NAACP denounces Utah Black Lives Matter stance over American flag

Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, leads a chant during a protest in Cottonwood Heights on Aug. 7, 2020. The president of the Utah NAACP chapter has denounced Scott's controversial statement that the American flag is a symbol of hatred and racism.

Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, leads a chant during a protest in Cottonwood Heights on Aug. 7, 2020. The president of the Utah NAACP chapter has denounced Scott's controversial statement that the American flag is a symbol of hatred and racism. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — The president of the Utah NAACP chapter became the latest to denounce the controversial stance taken by Black Lives Matter Utah that the American flag is a "symbol of hatred" and anyone who flies it is a racist.

"The NAACP does not agree with that statement and rejects the idea that flying the American flag is a racist message," Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Utah State Conference, said in a prepared statement released late Saturday. "The flag stands for all the people who have lived and served to bring about the best of the American experience, that all people are created equal. Real American patriots have stood for equality and justice for all."

Lex Scott, founder of the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, responded shortly afterward.

"The NAACP has done a lot of good work in the past. They do not like me, they do not like us. What they did today was hurtful. They have every right to their opinion. They have not had to be at protests with white supremacists weaponizing the flag against them. They have more white validation than we do. We do not play respectability politics here," Scott posted on Facebook.

Yet Scott also praised Williams and the NAACP and said she won't tolerate "white organizations" and the media "pitting Black organizations against each other."

Black Lives Matter Utah sparked national controversy on the Fourth of July when Scott posted the comments about the American flag.

"When we Black Americans see this flag we know the person flying it is not safe to be around," the Facebook post says, "When we see this flag we know that the person flying it lives in a different America than we do."

The post prompted backlash from the Utah Republican Party and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox who said that the American flag "stands for freedom and opportunity for all."

In Williams' statement, she said the flag represents the "highest aspirations" for all citizens.

"While we recognize that the history of our nation is marked with both failures and successes in the treatment of minorities, we know the way forward starts with respect and togetherness for all Americans. The flag represents the highest aspirations expressed from the founding of the Union, through the Emancipation Declaration, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, to the millions of Americans who support their fellow citizens of all races, national origin, and color," the NAACP statement says.

Scott said she has always tried to support the NAACP. "I have told people to support their work. I will continue to do that," she said. "On the Hill when it came to police reform, Black Lives Matter and the NAACP have not agreed."

Scott said she met Williams nine years ago while wanting to be involved in civil rights activism, and that she attended a few NAACP meetings but felt as if she didn't fit in.

"I decided to still support them, but I also decided to start my own civil rights organization," Scott noted. She said that the last eight years have been painful, and she often wanted a mentor, but "there is no handbook for civil rights."

"People are constantly trying to pit us against the NAACP. It is not right and I will not fall for it. The NAACP took the bait," Scott continued. "Well, I will not. I urge all of our members to still support the NAACP."

Scott expressed directly to Williams that she is not angry with her personally.

"I stand by my words now more than ever," she said of her earlier comments on the American flag. "The amount of hate and death threats I have received is inhumane. People have told me that they will murder my family Jeanetta, over a piece of cloth. And they have proved my point. We said it was a symbol of hate and they came to spread hate. And you co-signed that hatred. It hurts, but please understand that I am not your enemy. The enemy is out there."

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