Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — The appropriateness of displaying the Confederate flag, a debate that has pitted Civil Rights groups against Southern nationalists on the political stage, has now extended to the issue of school clothing.
On Sept. 29, a group of eighth-grade girls at Carver Middle School in Harris County, Ga., were suspended for wearing shirts bearing the Confederate flag symbol. In turn, some of the suspended girls’ parents insisted that if the students were not permitted to display the Confederate flag, black students should not be allowed to wear the Fubu brand of clothing especially popular with African-American teenagers. As a result, Harris County superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews last week banned both Fubu-wear and Confederate-wear on school premises.
“The ban on both Fubu and Confederate symbols is still in effect, but new rules will be instituted once the students return from fall break on Oct. 12,” said Arnold Jackson, principal of Carver Middle School, in an interview with WWD Friday.
Contention over the display of Confederate flag symbols has recently been plaguing schools throughout Georgia. Last week, the principal of a Cobb County high school banned the Confederate emblem because of its potentially disruptive influence on the student body. After students and parents voiced their opposition to his decision, the McEachern High School principal once again permitted students to sport Confederate-wear. Elsewhere, more than a dozen students at Loganville High School in Walton County incurred a one-day suspension for wearing “Dixie Outfitters” shirts in response to a minor racial incident. The school has a code banning both Confederate and Malcolm X symbols, both of which are deemed potentially provocative iconography.
The incident in Harris County is the first time a hip-hop clothing label has been targeted in response to the banning of the Confederate symbol. Fubu, which stands for “For Us, By Us,” is a New York-based clothing company founded in 1992. It specializes in oversize styles and prominent logos and is a fashion mainstay of black teenagers as well as many whites inspired by the hip-hop aesthetic. The company, which has estimated sales of more than $200 million annually, addressed the controversy on its Web site with the following statement: “The fact that Fubu’s largest support base, the African-American community, takes pride in wearing products designed and manufactured by African Americans, should not serve as a catalyst for racial bigotry….It’s unfortunate, but it now appears that branded clothing has become an issue of race and an unprotected front against racial prejudice and social injustice.”

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