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SD Secretary of State Website Displays Teen Wiseguy’s Confederate Flag

Mr. Ehrisman notices a little homegrown racism making the South Dakota Secretary of State’s webpage:

South Dakota Secretary of State website, screen cap 2017.08.13.
South Dakota Secretary of State website, screen cap 2017.08.13. (Click to embiggen.)

One of the rotating banner images on right now shows Secretary Shantel Krebs on her “Value the Vote” trip to Mobridge High School. The same photo appears on Krebs’s Facebook page, dated March 25, 2016. There the Secretary is, front row center. Way in the back, straight above and behind, one young man makes gang symbols with his hands, because, you know, har-de-har-har.

A less amusing chucklehead (yup, wear that shirt, I’ll use the word) sports the traitor flag of the Confederacy on his black t-shirt in the front row, two spots to the Secretary’s right, and to the immediate left of an adult supervisor whom we can only hope spoke sternly to the chucklehead about racism, history, and respect after the photo.

The First Amendment permits private citizens to express racist sentiments. The boy with the racist traitor flag has as much right to his shirt as the young man next to him wearing what appears to be a combination of a basketball and the four colors of the Lakota medicine wheel on his hoodie has to his. Neither boy sheds his First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate, but the First Amendment does not allow either boy to display symbols or engage in other speech at school that may disrupt the school environment. Whether the Confederate flag constitutes such a potential disruption is unclear.

However, it is clear that the Secretary of State of South Dakota is amplifying one wiseacre kid’s decision to prominently display a racist traitor flag at an event promoting the basic American principle that every vote matters. Shantel Krebs, who is also running for Congress, has a First Amendment right to fly that racist traitor flag (she can borrow the new one former legislator Betty Olson is bragging about getting as a present) and wave it over her ranch on her own time, on her Facebook page, and at her campaign events. However, as a government official who takes an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, the Secretary of State must not display the flag of traitors to that Constitution, not to mention traitors to the sanctity of democratic elections that her office protects, in any official capacity on any official documents, print or electronic.

Apparently no one noticed this racist, traitorous display on the Secretary of State’s homepage until today, a Sunday, when our attention to white supremacists and their speech has been heightened by racist violence in Virginia and the murder of a woman apparently caused by a man who not so long ago was a boy sitting in his high school classroom writing a paper idolizing the Nazis. It is to all of our discredit that we didn’t notice sooner. Let us give Secretary Krebs a little time to get to her office and erase this offense from our public website.


  1. OldSarg 2017-08-13 22:12

    Seriously? The kid is in High School. The kid is a minor. The kids isn’t old enough to vote. He probably doesn’t own a car. This isn’t about a flag, a symbol or anything of value. This is about you blatantly attacking a minor child. This is a new low for you.

    Making everything racist, bigoted or whatever to gain what you think are political “points” does nothing to further you goals. It demeans you as a small minded talking head. This is why no one listens anymore. This is why Trump may be in the low forties but the media is in the teens. This was below your abilities as a writer. You should pull this post.

  2. Paul H 2017-08-13 22:30

    Cory, Think back to hs – if you could get away with it you did. Many young people do before they think – this is a bit much. Hopefully, the school talked to him.

  3. John 2017-08-13 22:30

    Krebs lack of attention and complicity tracks with her earlier attendance at the xenophobes anti-Muslim meeting in Rapid City.

    Pretty tone deaf, that one. Apparently as a white woman in South Dakota she’s never suffered a discriminatory slight, nor had a family member who fought in the Civil War on the winning side, nor had a family member fight to defeat the National Socialist tyranny that picked race and religion for the population.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-13 22:38

    Paul, OldSarg, any child wearing a racist traitor flag in high school should be talked to sternly and turned from his adoration, whether casual, smart-alecky, or serious, of evil. Otherwise, in a couple years, he’ll be driving his car into crowds of his fellow citizens.

    But the main issue here is not the stupid behavior of one child. It is the inattention (and let’s hope that’s all it is) committed by the Secretary of State that has amplified the evil message behind that stupid behavior. Let’s hope she fixes it as soon as she gets to the office.

  5. jerry 2017-08-13 23:19

    Cory, you are spot on. The domestic terrorist in Virginia that drove his car into the crowd was a momma’s boy who lived in her basement until recently when he moved to Ohio. He found the love he lacked with the Nazi party preaching hate. Tell the boy to take that hate filled traitor flag of a tee shirt off his back and read some history of slavery and what it did to this country. Our history is ugly and there is no getting around that, but we should note to the children that they can be the change needed. Not to late to start.

  6. Donald Pay 2017-08-14 09:46

    Old Sarge has a point. The youngster may be a minor, and we don’t want to imply anything about his choice of clothing on that day. On the other hand, some school districts do have policies against wearing symbols that could identify someone with a hate group. I’m not sure about Mobridge High, but here is a part of the Rapid City Area Schools Student Handbook, which all students are required to sign:

    “DRESS & GROOMING: Dress and grooming on a school location in the following manner is prohibited:
    • Wearing clothing or accessories that include words, pictures, or symbols which are obscene, vulgar, abusive, discriminatory, or which promote or advertise alcohol, chemicals, tobacco or any product that is illegal for use by minors.
    • Wearing clothing and other items or grooming in a manner that represents and/or promotes threat/hate groups including gangs or supremacist groups.
    • Wearing clothing or grooming in a manner that is sexually explicit/distracting or which conveys sexual innuendo, or that may reasonably be construed as sexual.
    • Wearing any headwear, coats, or trench coats in the building during the school day without permission from the school administration.
    • Wearing of clothing or grooming that is potentially disruptive to the education process or that poses a threat to the health and safety of others: chains and spikes.
    • Wearing of pants/shorts that are sagging.
    • Bare midriff, muscle shirts, spaghetti straps, pajamas, slippers, loungewear or extreme mini-skirts and shorts are too informal for the school setting. Shoes are required by state law.”

    You will notice that clothing that “represents and/or promotes threat/hate groups including gangs or supremacist groups” is banned. At Rapid City schools, this shirt might not be allowed. It would depend on the context. It would probably generate some discussion, especially if there were any complaints lodged. The student might be asked to not wear the shirt at school again, but he wouldn’t face any discipline just wearing it once.

    I have some problem with dress codes, but students do need to learn proper behavior and dress. My daughter had a problem with banning “spaghetti straps,” and I heard about it when I had to vote on this part of the student handbook.

  7. mike from iowa 2017-08-14 10:08

    OldPrivate, why not come right out and propose to Cory.

  8. Porter Lansing 2017-08-14 10:51


  9. Rorschach 2017-08-14 11:48

    You should pull your comment old sarg. Trump is in the mid 30s.

  10. OldSarg 2017-08-14 12:40

    A shirt, statue, book, article or even words do not “cause” racism. The reaction to it does.

    Burn the books, remove the statues, regulate the words and hang the child wearing the shirt and what have you all become?

  11. Porter Lansing 2017-08-14 13:27

    A shirt, statue, book, article or even words don’t cause racism they promote, glorify and condone racism. Racism is caused by a red-neck, racist parent, a racist peer you admire, a misguided coach or teacher, a military leader, a group of bigots you watch when you haven’t yet solidified an identity, and a large number of other things.
    “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love …” – President Barack Obama yesterday

  12. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-14 13:45

    I think it is imperative, given our Republican President’s lame denunciation of racial hate on Saturday, that all the major Republican candidates right now (Senators Thune and Rounds, too), for governor and congress in South Dakota, come out in opposition to the Confederate acknowledgement which currently can be found on the insignia for the city of Gettysburg, South Dakota…. Billie and Tim should too, but the Democratic leadership in this country is not lacking in their credibility on the issue of whether they are against racial hate and discrimination or not…. Sadly, however, somehow the “Party of Lincoln” has now become the “Party of Racism” and it is time they cleansed themselves of this new reality….. WWAD? (What would Abe do?)

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-14 14:08

    Donald, minors need moral instruction. I offer that instruction herewith, as I offer it in any classroom in which I have the pleasure of teaching. People should not wear the symbols of racists and traitors. Children who wear such symbols are behaving improperly and should be told clearly that they should stop doing so. OldSarg has no point, only a desire to distract from the real topic, the misconduct of the Republicans for whom he is determined to blow smoke.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-14 14:10

    By the way, as of 2 p.m., the racist traitor flag is gone from the website, replaced with a rather bland screenshot of the business registration webpage and the exhortation, “Form a new business!”

    Thank you, Secretary Krebs, for removing the unacceptable speech from the state website.

  15. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-08-14 14:33

    What about Gettysburg? Have we won that battle, yet? (No pun intended)……

  16. Roger Cornelius 2017-08-14 18:39

    Am glad Shantel took the offensive photo down and replaced it with a photo of my friend former OST President John Steele.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-14 19:26

    Sorry, Roger! The picture of your friend President Steele was already part of the rotating banner, along with the concealed carry map, the troopers, and the veterans’ memorial. The replacement was the dull screenshot of the business registration webpage.

  18. OldSarg 2017-08-14 21:04

    Good thing they took that offensive picture down. Why, I can’t imagine the hurt it caused across the whole state! We should ban pictures of the reservations as well being the folk on Pine Ridge are all so poor and it would be best if ordinary folks didn’t have to cast their eyes upon such hardship. It would be better to not see the truth. It would benefit the masses by outlawing offensive pictures altogether. If a child is hurt by a teacher or a police officer was to slap a crook we shouldn’t be able to see such a thing. It only works to undermine our trust in the system. It is the system, after all, that gives us protection and being. I say they should pass a law banning all speech this blog finds offensive. Only we should all be the judges of what is right and wrong, for it is only us “enlightened” that can possibly understand the ramifications of a photo with 60 kids in it and one person has the offensive shirt on, yet the writer blames one person in the picture for the offense. For he is the judge of all that is right.

  19. Adam 2017-08-15 02:32

    That kid, wearing that t-shirt, in that photo says poor oversight and South Dakota Secretary of State more than anything else ever could.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-15 07:00

    OldSarg is throwing spaghetti at the wall, trying to say that we are crybabies, deniers of truth, hypocrites, and arrogant thought police, all in one rambling, flailing bloc of text (which I won’t call paragraph, since it does not adhere to and develop a single topic sentence but veers and weaves to whatever new allegation pops into OldSarg’s head as he translates all of his anger and frustration into futile digs).

    The most important sentence in OldSarg’s 21:04 screed is, “It would be better not to see the truth,” with which he is accusing us (and now the Secretary of State, who has responded to multiple citizen complaints besides that offered on this blog to remove the offensive picture) of resisting the publication of “truth” on a government website.

    We are not talking about a journalistic reporting of fact. Suppose we were talking about the boy in the back row making gang signals with his hands. Suppose that instead of gang symbols (with which I am unfamiliar), that boy had grinningly flipped the camera the bird. The flat “truth” of that moment would be that at the moment the photographer snapped the photo of Krebs with the kids, one boy made a vulgar gesture. No government purpose is served by publishing that perfectly true and accurate record of that vulgarity in that moment. Publishing that photo only spreads the offense and gives the vulgar child his jollies.

    Likewise the publication of a photo showing a racist traitor flag.

    And OldSarg, if you’re really hurt by the removal of this childish offense from the government website, you can still click on the link I give to Shantel Krebs’s Facebook page, or even to this very blog post, where the “truth” of that moment—the fact that an irresponsible boy grinningly broadcast his support for racism and treason close to an important elected official—is still available for your viewing pleasure.

    The “truth” has not been erased. An offensive image incompatible with government’s mission has been removed from a government website.

  21. Donald Pay 2017-08-15 10:12

    I have a drawer full of T-shirts. Some I buy; some are gifts. I got a Hogwarts t-shirt as a gift. I never thought that someone might take that as supporting witchcraft. One t-shirt I had was “Bowlin’ for Colon.” It’s for an event supporting colon cancer research, not Colon Powell for President. I have a faded “Jump Around” t-shirt, which references a UW tradition of jumping around at the end of the third quarter. Now THAT is something I can believe in.

    I don’t pay attention to what people wear. Hell, I don’t pay attention to what I wear. I figure most people are like me: they just put on what’s clean and comfortable. If someone has a symbol on it that might be distasteful, I assume they got it from cuckoo Uncle John and it was the only clean thing they had. I have a “Solidarity” t-shirt I bought during the ACT 10-Walker Recall effort. It probably pisses off some Republicans, but I like it because it’s big, warm and blue. Same with by Obama 2012 t-shirt.

    I have this one t-shirt that say, “So far, this is the oldest I’ve ever been.” I’m always taken aback when people comment that they like my t-shirt. Hey, I got it as a gift and I just put it on because it was clean.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-15 11:02

    We do not know the motives of the boy in the picture in wearing that shirt that day or of the boy flashing gang finger symbols in the back row of that same photo. But we know the content of the symbols they present, and we know that the state should not promote such symbols or content in its official communications.

    Of course, that does get me thinking… if Shantel happens to visit a school next year where a kid is wearing a Wisconsin “Solidarity” t-shirt that his mom picked up at a rummage sale, and that shirt makes it in a picture, does the SOS violate any principle of rule of good government if a photo of her with that kid and that shirt makes the state website? What about a Vikings t-shirt, or a shirt saying, “Buy Ivanka’s latest fashions from China!”?

  23. Donald Pay 2017-08-15 14:29

    The “gang finger symbols” may not be gang finger symbols. Two years ago some basketball players in Wisconsin high schools were suspended for making certain hand signals. It turned out these gestures were what they had seen UW basketball players making after three point shots. The adults jumped to conclusions, and had a lot of backtracking to do.

  24. Donald Pay 2017-08-15 14:37

    There are a few I see with hands folded. Praying? Probably praying that this is over. A couple of guys look as if they are scratching their privates. The girls are all perfect. I would expect nothing less.

  25. John 2017-08-15 23:00

    Old Sarg is FOS. Plenty of 16-17-18 year olds went through basic, were handed rifles to kill for our nation and its values. The worst thing the US experienced since the 1960s is extended adolescence. It’s long past the time to stop making excuses for juvenile stupid basic human mistakes and flawed judgments of folks who ought to know better.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-16 14:46

    I’m with you, John. Whatever the magical date of passage is, every kid in that photo can make moral choices. We can instruct every child in that photo and every child in that photo accountable for moral lapses.

  27. Ryan 2017-08-16 16:35

    The kid with the rebel flag shirt is most likely not making any statement about his political affiliation, moral character, racist tendencies, or any other trait. He incorrectly assumed that he would look cool wearing something that bothers adults. I agree he should be given a little history lesson and see if he still thinks it’s funny, because it really isn’t, but all the people who are offended by the shirt are making much more out of it than it should ever have been.

    As for all the flack the Secretary of State is getting for missing the shirt, I think it is important to scrutinize the information and pictures displayed on a governmental website, but seriously, if the S.O.S. office paid some employee to comb through every pixel of every picture that ever goes online for something that might offend headline-hungry people with nothing else to talk about, those same people would complain about spending state funds on unnecessary censorship. If you want to cry bad enough, you’ll find something to cry about.

    Instead, that kid’s picture should have been shared all over the internet so people could make fun of him for being backwards or stupid or racist or ignorant or whatever else the geniuses on the internet would want to call him. Social encouragement to feel shame is much more powerful than a bunch of blog commenters, like myself, talking about this kid and his stupid shirt. He has no idea all you conservative strangers don’t like his shirt – and if he knew, he would be very pleased with himself. Talk all you want about “educating” this young fella and teaching him that slavery was a bad thing, but he’s a kid. He would probably just laugh. This is why kids can’t vote, sign contracts, consent to adult activities, and all sorts of other things. He doesn’t have the capacity to give a heck what you or I think.

    As a side note, the kid in the back ins’t throwing up gang signs. He’s doing “the Shocker.” Google it if you want, but be warned, it’s explicit. Just like the rebel shirt kid, he is an adolescent trying to be funny. I think the kid in back succeeded, honestly. Classic move. But all this “gang sign” talk just proves how out of touch adults are with kids – always have been, always will be. Being old enough to vote and having kids doesn’t make you smarter than everyone else, just an FYI.

  28. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-16 17:14

    The kid’s motives are irrelevant. The state should not display a racist traitor flag. The Secretary of State, once alerted to this error,

  29. Ryan 2017-08-18 08:46

    If this article and the comments were just about the S.O.S. website displaying an image of the flag, you would be right. However, you made “the wearing of the shirt” and “the displaying of the gang signs” and the students doing those things as much a part of this conversation as you made the government’s poor content review process. That brings into the dialogue the issues of freedom of speech and the capacity of young children to make thoughtful, moral decisions.

    The kids’ motives are irrelevant to the S.O.S. posting the picture, but they are relevant to the kids’ decisions to do what they did, which is half of what we’re talking about here.

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