Florida Woman Admits To Trolling Co-Worker With Confederate Flag
The Confederate flag is legal, workplace harassment is not. Neither is lying to a federal officer.
58-year-old Susan Thompson has pleaded guilty to lying to a federal officer about placing a Confederate flag on the desk of her co-worker. Thompson worked at the Jacksonville office of the Army Corps of Engineers. Prosecutors say during the investigation she lied twice about placing the flag on the desk in June, while controversy over the Confederate flag was a topic of intense debate in the media after complaints the flag flew on South Carolina’s Capitol building developed in the wake of a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. She faces a possible five-year prison sentence. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Like most who tout the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage or southern pride, Thompson claimed the prank on her co-worker was not racially motivated. Her perception of the Confederate Ffag as innocuous represents that of many white people around the United States who view complaints and allegations of racism as exaggerated or unfounded. Even Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush had the audacity to defend the “heritage not hate” argument at an event in New Hampshire. That line of reasoning is in line with a Neo-Nazi arguing the Swastika is symbol of heritage for Germans (the Swastika is banned in Germany).
The Confederacy was anti-American, and predicated on preserving the racist institution of slavery. Wealthy landowners and politicians throughout the south propagated to lower working class white people that they were superior to African-Americans, and their livelihood depended upon preserving slavery. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond revived the Confederate flag during his 1948 presidential campaign to garner votes on fears and anxieties of poor southern whites that African-Americans were going to compete with them in the labor market. W.E.B. Dubois wrote in his 1935 book, Black Reconstruction In America, in regards to the working class white worker:
“While they received a low wage they were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference…because they were white. They were admitted freely, with all classes of white people, to public functions…The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts dependent upon their votes treated them with leniency.”
The Confederate flag today is a relic of this division of lower classes based on race. It is a reminder of the white privilege and institution of racism afforded to lower class whites over African-Americans. It is a historic image which should invoke shame, embarrassment, and should be demoted solely to proper historical contexts.
The response to criticism of the Confederate flag and its presence on government property has incited childish responses from those who insist on preserving this image filled with racist connotations. As a response for the removal of the flag from the South Carolina Capitol, Confederate flag enthusiasts responded with a petition on Change.org to have an African-American monument removed. Those that argue in favor of using the Confederate flag image are delusional to what the image means historically.
In the case involving Susan Thompson, she printed the image at home and brought it to her work with the intent to place it on her co-worker’s desk to agitate her. She knew what effect it would have, and that effect was to harass her co-worker with the hateful and oppressive image of the confederate flag, reminding the co-worker that Susan Thompson is a member of the dominant white culture, so she has privileges solely afforded to white people. Susan Thompson would never admit to being a racist, but her actions are coming from a position of racial privilege. She wanted her co-worker to feel bad when she saw the Confederate flag on her desk. These types of actions are support structures for the systematic levels of oppression and racism towards people of color. The confederate flag represents a historical system of racism, and Thompson utilized that to reinforce the current system of oppression. Instead of coming to an understanding of what the Confederate flag represents, those who stick by it insist they are the ones being attacked and oppressed while ignoring the realities of racial power structures still rampant in America today.
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Freelance Journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. Binghamton University Alum