Editorial: Get educated on controversial symbols

Recently, students at the University of Calgary were greeted with paintings of the Confederate flag on the boulders outside their student center, causing outrage. While the flag was flown by Confederate battle units during the United States Civil War, today it’s a symbol that, for some, carries racist connotations and is a shameful reminder of America’s past. For others, it’s a symbol of heritage, history, and Southern pride.

Because of the Confederate flag’s history, it is a polarizing and divisive symbol, one that invokes intense reactions from all kinds of different people. Thus, people must educate themselves on the meaning and history of the flag before using it and engaging with it.

The university defended the students’ rights, citing freedom of speech. However, it is important to acknowledge that the freedom of speech of some students is the reminder of a history of racism for others.

This notion of problematic histories is still quite common today, given the divided reactions to the removal of Confederate statues in the United States and proposed name changes to buildings named after historically polarizing figures like John A. Macdonald.

In order to best resolve these tensions, people need to take a step back and attempt to understand what these symbols mean and what they represent. Only through productive debate and engagement with these issues will we ever be able to come to some sort of resolution, and that starts with educating ourselves on the history and meaning of these symbols-both the good parts and the bad.