The so-called confederate flag has been removed from the Newcomb House. Several residents of Newcomb told me they made an effort to talk to the owner of the business to explain how damaging their actions are. It appears those conversations worked. An open sore in our Adirondack community has been bandaged – it hasn’t been healed.
The online response to yesterday’s report that the owner of one of Newcomb’s most well-known establishments had hoisted the confederate flag at a prominent location was varied. I think it might be helpful to review a few of those responses here.
One Business Does Not Represent The Whole Town
It’s understandable that feelings are hurt when a community’s reputation is tarnished by the actions of the few. An appropriate response would be to actively work to make your community a more welcoming place, not attack those who feel unwelcome or blame the messenger.
Criticizing Someone For Flying A Flag Is An Attack On Free Speech
The Newcomb House flew the confederate flag to make a statement – to exercise their free speech. Those who disagree with that statement also have the right to criticize it. Nobody’s free speech has been violated. The Newcomb House is free to raise the flag again anytime they want, but now they more clearly understand what it would mean to their community if they do.
The Flag Does Not Mean What You Say It Means
Everyone is entitled to have whatever view of the confederate flag they want. We can criticize the views of others about the confederate flag, but we don’t get to define for others what they think about the confederate flag. Whatever its original intent, the flag has become a symbol of racist hate for most Americans and flying it sets an unwelcoming tone.
You Have No Right To Tell Me What To Say Or Do
Actually, we all have every right to tell others what to say or do – that is our right to free expression. We don’t have a right to force them to say or do something (that would be slavery). No one has forced the Newcomb House to say or do anything. Many have made it clear that they do not approve, and some have apparently been convincing enough to persuade the Newcomb House to take down a flag that is so offensive.
I think the bottom line is this. Anyone is free to have unwelcoming attitudes towards visitors, guests, or your neighbors. If you are going to stand on the side of the road in the middle of town and shout them however, expect that someone will criticize you.
Maybe that’s what has changed. Maybe it will be just a little friendlier in Newcomb now that those who are targeted by the confederate flag know that many in their community stand behind them.
That, it seems to me, is some progress – but not enough.
If we want people to visit the Adirondacks, to move here, or our children to stay here, we should be welcoming – not just tolerant. The Newcomb House may never wash away this stain on its reputation, and may not even care to, but the people of the Adirondacks can.
They can take action by doing things that send a message that the Adirondack Park is a welcoming place, where people of all ethnicities, religions, and genders can find a spot to unwind or a spot to call home.
Photo of the Newcomb House today by Katie Richards.