January 6, 2024
If you live in Harrison, Ohio, or have visited there in the last few days, you may have seen what many find disturbing – and rightfully so. Alongside a sign welcoming folks to Harrison, a Confederate flag is now prominently displayed. Mayor Ryan Grubbs, whose name appears on the sign, says the flag is on private property, and the property owner is exercising their right to free speech. The mayor also said in an email, “We are looking to see if it is in violation of any of our zoning requirements, or if it is misrepresentation. It would be very easy for individuals to think that it is a city display.”
That’s all you have to say, Mr. Mayor? Really?
The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, pure and simple. It represents the belief that not “All men [and women] are created equal,” as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Confederates believed that rich white men were superior to everyone else. These supremacists intended to govern accordingly, with denial of civil rights to Black folks. We throw around the word slavery these days, perhaps without taking the time to remember exactly what it is: one person owning another, like property. Can you imagine?
Yet that is what the Confederate flag stands for. It’s not symbolic of any proud heritage or history, as some believe. On the contrary, it symbolizes the worst in our history: a time when rampant, severe oppression based on ethnicity was not only common, but legal.
When blatant racism rears its ugly head, as it has in Harrison, we expect more than the mayor’s tepid, “It wasn’t us” response. We must demand that our elected officials vociferously and emphatically denounce the display of the Confederate flag, or more generally, any racist incident or practice. Those in office who will not do so must be defeated at the polls.
Mayor Grubbs is not the only elected official who has failed to condemn the display in Harrison. The city’s representative to Congress, Warren Davidson, has said nothing. As you may know, I am challenging Mr. Davidson in the upcoming election, but I will not wait until I take his seat in Washington to denounce the Confederate flag and what it represents. My entire life I have been fighting for equality for all, and I will not stop. Let me say clearly now: I denounce and condemn the racist display of the Confederate flag in Harrison in the strongest possible terms, and I call on Mayor Grubbs, Congressman Davidson, and other leaders to do the same.