An incident involving a pool wristband at a Forsyth County swimming pool last weekend provides a simple lesson for all of us — especially about the power of speaking up.
While swimming at the Tanglewood Park pool last Sunday, former Forsyth County resident Sage Magness noticed something about the red, white and blue design on the pool wristband she’d been given to signify payment of the entrance fee. “I said, ‘This cannot be what I think it is,’” she told the Journal’s Wesley Young. Examining the band, she concluded that it portrayed a fragment of a Confederate flag. She was “pretty mad because the Confederate flag is something I don’t have in my life.”
Magness complained about the band on Forsyth County’s Facebook page. At first she was met with skepticism from a county employee, who said the bands had been used for years without generating any complaints. But Magness was insistent and finally proved her point. As a result, on Monday, county officials pulled all of the wristbands with the Confederate design and threw them away.
Forsyth County deputy manager Damon Sanders-Pratt told the Journal that the wristbands had been ordered by a young staffer who thought he was ordering bands with a patriotic theme and “didn’t recognize the connotation” of the name — “Stars and Bars Multicolored” — or the design.
MedTech Wristbands, which sold the bands to the county, was equally repentant. MedTech said that an employee hadn’t been aware that “we do not sell, support or promote these bands any longer, and she also wasn’t aware of what they resembled.”
The company gave the county credit for its purchase.
“We messed up. We made a mistake and have to pay for that,” Sanders-Pratt told the Journal.
He’s right. We appreciate the county’s quick response to this situation, as well as that of MedTech; once the problem was realized, they both did the right thing. Knowing youth, and realizing the subtlety of the wristbands’ design, we have no reason to believe that anybody had an ill intent.
Some, no doubt, will think this is much ado about nothing. As some commented on the Journal’s Facebook page, this isn’t the most urgent issue of the day.
That’s true, and no one claims that it is. Still, once the origin of the design was recognized and acknowledged, a response was required. You can’t unring a bell.
For those who complain about “erasing history,” the Confederate flag and similar imagery had a well-defined meaning when they were used during the Civil War. They supported a regime of white supremacy and slavery. Some have since tried to alter the meaning of those symbols to something more benign, but enough blatantly racist supporters of those caustic ideas have claimed those symbols that no government body should sanction their use.
Symbols have power, as anyone who bristles at the thought of an American flag being desecrated should readily acknowledge. They represent our beliefs and attitudes. Their use by government bodies should be considered, sober and representative of the best of their communities.
Forsyth County and MedTech both did the right thing by disposing of the wristbands. And so did Magness, for having the courage to speak up.