A federal agency is worried an iconic symbol of freedom dating back to the Revolutionary War might be racist. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which decides if something constitutes a “hostile work environment,” is looking into whether the ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ or Gadsden, flag should be banned from both government and private workplaces, Eugene Volokh writes in The Washington Post.
Two months ago, the EEOC decided to investigate the matter after an African-American government employee filed a complaint to the agency about his co-worker, who repeatedly wore a hat bearing the flag.
The aggrieved employee said the hat was offensive because the flag on it was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader & owner of slaves,” and that it’s a “historical indicator of white resentment against blacks stemming largely from the Tea Party.”
In its decision, the EEOC stated that while the flag’s origins in the Revolutionary War are not racist, it is sometimes associated with racially charged situations, and warranted further investigation to determine whether it’s offensive.
As Volokh points out, the complainant does not say whether this hat-wearing co-worker ever acted or spoke out in a racially offensive way. Thus it seems wearing the hat with the Gadsden flag is the only provocative thing the co-worker in question ever did.
If the EEOC decides the flag is harrassment, employers who allow their employees to wear the symbol could face significant legal consequences and fines. Instead of allowing employers to decide for themselves whether is offensive, the federal government would be unilaterally deeming displaying this flag as harassment, which places pressure on employers to create a politically correct safe space for their employees.
The irony of this is just too much: the federal government is literally deciding whether a symbol of freedom that originated for the purpose of drawing attention to an oppressive government should be banned from the workplace, or else.