Only in Madison. The city is seriously considering redesigning its municipal flag. Actually, it was surprising to learn Madison has a flag other than a Che Guevara t-shirt.
But it turns out the city has a flag and it needs to be changed because of misperceived cultural appropriation. What is supposed to be the state Capitol in the middle of the flag looks like a Native American sun symbol, and the natives are now restless. From the Wisconsin State Journal:
Two light blue segments split by a diagonal white middle segment represent Lake Monona and Lake Mendota separated by the Isthmus, with a symbol in the center meant to be an aerial view of the state Capitol building.
But the central image also closely resembles an ancient sun symbol that originated with the Zia Pueblo tribe in New Mexico.
Ald. Arvina Martin, 11th District, the City Council’s first Native American member, said that after her election in April, members of the Native American community approached her with concerns about the flag and the cultural appropriation of Native American symbols.
The obvious thing to do would be to tell the complainers that they’re wrong, it’s the Capitol. Or, tell them to ask Pueblo, CO, to change its name first, and when that happens the city of Madison will think about changing the flag.
Not long ago, the Washington Post commissioned a poll
that put a big dent in the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ team name. It turned out 90 percent of the Native Americans that were polled didn’t find the name offensive. So when so-called leaders of Native American tribes complain about cultural appropriation or being offended, it’s hard to take them seriously.
Wisconsin went through a similar controversy over cultural appropriation and school team nicknames when Governor Jim Doyle was still in office. Fortunately, the state government changed hands and local school districts were able to keep using the nicknames without fear of the Department of Public Instruction cutting off their funding. It was always a silly controversy given the number of communities and landmarks named after Native American tribes and leaders. It was the type of controversy that only made sense in – you guessed it – Madison.
On the other hand, if Madison were to suddenly put the Waukesha Springhouse or the Seymour hamburger on the flag, it’s easy to see how those communities might get offended. After all, who wants to be associated with Madison’s city government? Maybe the Zia Pueblo have a point.
• Keep it simple. “The flag should be so simple a child can draw it from memory.”
• Use meaningful symbolism. “The flag’s images, colors or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.”
• Use two to three basic colors that contrast well and “come from the standard color set.”
• Avoid lettering or seals. “Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seal.”
• Be distinctive or be related. “Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.”
RightWisconsin would like to offer our suggestion:
We’re not the best digital artists but the flag is simple. The sickles come together to form an “M” for Madison. The hammer and sickles are symbolic of industry and agriculture, respectively. The star represents Madison as the capital of Wisconsin. Red, of course, is the traditional color of Wisconsin and UW-Madison. The gold color represents prosperity.
We can’t wait to see it flying over city hall.