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Federal Ruling Puts Spotlight on Gadsden Flag’s Symbolism

Is the Gadsden flag racist? The flag, which features a coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me,” is one of America’s oldest symbols. But it’s now under the microscope after a Post Office worker complained of a co-worker’s repeated use of the symbol.

In 2014, an employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He claimed a co-worker repeatedly wore the Gadsden flag on his clothing, and that the flag represented racist undertones.

The worker alleged the flag designer owned slaves and expressed white supremacist sentiment at the time of its creation. However, when the EEOC investigated the claim, the commission quickly pointed out Gadsden created the flag during the American revolution and had no ties to such sentiment.

“It is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context,” the commission noted. Christopher Gadsden’s grandson, who was born well after the symbol’s creation, was pro-slavery.

But the EEOC did acknowledge hate groups use symbols in racially-tinged conflicts. Such as the 2014 Las Vegas shooting. Two assailants with white supremacist ties murdered two police offers and draped their bodies in a Gadsden flag and Swastika.

So the EEOC decided to investigate the complaint. They commonly deals with private workplace harassment.

The EEOC emphasized its ruling only dealt with this specific complaint. The commission also emphasized the decision meant that it would investigate, not that they found the flag’s use carried racist intent.

Many news outlets incorrectly interpreted the ruling as a criticism of the flag itself.

In a follow-up, EEOC spokesperson Justine Lisser told Breitbart, “Please note that, contrary to news reports and tweets, the EEOC decision was not on the merits, did not decide that the flag was a racist symbol, and did not ban it.”

“What the decision did was conclude that since there was no investigation or agency decision on the complaint of race harassment and retaliation, the case should be returned to the Post Office for processing,” Lisser said.

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Federal Ruling Puts Spotlight on Gadsden Flag’s Symbolism