Racist symbols: Reply to George Schedler

A symbol might have racist connotations in the sense that a substantial portion of the relevant population associates it with racist values or institutions. A governmental symbol display might therefore carry racist connotations that the government doesn’t intend, including connotations that haven’t always been attached to the symbol. So I claimed recently in the pages of this journal (Alter 2000b). I also explained how those claims create problems for some of George Schedler’s (1998) main views about governmental displays of the Confederate battle flag. In his response, Schedler rejects my claims, arguing that they lead to absurdities when applied to various examples. He adds that one of his examples brings into question my “political savvy” (Schedler 2000, p. 5). Be that as it may, his arguments against my claims are entirely without force, and serve to confirm the weakness of his initial position. So I’ll argue. I’ll also identify a problematic assumption in our dispute, which is not uncommon in discussions of symbolic meaning and racist speech.
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