Justice

Viral Twitter Thread Highlights Hidden Racism in a State Flag

Every flag has a history – and the individual flags of the United States are no exception.

Whether it’s Louisiana's slightly grotesque showing of sacrifice via the literal bleeding breast of a pelican mother or Ohio’s non-rectangular flag that came after a hundred years without a banner, each flag represents a people, a place, and many things.

This is true of Maryland and, as a viral Twitter thread highlights, it has a lot to do with the legacy of slavery.

Baltimore, Maryland based Benjamin Youngsavage posted a thread about his state flag on Twitter to offer some context for it’s creation, in the hopes of “pissing off some racists.”

Youngsavage began by noting how impressed he was with the state’s pride in the flag before veering off into something overlooked: the flag is half composed of a Confederate symbol.

Youngsavage points out that the Crossland banner–the red-and-white flag-within-the-flag–was adopted by Marylanders who hoped to secede.

While the yellow-and-black flag represents Lord Baltimore, his Calvert family, and state solidarity, the red-and-white Crossland banner represented the opposition.

According to the Maryland Secretary of State’s website, the red-and-white Crossland design were seen as “secession colors” that were used to both resist the ideas of Lincoln and the Union.

“Maryland-born Confederate soldiers used both the red-and-white colors and the cross bottony design from the Crossland quadrants of the Calvert coat of arms as a unique way of identifying their place of birth,” the Secretary Of State notes, suggesting the merger of the two as a “reconciliation.”

Because of these Civil War ties, the flag has apparently been appropriated by white supremacists to subtly display racist points of view.

Youngsavage tweets that the state flag is sometimes flown upside down— in defiance of state protocol–as a symbol of hate. Others will simply fly the Crossland banner on its own.

As The Baltimore Sun's Jon Morgan wrote in 1997, the red-and-white aspect of the flag represents a state specific version of the Confederate flag.

The state’s relationship with the Confederacy is complicated. It didn’t phase out Confederate flag license plates until late 2015. The state has had a rash of debates over the flying of the Confederate flag and its alternatives. There's even a local country where a variation of the Crossland banner is their flag.

Symbols like the Maryland flag are a reminder that symbols of racism exist openly, without anyone’s knowledge.

Unfortunately Maryland isn’t the only flag that has this unfortunate connection: seven other states have more direct ties to the confederacy and are seen as variations of the symbol.

As the Washington Post reported in 2015 while the debate over South Carolina's flying of the stars and bars raged, states like Alabama and Florida still directly reference state-level Confederate battle flags, while Georgia, Arkansas, and North Carolina nod to each state's past Confederate affiliations. Mississippi still incorporates the full Confederate battle flag within its state banner.

It doesn't end with flags. Confederate monuments, school mascots, the celebration of “Confederate History Month," and racist town names often serve as holdovers of America’s shameful past and subtle ways to “resist” equality and progress.

Unlike a country like Germany, where the horrors of the past serve as lessons and reminders, Confederate related symbols are commonly masked as "heritage not hate."

While the flag remains, it’s a reminder of how much work America still needs to do in resolving its racial problems.

The flag was created to represent a moving forward from the past but, as Youngsavage’s thread noted, we have yet to overcome said problems.

You can read his full thread here.