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H.R. 1619: The Hate Flag Act of 2021

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), the newest member of the House of Representatives group known as “The Squad” and who gained prominence with her Fourth of July tweet saying that the freedom being celebrated was only for white people because “Black people still aren’t free,” has introduced a bill that would create the Hate Flag Act of 2021 (H.R. 1619). The legislation would impose a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to two years for the private display of either the battle flag of the Confederacy or the flag of the United States of America. In her floor speech introducing the bill, Bush said that her original intention was just to outlaw the “disgusting symbol of white supremacy,” which she called the Confederate battle flag, but then she was reminded of how the American flag has come to represent the same thing. She was moved, she said, by television coverage of a protest demonstration in Scottsdale, Arizona, in which, “Hundreds of people waving American flags gathered to protest the federal government’s immigration policy in front of a hotel in central Scottsdale that is now operating as a short-term migrant holding facility for families seeking asylum.”

“As a practical matter, both in terms of the message intended and the message received by oppressed people of color,” Bush said, “the American flag has become the new Confederate flag.”

The need to outlaw the Confederate battle flag hardly needed any words of explanation, and the outlawing of its display is long overdue, said Bush in her speech. “Since the young white man, Dylann Roof, had posted photographs of himself displaying that offensive flag in 2015 before shooting nine people to death at the historic Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, it has become apparent that that flag is nothing but a symbol of hate and has no place in America.”

In addition to outlawing the private display of the Confederate flag, the bill would also make it illegal for online hosts of videos such as YouTube to show videos in which the flag is displayed, such as scenes from The Dukes of Hazzard in which we see the flag painted on the roof a Dodge Charger named “General Lee” and in the concerts of the white Southern band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, where a giant Confederate battle flag is hung as a backdrop on their stage. In a separate interview, Bush offered her opinion that the group’s 1974 anthem, “Free Bird,” was actually a sort of veiled message of white supremacy, reminding oppressed Black people that they don’t have the freedom that these white performers do and that the “bird” in the title stood in stark contrast to the one that symbolized the laws in the South that oppressed Black people, “Jim Crow.”

“With the American flag,” said Bush, “it’s a bit more complicated.” She acknowledged that there might still be instances in which the Stars and Stripes might be displayed for reasons other than as a symbol of hate. The law, therefore, would provide for mitigation by the simultaneous display of an approved statement of proper intentions, in which case the Hate Flag Law would be deemed not to have been violated. A board would be created for granting mitigation approval, though the act names three currently widely displayed yard signs that the board should approve for granting relief from the penalty of the law to a displayer of the American flag. These are the “HATE HAS NO HOME HERE” sign, rendered in five languages; the one that says, “No matter where you are from, we are GLAD you are our neighbor,” in three languages; and the monolingual sign that states, in all capital letters “IN THIS HOUSE WE BELIEVE: BLACK LIVES MATTER, WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL, SCIENCE IS REAL, LOVE IS LOVE, KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING.”

How many might choose one of these options in order to display their American flag legally remains a serious question. Heresy Central, interviewing a half dozen people with flags currently displayed at their houses, was unable to get a single response that was printable.

In her interview, Bush said that she was inspired to introduce her legislation by her fellow Squad member, Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who recently introduced H.R. 666, the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2021. That latter bill should not be confused with H.R. 6666, the COVID-19, Testing, Reaching, and Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act.

David Martin

This article is satire–you surely noticed–even though those last-mentioned pieces of legislation are real.

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