Gadsden flag under EEOC microscope: Agency unclear if iconic ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ design is racist


Washington Times:

Gadsden flag under EEOC microscope: Agency unclear if iconic ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ design is racist

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is gathering information to determine whether the iconic Gadsden flag is racist and punishable under federal workplace harassment regulations.The impetus was a Jan. 8, 2014, complaint brought by a black federal employee who was upset by his coworker’s hat, which bore the flag.
The individual who filed the complaint did so because the flag is allegedly an “indicator of white resentment against blacks,” specifically tied to the tea party movement, and that its creator, South Carolina statesmen Christopher Gadsden, owned slaves.

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who specializes in First Amendment issues and runs a blog for The Washington Post, wrote that the case includes no evidence that racial epithets were ever uttered — though some details of the case are not revealed due to secret proceedings — and the EEOC acknowledged that Gadsden created the flag “in a nonracial context” prior to the Revolutionary War.
“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 displayed the symbol in the workplace,” EEOC officials wrote. “In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Mr. Volokh warned of far-reaching implications over the EEOC’s stated concern about images “sometimes interpreted to convey racially tinged messages in some contexts.”
He walked through how a “reasonable employer” would act to avoid “the risk of legal liability for allowing speech that the government might label ‘harassing.’”
“An employee comes to you, complaining that a coworker’s wearing a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ cap — or having an ‘All Lives Matter’ bumper sticker on a car parked in the employee lot, or ‘Stop Illegal Immigration’ sign on the coworker’s cubicle wall — constitutes legally actionable ‘hostile environment harassment,’ in violation of federal employment law. The employee claims that in ‘the specific context’ (perhaps based on what has been in the news … ), this speech is ‘racially tinged’ or ‘racially insensitive.’

Seems to me that a prudent employer would ban caps, t-shirts &c with any kind of symbol except maybe sports teams. Likewise for bumper stickers.


As a Catholic, I would be more bothered by the serpent imagery (Genesis 3, Daniel 14, Revelation 12), but I guess “racism” (the word has been so debased in modern political discourse as to be mostly meaningless, which is sad, as it does refer to a genuine social problem that many people are content to foster or ignore rather than solve) is a bigger deal in today’s secular world. Perhaps he should have worn this on his cap instead:

Who would object to a fluffy bunny? :slight_smile:

Oh, wait…

That’s a white rabbit.

I’m officially racist. :rotfl:


RPRPsych, I fully agree with the rest of your quote, but this specific part is a bit off-base, in my humble opinion. There’s reasons the rattlesnake was adopted as one of the symbols of the American Revolution.

In December 1775, Benjamin Franklin published an essay in the Pennsylvania Journal under the pseudonym American Guesser in which he suggested that the rattlesnake was a good symbol for the American spirit:

[quote]I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?

The rattlesnake symbol was first officially adopted by the Continental Congress in 1778 when it approved the design for the official Seal of the War Office (at that time and for many years thereafter, the War Office was a term associated with the Headquarters of the Army).

Also remember that the snake isn’t always a symbol of evil or the demonic. Bishops of many Eastern and Oriental churches (including many Eastern Catholic ones) use crosiers with two snakes intertwined, both facing a cross. This is a reference to the staff used by Moses and/or Aaron in Exodus, as well as the bronze serpent that God commanded Moses to construct, representing thus the bishop’s pastoral authority and jurisdiction as a successor of an Apostle.


Thanks for the information. I completely forgot about Moses and his bronze serpent, even though it is referenced by Our Saviour in John 12. Stupid of me. :o Anyway, I stand corrected! :slight_smile:


All this over one complaint?

What a pathetic, whiney thing to do. Everyone has a persecution complex it seems, and over a symbol?

If it were me, I tell him that if he can prove he was alive for the original design’s creation and effrontery, he wins his case.

If not, he should be fired.


Yeah. Like the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, or Edmonton Eskimos. :rolleyes:


I believe the serpent on that flag represents the 13 original colonies, they each had their specific sections of the snake representing them too, although I forget which colony was the head and the tail.


Sometimes, a snake is just a snake…


I’ve never been offended by any of those teams. I’m Lakota. I’ve never understood how sensitive some people are. As for the Don’t Tread on Me design, never once occurred to me that it could even be controversial. I don’t get where racism fits into it at all. It’s a symbol of pride I would think


We have a winner.

I like it. “You can withdraw your complaint, and we’ll keep on going like nothing has happened. If you want to keep your complaint, you have to prove what you’re alleging. If you can’t prove it from historical documents, then you are guilty of trying to deprive someone else of his/her 1st-Amendment rights by making unsubstantiated allegations, and you’re gone.”


The Washington Times article cite in the OP is quoting and summarizing an article which was published by the Washington Post. Here is a link to that original article, written by Eugene Volokh.

The original article mentions the reason for the EEOC investigation of the Gadsen flag baseball cap is mentioned:

[quote=Washington Post]However, whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol [the Gadsen flag], 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. [Footnote: Shooters in Metro ambush that left five dead spoke of white supremacy and a desire to kill police, Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 8, 2014, available online at:]

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. [Paul Bass, Flag Sparks Fire Department Complaint, New Haven Independent, Feb. 25, 2014, available online at:] Certainly, Complainant ascribes racial connotations to the symbol based on observations that it is sometimes displayed in racially-tinged situations.

The author of the WaPo piece also mentions that the case involving the Gadsen flag baseball cap was decided by the EEOC two months ago . However, he doesn’t say what the EEOC decided. Since his article was about the dangers inherent in investigating symbols and their meanings, perhaps there is reason to believe that the EEOC did not punish the wearing of the Gadsen flag baseball cap. After all, if the EEOC had ruled against the baseball cap wearer, it would strengthened the author’s argument.


Just another trial balloon. Seeing how far they can press this issue, so they can begin to make the case that flag is “racist” or some other term. The leftists want to ban that flag, it stands for everything they hate, freedom, independence and self-defense.


And where did Free Speech go?


People who want to tread on freedom hate it. No surprises there.


They have found racially offensive:


Not necessarily. The Mediate article is summarizing the Washington Post article and offering no new information. Moreover, the Mediate article misinterprets the explanation which the EEOC gave for investigating the case. Mediate interpreted the very quote I mentioned in my post as being the final decision of the EEOC.

If you read the original WaPo article, you will see Mediate’s error.


They have found racially offensive:


A Saint Louis Cardinals logo would be offensive to Cubs Fans. All we would have to do label it racist to have it banned. Next up, the state bird of Illinois is the cardinal. This should have been changed when the Chicago Cardinals moved to Saint Louis before they moved to Phoenix.


Guess I’ll have to wear my Gasden hat and t-shirt out tonight, and leave my garage door open so everyone can see this flag on my wall:

I swear some day breathing will be racist.


The snake on the Gadsden flag has 13 rattle sections on the tail representing the 13 colonies. The snake divided into sections (8 not 13) representing the colonies was not the Gadsden flag but Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon with New England as a whole for the head and South Carolina as the tail, with others going in order from north to south, head to tail.

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