Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday August 12, 2020
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Letters to the editor

Rainbow flag is inclusive

Regarding recent efforts calling for a more "inclusive" flag to be flown on the flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza ["Raise an inclusive Castro flag," Editorial, August 6], as president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation I would like to make the case for preserving the flag that flies there now.

First and foremost, Gilbert Baker, who created the LGBTQ rainbow flag with the help of over 30 volunteers, stated on many occasions that the flag was created "for all genders, all races and all ages." A flag for "the rainbow of humanity."

Second, the flag and flagpole were designed as a work of art. Its placement, its height, everything about it was calculated for maximum visibility as a work of political art. To change the flag would be the equivalent of defacing a famous painting or sculpture.

Third, achieving the goal of erecting a six-color rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza was not only the culmination of a years long effort on the part of Baker and his political allies, it also coincided with Baker's decades-long work in the flag industry itself. Baker spent years working for the Paramount Flag Company, convincing them to make the rainbow flag commercially available. In 1987 Baker addressed the World Flag Congress, convincing them to add the rainbow flag to its catalogue. Baker spent decades making this amazing icon one of the eight most recognizable symbols in the world. Changing the flag at Harvey Milk Plaza will not change that. It will only serve to diminish San Francisco's importance as the birthplace of this worldwide phenomena. People travel from across the country and around the world to see their flag they love at Harvey Milk Plaza.

If someone wants to fly a new flag in San Francisco, or anywhere else for that matter, they can do what Baker did and lobby the city, community leaders, politicians, and the flag industry, and erect a new flagpole dedicated to the design they propose. We at the foundation would be happy to support that effort.

Flags can mean many things to many people but the original rainbow flag is now, and will always be, a unifying symbol of hope and liberation for all oppressed people across the globe. Just because some people misrepresent the rainbow flag — remember Donald Trump waved one during the 2016 campaign — it doesn't mean they represent the values of Baker and the volunteers who created it.

And finally, I ask all of the citizens of San Francisco to join me in condemning some so-called social justice activists that have compared the original rainbow flag to Confederate monuments that need to be torn down. This is a preposterous idea that needs to be called out publicly.

San Francisco is the birthplace of this amazing flag. It is the responsibility of the people of San Francisco to show the world that the original rainbow flag always has been, and always will be, a symbol of diversity and inclusivity. You can't do this by changing the stripes on the original rainbow flag. You have to live up to the original ideals that were sewn into those original colors.

Charles Beal, President

Gilbert Baker Foundation

New York, New York

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