L.A. Times Op-ed: California Bear Flag is a Symbol of American Oppression

California flag (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

The California flag, beloved by millions, proudly adorning t-shirts up and down the coast and hung on the dorm room walls of homesick Californian students nationwide, has to go.

That’s the message of a Los Angeles Times op-ed by writer Alex Abella, who calls the Bear Flag “a symbol of blatant illegality and racial prejudice,” hoisted by a rebel band of “slave owners, murderers, thieves, drunks and squatters.” Abella does not suggest an alternative with which the flag should be replaced.

In Abella’s retelling of the story, California under Mexican rule was a relative paradise, with “a democratic government, paternalistic and often beset by political conflicts, yet multi-ethnic and racially integrated.” The new American regime “denied civil rights to blacks and Indians,” and set about exterminating the state’s indigenous population, stealing land and livestock, imposing an alien system of laws rather than the existing system set up under the Spanish-speaking Californios.

Most Californians have a different view. The liberal public radio station KPCC posted a story in 2012 about the origins of the bear on the flag, with the introduction: “We might be biased–but California has one of the best state flags, no? The bold star on the left, the green patch of land… and–of course–the California grizzly bear, our state animal, forever trudging along.”

According to snopes.com, the inclusion of a bear in the flag was a mistake; it was supposed to be a pear.

Update: Snopes.com indicates that its own story about the pear is not true. Hat tip: Jon Greenberg, who claims to be a “National staff writer with PunditFact and PolitiFact” (though who knows? these fact-checkers make things up).


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