BEDFORD, Va. – When the Bedford County School Board decided Thursday to no longer allow the Confederate flag on school property, Bedford NAACP President Robert Carson called it a step in the right direction.
“It’s not about you personally, it’s about what that flag represents to us,” Carson said.
Carson believes the flag is intertwined with segregation and intimidation, which he says he experienced growing up in Bedford.
“We were told,‘If you see the Klan marching down the street, don’t hate them, because most of them, we knew who they were anyway,‘” Carson said. “It brings up a lot of memories.”
Those feelings of discomfort became a reason why school board members approved the ban, four votes to two.
“Given the current mood in the country, I think we need to look at people who say ‘that’s offensive to me, which disrupts me,‘” said school board member Dr. Susan Mele, shortly before she voted for the ban.
The conversations concerning Confederate imagery in Bedford County kickstarted last year, when a picture featuring Jefferson Forest High School students holding Confederate flags spread through social media and among parents.
Carson says he does not hold any ill will towards the students, but hopes the situation can be a teaching moment before another incident occurs.
“I don’t think they understood. I think they thought it was cool,” Carson said. They don’t understand the deep down significance of it, because with a lot of them, the parents don’t tell them, and a lot of them go by what their parents say.”
Bedford County Schools’ ban also includes: “swastikas, KKK references, or any other images that might reasonably be considered hurtful or intimidating to others.”