The first I heard anyone had a problem with the Betsy Ross flag was when Nike was set to start distributing shoes with the flag on them. The former NFL football player turned activist, Colin Kaepernick talked them out of it because he said it was offensive. That is the first time I have ever heard anyone saying anything like that about any of our American flags.
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro says the Betsy Ross flag is very painful and he seems to compare it to the Confederate flag. Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke says white nationalist groups have appropriated the flag and because of that, he appears to be saying that the flag has become a symbol of hatred.
For many Americans just like me, we are genuinely blown away. What I’m getting from everything I’ve taken in on this issue is that the Betsy Ross flag reminds a few Americans of a very dark time in our history when the ownership of slaves was still legal. I’m also getting that when a hate group adopts a flag from our history, that it immediately changes its meaning and becomes a symbol of hate.
Here’s what I know about Betsy Ross: She was raised in Philadelphia Pennsylvania as a Quaker. Quakers are abolitionists. Not only did Pennsylvania Quakers not own slaves, they considered it an act of misconduct. Quakers in general were very effective in abolishing slavery in the U.K. and the United States.
Betsy Ross survived two husbands during the Revolutionary War and went on to marry a third husband with which she enjoyed a much longer marriage. They were active members in the Society of Free Quakers, a very effective group who fought for freedom from British rule. If I might just sum it all up, she was a very patriotic lady who raised her children and supported her troops. Literally, flags she had sewn were flying in every battle where an American soldier dared to carry one.
To highlight the most important point, Betsy Ross was an abolitionist who never owned a slave and thought ownership of slaves was an act of misconduct. What that means is even when something is legal, it doesn’t make it right.
So, I’m not sure why Colin Kaepernick would associate our first American flag with slavery. Unless he’s looking at the white supremacists who have appropriated it. So, let’s talk about that.
My research indicates there are about 25,000 active white supremacists in America. That includes about 8,000 KKK members. Not all of them have appropriated the Betsy Ross flag in one form or another, just some of them have. That dwindles those numbers down even smaller. So small, I could probably count them. One KKK organization has only 150 members. I have more people who call me Uncle Mike than that organization altogether.
The numbers matter. This kind of thing has happened throughout the history of our world. The swastika used to be a symbol of peace until Hitler adopted it and now it’s a symbol of hatred. The difference is that Hitler rose to power and transformed a nation. The swastika was forever changed because of the devastation Hitler was able to do on an entire people while the rest of the world watched and finally acted when enough was enough.
That’s not what’s happening here. The Betsy Ross flag is not being flown by a dictator who is transforming the face of America. It’s being flown inappropriately by a handful of people and that’s not enough to change it’s historical value as the first American flag with what we had to go through to become a free nation.
A stronger association should be made when Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address. Above him, flying proudly, were not one, but two Betsy Ross flags. Let’s make a stronger association with proud memories we have with the Betsy Ross flag rather than let a few among us tear at the very fabric that makes us who we are.
Barack Obama Delivering His Second Inaugural Address