A Chicago-area school member says she isn’t backing down from comments she made on Facebook equating the American flag with toilet paper, saying the flag is a meaningless piece of cloth and “a false symbol of hope” for black people.
In a post on her personal Facebook page supporting NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, School District U46 board member Traci O’Neal Ellis wrote, “That flag means nothing more than toilet paper to me,” The Chicago Tribune reported.
“And I promise you, I would take #TakeAKnee at school board meetings if my doing so would not be disruptive to kids and a distraction to the work we need to do for them,” she wrote.
School board member Jeanette Ward, of West Chicago, shared a screenshot of Ms. Ellis’ post on Facebook, calling her comments “despicable and disgusting.”
“I was taken aback that she would say that, even though it is consistent with things she’s said in the past,” Ms. Ward told The Tribune. “To say it’s nothing more than toilet paper, I’m appalled.”
Ms. Ellis said she’s received “hateful, mean-spirited, scary” backlash over her comments, but she has no plans to apologize.
“My point was to convey the message that the flag doesn’t mean anything to me. I could’ve said just that and not use the analogy,” she told The Tribune.
In a lengthy Facebook post Tuesday on her school board member page, Ms. Ellis wrote that Ms. Ward was trying to embarrass her, but that she refuses to be “embarrassed by righteous truth.”
“The flag and the anthem are symbols in this country of freedom and ‘justice and liberty’ for all. Yet that is a blatant lie for black folks,” she wrote, in part. “You may not agree that our protest is righteous. That is YOUR RIGHT. But FREE SPEECH is not only reserved for conservative white people.”
Ms. Ellis said she has the “deepest respect” for American men and women in the armed forces, but she doesn’t need to bow to a flag to show that respect.
“I will not allow you to attempt to strip my free speech rights and the right to speak authentically to my lived experiences in this country,” she continued. “And don’t bother trying to tell me to leave if I don’t like it. MY PEOPLE BUILT this country and died and suffered doing so. I’m not going anywhere.
“The freedoms you enjoy and the flag you profess to love so much do not extend to me as a black woman,” she wrote. “They are not my birthright. Yet I demand them anyway, and that demand includes the right to not feel any patriotism towards a piece of cloth and a pledge of allegiance to a country that does not love me back. Forced allegiance is not patriotism. It is fascism. And I will not bow to that.”
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