Utah NAACP, BLM Publicly Spar Over Whether American Flag Is 'Symbol of Hatred'

Chapters of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter (BLM) in Utah were seen publicly disagreeing this weekend over whether or not the American flag should be considered a symbol of hate and racism.

The disagreement was sparked earlier this month, after BLM Utah posted a statement to social media on the Fourth of July calling the American flag a "symbol of hatred" and stating that those who fly it are "racist."

"When we Black Americans see this flag we know the person flying it is not safe to be around. When we see this flag we know the person flying it is a racist. When we see this flag we know that the person flying it lives in a different America than we do. When we see this flag, we question your intelligence. We know to avoid you. It is a symbol of hatred," the group's Facebook post read.

Along with the post, the group shared a google drive of violent messages with derogatory and hateful language directed toward the group from "flag waving Americans."

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The statement quickly sparked controversy on both a local and nationwide level. In the aftermath of the post, BLM Utah said it had received an increase in violent threats.

On Saturday, the local branch of the NAACP became the most recent and prominent critic of the group's statement. President of the NAACP Utah State Conference Jeanetta Williams on Saturday said that the organization "rejects the idea that flying the American flag is a racist message."

"The flag stands for all the people who have lived and served to bring about the best of the American Experience, that all people are created equal. Real American Patriots have stood for equality and justice for all," Williams said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

"While we recognize that the history of our nation is marked with both failures and successes in the treatment of minorities," Williams wrote, "we know the way forward starts with respect and togetherness for all Americans."

Williams added that the flag could be instead be recognized as a symbol of hope for racial and social equality.

"The flag represents the highest aspirations expressed from the founding of the Union, through the Emancipation Declaration [sic], the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, the Enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, to the millions of Americans who support their fellow citizens of all races, national origin, and color."

American Flag
Utah chapters of the NAACP and BLM were seen sparring over whether or not the American flag represents a "symbol of hatred" and racism toward Black Americans. Here, the flag is seen waving Key Largo in the Florida Keys in 1993. Bryn Colton/Getty Images

In response, BLM Utah founder Lex Scott wrote on Facebook Sunday that Williams' post was "hurtful" and said she felt it played into an attempt to pit the two civil rights organizations against one another. Scott added that while the two organizations frequently disagree, she respects and supports Williams' viewpoint.

"We do not always agree. That is ok. What I will not tolerate is wh1te [sic] organizations pitting Black organizations against each other. This happens frequently. People are constantly trying to pit us against the NAACP. It is not right and I will not fall for it. The NAACP took the bait," Scott wrote.

"The NAACP has done a lot of good work in the past. They do not like me, they do not like us. What they did today was hurtful," Scott continued. "They have every right to their opinion.… I stand by my words now more than ever."

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Scott addressed Williams' directly and said that while she is not angry with her for denouncing the American flag post, it is important to recognize that the two organizations are not each other's "enemy."

"The amount of hate and death threats I have received is inhumane. People have told me that they will murder my family Jeanetta, over a piece of cloth. And they have proved my point. We said it was a symbol of hate and they came to spread hate. And you co-signed that hatred. It hurts, but please understand that I am not your enemy. The enemy is out there," she added.

Newsweek contacted Williams' for an additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.