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[RICHARD] Is The Massachusetts State Seal Racist?

SealofMassachusettsStateSeal
Massachusetts State Seal

It must be hell on earth to wake up everyday and be offended by everything.  Some people are you know. The latest outrage is actually a revival of a previous gripe about the Massachusetts State seal and flag.  The always offended crowd believes the symbol is racist.

Earlier this week a Massachusetts legislative committee heard testimony from some who would change the state seal, which is featured prominently on the state flag.  You’ve seen it, it’s the blue shield with the gold Algonquin Indian in the center.  The seal features a large white star in the upper left hand corner of the shield.  Above the shield is the arm of a man brandishing a sword.

Offended yet?  Well, according to State Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) you should be.  Rushing, famous for his efforts to make Massachusetts a sanctuary state, and others say the seal is clearly racist and he has been attempting for years to change it.

The New Boston Post reports  that Larry Fisher, Chief of the  South Shore’s Mattakeeset Tribe, testified before the Joint Committee On State Administration and Regulatory Oversight this week that the seal has, “several ties to slavery, displacement and genocide of all kinds, including identity, culture, land ownership and murder.”  The Post says Sherrie Noble, formerly of the Cleveland-based,now former non-profit American Indian Education Center, told the committee, “Every day the flag remains as it is designed we are all collectively – and you are individually endorsing – the racism it showcases.”

Critics say the arm with the sword is meant to intimidate Native Americans.  Historians disagree saying the two symbols included in the seal are unrelated. Fisher testified, according to a Post account, “Looking at this seal triggers our PTSD and historical trauma for me and many others.”

State Symbols USA.org turned up the following history of our state seal:

The Coat of Arms, according to legislative enactment, consist of “a shield having a blue field or surface with an Indian thereon, dressed in a shirt and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and, in the upper corner of the field, above his right arm, a silver star with five points. The crest is a wreath of blue and gold, on which in gold is a right arm, bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, with the hand grasping a broadsword”.

The shield’s shape is called “Plantagenet”; the Native American model used was of the Algonquin nation; the arrow points downward to indicate that the Indian is peaceful; and the star indicates that Massachusetts was one of the original thirteen states; it was sixth.

The sword illustrates the Latin motto that is written in gold on a blue ribbon around the bottom of the shield: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem”. This is the second of two lines written about 1659 by Algernon Sydney, English soldier and politician, in the Book of Mottoes in the King’s Library in Copen­hagen, Denmark. It was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress and means, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”.

In my view the state seal honors the Native Americans who first greeted and befriended the Europeans who sought refuge here from oppression overseas.  There are those who seek out new ways to be offended and they too are entitled to express their views.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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