“Don’t Tread On Me” Could Be Racist, Feds Say

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently been looking into the use of imagery from the famed Gadsden Flag… …as a basis for a racial harassment case. An investigation...
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gadsden flag don't tread on me

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently been looking into the use of imagery from the famed Gadsden Flag…

…as a basis for a racial harassment case. An investigation has been launched by the EEOC to determine whether or not the use of the flag in the workplace constitutes an “environment of racial harassment”. Whatever that might mean. Either way, this has been roundly hailed as a great use of the government’s time and taxpayer money.

Details are sparse.

It is being reported that the EEOC is looking at a case originating from an employee of a private business.  It seems to be the case that the original complaint was made two years ago.  With the commission just now holding a hearing on the case. The identity of both the complainant and the company he worked for are undisclosed at this time.

Apparently, the individual lodged the complaint two years ago, after a fellow employee wore a hat to work that incorporated the coiled snake and the “Don’t Tread On Me” text from the Gadsden flag.  The offending hat was worn a number of times, over the course of a few weeks.

This was interpreted by the first employee, a black man, as having racially insensitive intonations.

Obviously it meant that the man-under-the-hat was attempting to create an atmosphere where his fellow employees would feel uncomfortable if they were black.  I can only imagine this was part of a sinister scheme to force all black employees of the business to go elsewhere for work.

Even though in the filing, it was never alleged that the individual wearing the hat-wearer had ever said anything racially motivated to the complainant.

The business that employed both individuals quickly reacted to the strong feelings of the offended.  They accomplished this by asking the hat-wearing employee to kindly not wear the hat to work anymore.  To which the racially-insensitive* (citation-needed) individual responded by promptly wearing the hat again (a very proud boy).

This was the final straw for the ophidiophobic employee, who then took a formal complaint to the EEOC.

In a preliminary ruling on the case (Shelton D. [pseudonym] v. Brennan, 2016 WL 3361228) , the commission defended the historical context of the flag by saying:


After a thorough review of the record, it is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context.  Moreover, it is clear that the flag and its slogan have been used to express various non-racial sentiments, such as when it is used in the modern Tea Party political movement, guns rights activism, patriotic displays, and by the military.

Though the ruling went on to mention:

However, whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol, it also has since been sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts. For example, in June 2014, assailants with connections to white supremacist groups draped the bodies of two murdered police officers with the Gadsden flag during their Las Vegas, Nevada shooting spree… Additionally, in 2014, African-American New Haven firefighters complained about the presence of the Gadsden flag in the workplace on the basis that the symbol was racially insensitive.

This means that I may have to say goodbye to my confederate flag-burqini.

Hell, in the light of this ruling, even my “Make America Great Again”-thong underwear is at risk.

In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 (Offending employee) displayed the symbol in the workplace

I wonder where the line gets drawn here?  How soon will it be until we are required to wear matching grey coveralls to work?  An attempt to ensure that no one is ever offended by a tacky T-shirt or pithy slogan on some piece of clothing ever again.  Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but dystopia seems a little less far-off every day.

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