National Education Association delegates adopted a new business item directing the union to “find appropriate and effective efforts to remove the confederate battle flag from schools and public spaces.”
This seems pretty straightforward, right? Believe me, it was not. Debate on the item went on for an hour and a half.
Originally, the item would have also extended to “other symbols of the Confederacy,” leading some delegates to question whether it would include war memorials for confederate soldiers, statues, exhibits, and state flags (like Mississippi’s) that incorporate Confederate flags. In the end, that language was deleted.
Not 24 hours previously, the delegates here had passed a statement committing the union to combat institutional racism. And there were more than a few delegates who underscored this apparent conflict between word and deed.
Ultimately, the item on the confederate battle flag passed overwhelmingly by a voice vote.
Still, 90 minutes of debate? You could argue that that partly reflected problems inherent in a badly drafted item. But, for my money, it also highlighted a big challenge to the NEA’s movement in this area. And that is that it’s a lot easier to agree to a broad stance against racism than to specific, concrete actions to undo its influence.
Some tweets on the debate follow.
This is not just a battle over flags, this is a battle over historical narratives. This is about those American experiences too long ignored
— Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome) July 4, 2015
How can the NEA bond over eradicating racism and then debate about removing the Confederate flag? #NEARA15
— Elaine Barreira (@barreiragrl) July 4, 2015
#NEARA15 We are SUPPORTING REMOVAL. We are not knocking down gravestones or monuments. We are supporting removal efforts. Take it down.
— James Kobialka (@poemswoggler) July 4, 2015
— Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) July 4, 2015
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.