Julián Castro Compares Betsy Ross Flag to Confederate Flag

'There are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful'

Julian Castro / Getty Images
July 3, 2019

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro weighed in on Nike's decision to drop its 'Betsy Ross flag' sneaker Wednesday, praising the company for making the contentious move.

In an appearance on CBS News, the Democratic presidential candidate agreed with critics of the sneaker that the inclusion of an early design of the American flag on the shoe was racially problematic. He likened the Betsy Ross flag to the Confederate flag as a symbol of prejudice.

"Look, there are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful," Castro told a CBS host. "The Confederate flag that still flies in some places and is used as a symbol. And I believe that we need to move toward an inclusive America that understands that pain, that doesn't wipe it away from history in the sense that it still belongs in a museum, or we need to read about it and understand the significance. Because that's how you learn and make sure that we don't make the same mistakes in the future, but does not glorify it, does not celebrate it."

The "Betsy Ross" flag was designed during the Revolutionary War and flew through the late eighteenth-century. The flag is similar to the modern American flag except for that it features thirteen stars arranged in a circle to represent the original colonies.

Nike nixed a shoe that featured the Betsy Ross flag after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick warned the company that the flag was offensive. Criticism of the flag draws from the fact that it flew while slavery was in place in the United States. Opponents of the flag also allege that the symbol has been co-opted by white supremacist groups.

Nike's decision attracted massive controversy after the governor of Arizona revoked tax incentives offered to the company in retaliation for pulling the sneakers.

The flag has not traditionally been interpreted as a symbol representing slavery. Betsy Ross flags flew on the Capitol Building at Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017, as well as Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013.

Castro suggested to the CBS host that the country should highlight symbols and stories of minority groups in America rather than the Betsy Ross flag.

"We need to get not only to blocking things that don’t — I think, advance us, but also to celebrating those things that do, and that will round out the whole nation's understanding of why we became the successful nation that we became, that everybody has had a role in that," Castro said.