Confederate flag has drawn national attention to USCB student

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Byron Thomas, 19, a student at USCB Beaufort, holds a Confederate Flag in his dormitory room on Wednesday.

RACHEL HEATON, THE ISLAND PACKET

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Byron Thomas never thought an online video on his thoughts on the Confederate battle flag would draw so much attention.

The video, which the 19-year-old black University of South Carolina Beaufort student made when he was told to take the flag down from his dorm room window, has landed him a spot on the "Dr. Phil" talk show.

Thomas traveled to California to film the show in December.

"I enjoyed myself out there; they treated me like a king," Thomas said. He got so much special treatment it made him a bit uncomfortable -- he asked the chauffeur not to carry his bags.

Thomas said the show has not decided when his segment will air.

He's also been approached about appearing on an episode of MTV's "True Life" documentary series, he said.

But not all the attention has been good.

Thomas said threats posted in the comments section of the website World Star Hip Hop worried him so much his family considered withdrawing him from USCB over the school's winter break.

Because of those threats, Thomas hadn't rehung the Confederate flag despite the university giving him permission to.

Last weekend, Thomas changed his mind and put the banner back up in his window.

"I thought 'What am I doing? I'm not a coward.' So I put the flag back up," he said.

Thomas hung the flag in his window last fall after research for a class project convinced him the banner isn't about slavery or racism. It represents Southern pride and states' rights, he said.

The university's housing office asked him before Thanksgiving to remove the flag following complaints from students. Thomas posted a video explaining his stance on the flag on YouTube and CNN's iReport, a citizen-reporting website.

The video was viewed about 70,000 times in less than a week.

The university consulted legal counsel and changed its stance.

Plans are in the works for a student forum to discuss balancing first amendment rights with the responsibility to respect others, USCB spokeswoman Candace Brasseur said.

As of Wednesday, a date for the event, which is being planned by the Student Government Association, had not been set.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Black USCB student won't re-hang Confederate flag; Dec. 7, 2011
  2. USCB student allowed to display Confederate flag; Dec. 1, 2011
  3. VIDEO: Black student calls Confederate battle flag a symbol of pride, not bigotry; Nov. 30, 2011

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