I am writing to express my disappointment in the Knox County Fair Board for the apparent lack of sensitivity they demonstrated in allowing their vendors to display Confederate flags/merchandise in excess at this year’s fair. As you know, Southern states such as South Carolina have recently chosen to respectfully, yet appropriately, retire these flags since they represent a once divided nation and time in our country’s history when the enslavement and oppression of African Americans was the norm.
I am sure the Knox Fair Board strives to create an event environment where all people, particularly children and families, feel welcome and accepted. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to walk with my teenage daughter through the midway’s vendor booths in what appeared to be a sea of Confederate flags and merchandise when we visited on Saturday, August 1, 2015 (please see attached images, all taken of different vendors along the midway). I can’t imagine how people of African American heritage may have felt from such a display. I decided to visit the Fair Board office while at the fair to express my concern. I also inquired about merchandise sale guidelines.
I was told by a person working in the Fair Board office that there was “nothing the Fair Board can do about what vendors sell at the fair”. I explained that it should be possible for the Fair Board to restrict vendors from selling racist or offensive items at the fair. She responded that the Fair Board could not restrict the merchandise their vendors sell and that “Vendors do this to get a rise out of people like you”. I asked if there was anyone I could write to (at the Fair Board) to complain about this policy. She initially told me “no” until I asked about Knox Fair Board address printed on the receipt book I noticed in front of her on the counter. She then very kindly wrote the address down on a piece of paper for me and asked me “Where are you from?”
I realize the Knox County Fair is not the only event this summer allowing vendors to capitalize on the recent decision by companies, such as Walmart, to stop selling Confederate flags/merchandise, due to their potentially offensive nature. I also understand that many fair-goes and individuals on the Knox Fair Board may not find Confederate flags offensive.However, out of respect for those who do find such items offensive, I am hopeful that this message will reach the Knox Fair Board, and that they will consider reviewing their vendor policies, particularly in terms of displays/product placement.
Thank you for your time,