TRINITY, Ala. (Christian Examiner) – High School class rings might be the latest casualties in the war against rebel flags and symbols.
After high school graduation, Aaron Browder attempted to order a class ring featuring his high school mascot, the Rebel, from his local Alabama Walmart. However, because the Rebel is closely associated with the Confederate flag, Walmart refused to place the order.
Initially, the Walmart employee told Browder, a graduate of West Morgan High in Trinity that the image was racist. Although Browder did not intend to display the Confederate flag on his ring, only the Rebel itself, Walmart maintained its position in accordance with its recent policy not to sell Confederate flag images.
"The whole experience is disappointing," Browder told Decatur Daily. "To be told that my school is racist and controversial is an insult to me, and it's an insult to my school pride."
Browder's is not the only family of a recent graduate to encounter Walmart's new policy.
Elaine Glidewell ordered a class ring for her nephew, a Southside High School graduate in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The ring design featured the high school mascot, the Rebel, as well as a Confederate flag.
When Glidewell went to pick up her order, Walmart gave her a refund instead of the ring. An employee told her that the ring would be melted because it could not be sold.
Glidewell told her local news that she was determined to order her nephew a ring from another source.
This controversy stems from the racially motivated mass shooting of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. The shooter's use of the Confederate flag to stir hatred induced national retailers, including Walmart, to refrain from selling Confederate flag merchandise.
The result of that decision is that schools with Rebel mascots, like Vestavia Hills High School in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, cannot obtain merchandise displaying their school symbols. Current students and recent graduates of Vestavia Hills are glad to see that the school board will soon meet to consider changing the image of the Rebel Man.
The community is divided in its opinion of the mascot: some say that the images represent American heritage, while others say that the association with the Confederacy is too closely linked to racism.
Meanwhile, graduates like Browder will need to seek third-party vendors to order class rings. In light of popular opinion, more schools like Vestavia Hills might meet to discuss controversial mascots.