LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio - There’s growing controversy over the confederate flag and whether or not it should be sold at the Lorain County Fair.
“I won’t feel comfortable going to the fair,” said Jeanine Donaldson, Executive Director of YWCA in Elyria, “Now they told me how they feel about our community.”
The issue was first raised last year when a democratic commissioner asked the Fair Board to disallow confederate flag memorabilia at the fair and was denied.
Then this past February the issue was revisited at a fair board meeting.
Jeanine hoped they would change the current policy; as others have done including state fairs in Ohio, New York and Kentucky.
Jeanine says she and many others see the flag as a symbol of this nations brutal history with slavery, segregation and some extremely racist portrayals of African Americans.
“That’s how we feel,” said Jeanine, “It’s as if we’re seeing ‘lil black Sambo’ again.”
But once again they fair board refused to ban the flag.
The director of the Lorain Fair Board Magistrate Kim Meyers says it’s a matter of free speech.
“It’s a very slippery slope to go down and say 'okay now stop this.' Because there are so many things people have complained about from bibles to necklaces with crucifixes Cleveland Indians,” said Meyers.
Meyers also says some people support the flag.
“You mention hatred, slavery and things like that. A lot of the people, it's their heritage and part of the south,” said Meyers.
But according the Southern Poverty Law Center the confederate flag isn’t just linked to the past but continues to be used by hate groups to this day like the “neo-nazis.”
Something Jeanine can’t ignore, as Executive Director for the YWCA in Elyria, whose mission statement is to eliminate racism and support women.
She’s now asking other people who have booths at the fair this August to consider pulling out from the event, or at least voice their concerns in a peaceful manner to the fair board.
Jeanine feels that the issue can become an important teachable moment; especially for the young people who attend the fair and my not beware of the history attached to the symbol.
“This is campaign about changing the hearts and minds.”