonies and 13 states — flew proudly over Obama’s second inauguration.
Hmmm…the Betsy Ross flag was good enough for Obama though? Stay triggered, Kappy. pic.twitter.com/w1kWDiRRhc
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) July 3, 2019
Snopes acknowledged that the flag flew at Obama’s second inauguration — it is the truth, after all — but the site’s Bethania Palma argued that this detail was utterly irrelevant.
“This particular iteration of whataboutism was irrelevant, though, mostly because of the passage of time and intervening events,” she argued. “Although the Betsy Ross flag did adorn the stage during Obama’s second swearing-in ceremony, for some people the symbol has taken on new meanings in the era of his successor, President Donald Trump, during which far-right extremism has grown.”
So, a flag that flew in 1777 and then flew as Obama was reinstated as president in 2013 suddenly becomes a symbol of racism in 2016 because of Donald Trump? That’s basically the argument.
“During the Trump era, what were once relics of the United States’ fraught history with violent racism have been taken up as causes for some far-right extremists. As white supremacists began rallying around Confederate monuments slated for removal, some tried to attach the Betsy Ross flag to their cause as a symbol,” Palma argued.
Yet the Betsy Ross flag and other American flags have meaning on their own, and just because white supremacists may attempt to claim it as their own does not mean the flag itself is suddenly a symbol of white supremacy. That would involve caving to the white supremacists!
Snopes has its reasons, of course.
The Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit organization that tracks hate groups, doesn’t include the flag in its database of confirmed hate symbols. But many have viewed the flag as symbolizing a time in U.S. history when slavery was legal.
“Historically, these symbols have been used by white supremacists, both to hearken back to a time when black people were enslaved, while also painting themselves as the inheritors of the ‘true’ American tradition,” Keegan Hankes, a researcher for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Rolling Stone.
So if the symbols have been used by white supremacists, they cannot represent America’s history? Must Americans surrender every symbol or historical event claimed by white supremacists?
The Betsy Ross American flag represents America’s early history, which some white supremacists claim — in order to make their cause seem less noxious and horrific. If they can claim America’s heritage is really white supremacist, they win an argument they should lose. Sadly, this claim plays into the radical left’s arguments as well — if America’s heritage is fundamentally white supremacist, Americans should reject this heritage.
Yet this claim is patently false. So many great black Americans have contributed to this country’s noble heritage. America is not, and never has been, a country only for whites. While the promise of the Declaration of Independence was not fulfilled until the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement, that does not mean white supremacists get to claim America was theirs until yesterday. Let’s not let them.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.