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Confederate Flag Sparks Discussion About Controversial Symbols In San Diego

Workers raise the flag at a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Saturday, June, 27, 2015.
Associated Press
Workers raise the flag at a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Saturday, June, 27, 2015.

Confederate Flag Sparks Discussion About Controversial Symbols In San Diego
GUESTS:Aaron Bruce, chief diversity officer, San Diego State University Ashley Virtue, director of external relations, National Conflict Resolution Center

Our top story on midday edition, the South Carolina legislature is on the verge of doing something that would have been on the global only a month ago. Their boating and taking down the Confederate lag on the state capitol grounds. This move is the result of a tragedy, the murders of nine African American men and women at the Emmanuel AME church and trust in. Many of the southern states are engaged in a deep debate about symbols, heritage, and human dignity. That debate is reverberating across the country. Here in San Diego without the divisive racial history of the South, people trained in promoting diversity are aware of the power of symbols and why they can be so controversial. Jenny Mayor Dr. Bruce, he's cheap diversity officer San Diego State diversity Aaron, welcome to the program. Ashley virtue joins us and director of external relations with the national Comput resolution center. Aaron, let me get your reaction to the debates going on in South Carolina and the southern states. Is it time for them to get rid of the federal district Confederate flag? I think eating rid of it is harsh. There's a place for historical documents, I don't know if historical hate related documents or iconography should be present at public buildings. Whether it's a swastika -- it doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be full blown publicly or inside here or unwelcome this in different entities around the country. Your very involved in trying to find resolutions and, vices too complex. Is there a time when you have to say this particular item has to go and would you be saying that now? I think from our perspective, we are looking at what you mentioned earlier which is the flag has become a symbol for something deeper. What we encourage people to do is have a conversation around this topic. To look very hard at what the symbol is and what that deeper conversation is that we need to have around why people are feeling so upset why they are telling so impassioned on both sides of this debate about the flag. Really encourage people to take a look at what is going to happen here with the flag being taken down in South Carolina, and also what is the ongoing repercussion of this conversation? Once this happens, what's going to continue between the people in that state how are they going to talk about the larger issue at hand? The Confederate flag, some believe is a tribute to those who died fighting in the South and the Civil War. It's seen as a an ingrained part of Southern heritage one might say white Southern heritage. When and how does one side's argument about heritage and rights ethically trump the other side? Think there is validity to both sides. It's also important to think about the negative impact that any iconography is having in the community. If that many people, in the north or the South, are feeling this is a symbolism of oppression, we need to take that into consideration. I think a lot will be in education. We educators faculty and staff on civility. We come together to understand the other view and explore what that means. From a legal perspective but also a humanity perspective. Is that part of what you are describing before? Understanding the other person's point of view? Yes. That's a lot of the work we're doing at San Diego State. We are working with students, we hope this be something alchemy throughout society at all levels. Is a teachable moment. We have the chance to really focus on what's not happening, the negatives here. This is an important issue that has to be discussed. I think this is a teachable moment to say how do we continue this conversation. Especially as we talk about our work with students and young people. Emerging into a word with you have to formally their own ideas and opinions about these types of things, they must be equipped with the tools that will allow them to have this type of conversation in a constructive and respectful way. As chief diversity Officer. , do you hear from students about how names and symbols can make them feel excluded? Yes. Making them feel included also. Gay pride month, we have traditionally worked with her student organizations as well as faculty and deaf to raise a rainbow flag which has a very symbolism was very important validates the identity of many people. It's not marginalizing groups, it's designed to unify. I think there are times where universities organizations struggle with being inclusive in their iconography logos and branding. As we educate future leaders, will see more inclusive strategies to be more welcoming and respectful of other groups in many ways. When SDS you changed then mascot name, some Native American groups and Latino groups cheered, some alumni were not so happy about that. As time changes, as our country evolves, it is a young country in many ways. We will continue to have those rich conversations as a community to determine how are our actions and media and branding impacting committees? The history of our country has not always been a rosy path. Even our own American flag may not always be embraced by everyone in our country. We still have the industrial prison complex and many other challenges impacting our countries through the Civil War. It's important educate each other on the meaning behind the symbols we hold dear to us in many ways an interview -- traditions we hold dear. And the value or the time to change or move forward into place. Is a conversation now in the aftermath of the shootings that there have been calls to change the name of an element useful here in San Diego that's named after Robert E Lee. You think that something good can come of changing a name like that? I think this is a very teachable moments. There is an opportunity for leadership in San Diego to work with the community to talk about the issues. One of the principles of the look at when we do a mediation at our center, people are a lot more involved and they feel a lot more committed to the outcome of a situation when they are involved in the process. I think here we looking at an example where we could really spend some time to identify various stakeholders have varying opinions about the situation and it's important we don't assume we know the values of each stakeholder. We get these people an opportunity to talk about why it is important to them, whether that's some people find they want to keep the name of the school or some people feeling like it really is time to change that in time to move on from that. I think it's most important we give people the opportunity to talk about it and to be heard and acknowledged for their opinions. So they have a little bit more ownership of what the outcome is. There's a lot of passion behind these conversations. How do get to that place with a productive conversation? Passion is a great thing. We have to look collectively and what we want to accomplish in a situation like this and say how do we get there together? Ultimately, I bet we have a similar goal which is to put this resolution. It's a matter of the how we get there. I would also say with the school, we have a real opportunity here because there are a lot of young people who are at that school will look to their parents and their leadership in the city to see how they are handling it. I think we have a real chance to show some children have this conversation can be had in a very constructive way. Even when it comes to San Diego, we have our own history of conquest and subjugation when it comes to the indigenous people and the Spanish colonists. Even legacy of the father who pounded his first mission here in San Diego is controversial concerning way he treated Native Americans. It depends on whom you ask to find that out. He is about to be elevated to sainthood in the Catholic church. How to be a violent situations like this in terms of inclusion and diversity? I think that sums it up perfectly. This is about inclusion. Before we make decisions, we want to see who is not at the table and what their views are. And how this impacts the. What pain is associated with our actions or decisions. We don't always do that. I think inclusion is something we teach our students about because they want them to be successful leaders and the diverse global workforce. We want them to be critical thinkers and understand those negative impacts. We think about the history San Diego and the number of diverse American Indian committees here and sovereign nations, it's essential we ring them to the table for the decisions we make because this is their land. When we look at the history of the American flag, I can't say everyone in San Diego Hills the same way about it and what it represents. I think it's important we understand and respect their opinions and ultimately their part of our committee, we need to take that into consideration. How do we preserve our sense of heritage if we decide to reevaluate our heroes and symbols? I think that's part of it. In acknowledging individuals who are in diverse communities around San Diego and embracing them helping them to be part of the growth and heritage of our committee historically, we haven't always as a country that embracing women, underrepresented groups, people with disabilities, religious and ethnic minorities, including our veterans. It's important as we move forward, we take those into consideration and teach each other about our differences and following them as asset, not as a liability. I would to ask you both, has working in the fields of conflict resolution and diversity open your eyes to how our culture can welcome people or marginalize them? Yes. I think there's an opportunity to learn from different cultures and to really evaluate how you can indicate with others and how that can vary depending on who you are speaking with. At the core of all of its, is our ability to speak with one another and Willie Julie here with the other person is saying. We always talk about you don't have to agree with everything you hear. They don't have to agree with everyone you engage with. You need to effectively listen to them, respond in a respectful way, try to be forward thinking. I don't think you can do that without being able to come together with a number of different opinions, diverse backgrounds and cultures. That makes very rich society you can move forward with. Aaron, have you had your eyes open? Always. I think it starts when you're very young making sure the positive achievements of all groups are represented in the curriculum within the school and exposing young people to all those great opportunities throughout their career and even was that he abroad. That opens their eyes to diversity globally which is really important. I want to thank you both. Thank you.

The debate over whether to remove the Confederate flag from civic spaces is reverberating across the country, including in San Diego.

The South Carolina Senate gave final approval Tuesday to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse. The measure now moves on to the state Assembly.

This action follows the killing of nine African-American men and women at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 19. The man accused of shooting them was photographed several times holding a Confederate flag.

Several Southern states are now engaged in a debate about symbols, heritage and human dignity. The move in South Carolina also has San Diegans talking.

“It’s a teachable moment,” Ashley Virtue told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. She is the director of external relations at National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego. “We encourage people to look very hard at what the symbol is and have a deeper conversation. What is the ongoing repercussion of this conversation?”

Aaron Bruce, chief diversity officer at San Diego State University, said the actions in South Carolina allow people to talk about these types of symbols.

“How do we come together to understand the other view and explore what that really means not just from a legal perspective but from a humanity perspective?” Bruce said. “It’s important as we move forward that we’re taking individuals into consideration.”

Confederate Flag Sparks Discussion About Controversial Symbols In San Diego