Byron Thomas has decided not to hang a Confederate flag in his dorm room window at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
The 2011 North Augusta High School graduate displayed the flag after Labor Day and took it down just before Thanksgiving, after he was asked to by campus officials because they had received complaints.
University officials later decided he could hang the flag because they did not want to inhibit his freedom of speech.
That brought Thomas, who is black, national attention. He does not see the Rebel flag as racist, but as “a symbol of Southern pride/heritage.”
“Only an ignorant/racist person can make that flag a racist symbol,” he said in an e-mail.
Even so, Thomas decided not to display the battle flag again because the focus had shifted to free speech and away from holding to traditional views.
“I want people to see that I was fighting for more than my freedom of speech,” he said. “I want my generation to see that it’s time for us to start forming our own opinions about things, so we will not be divided by the same things the last generation was divided by.”
If his generation doesn’t put a stop to certain things, such as racism, then it might never end, he said.
Thomas hung the flag after doing a class project. He wrote a research paper about the Confederate flag and had to persuade the class of its meaning.
“All it was is a symbol that people give power to,” he said. “I (had) never researched it, so I didn’t want to judge something that I didn’t have enough information about.”