The Flags We Fly: When Diversity Collides With Geopolitics

Cecelia Messbauer, Copy Editor

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In response to internal concerns, The MacDuffie School has clarified its policy on which flags are flown on campus and how the school determines the number of nations it represents, according to Head of School Steve Griffin.

Griffin says he was promoted to examine the policy when he mistakenly referenced the list of countries recognized by the United States as a standard for determining which flags to fly. MacDuffie lists 26 countries as represented by its student body on its website, and for other official or promotional purposes, but currently flies flags of countries which the U.S. does not recognize. Also noting that the United Nations list of recognized countries is not set in stone or universally supported, Griffin says that matters of representing diversity will not be governed by any set list.  Within the community, Griffin says he wants to give students an opportunity to be recognized for whatever national identity to which they feel personally connected.

This dual policy is how a student walking through the halls could observe the Taiwanese flag, even though MacDuffie, in accordance with a tradition of One-China foreign policy in the U.S., recognizes the People’s Republic of China (mainland China, which has existed as a polity since the 1949 revolution that brought Communist leader Mao Zedong to power) and not the Republic of China (the island of Taiwan, which was established as such by the exiled Guomindang nationalists following that revolution). More recent dynamics of Taiwanization, in which Taiwan recognizes itself as a nation-state entirely separate from China, allow for cultural experiences to gain a degree of distance from bitter geopolitical conflicts.

While the clarification of flag policies resulted from specific inquiries, Griffin suggests that the current stance is designed to be receptive to students claiming  politically-contested national identities such as Hong Kong (a former British colony and current autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China under a “One China, Two Systems” paradigm), Tibet (an ethno-cultural region that is half autonomous and half administered by the PRC) and Palestine (a de jure sovereign state whose territory in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been occupied by Israel since 1967).

Requests for the display of new flags are received through Dean of Boarding Dina Lyman.

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The Flags We Fly: When Diversity Collides With Geopolitics