A black University of South Carolina Beaufort student will not rehang the Confederate battle flag in his dormitory window despite permission from the university to do so.
Byron Thomas, 19, said he first hung the flag to make the point that it isn't a racist symbol. After the school initially told him to remove it, the ensuing controversy was more about freedom of speech than his message.
"If I put the flag back up, people will think what I'm fighting for is over, and I want to show that I'm not finished," Thomas said.
Thomas hung the flag in his window after researching its history for a class project. That project convinced him the banner isn't about slavery or racism; it represents Southern pride and states' rights.
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Just before Thanksgiving, the university's housing office asked him to remove it following complaints from students. Thomas posted a video explaining his stance on YouTube and CNN's iReport, a citizen-reporting website. The video was viewed about 70,000 times in less than one week.
The university consulted legal counsel and changed its stance.
Thomas said he talked to his mother and father, and although their opinions are different from his, they support him.
He said he also has been encouraged by friends and strangers. Black students have approached him to express their support, he said, and he's received emails and Facebook messages from people across the country who agree with him.
"I just want people to see it for more than freedom of speech," Thomas said of his displaying the flag. "Our generation needs to start forming our own opinions of things, so hopefully, we won't be separated by the things past generations have been separated by."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.
- USCB student allowed to display Confederate flag; Dec. 1, 2011
- USCB Chancellor responds to black student's defense of display of Confederate flag; Dec. 1, 2011
- VIDEO: Black student calls Confederate battle flag a symbol of pride, not bigotry; Nov. 30, 2011
- Byron Thomas' CNN iReport video
- Follow-up CNN iReport video from Byron Thomas explaining his stance