[This is a From the Editor opinion article by Larry Felton Johnson, the Editor and Publisher of the Cobb County Courier]
Eagle icons are not uncommon. The eagle is on the historic coat-of-arms of many European nations, and the eagle is also the U.S. national symbol. The depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) used a stylized eagle as its logo.
So what is the origin of the Nazi eagle, and why did the logo designed for East Side Elementary in Cobb County cause such an uproar?
We should first take a look at where the Nazi eagle came from, and how it’s been used by modern-day hate groups.
The origin of the Nazi eagle
On the website of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) the Nazi eagle, also known as the Nazi war eagle, is described as follows:
The Nazi Eagle is a symbol developed originally by the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920s (also becoming a symbol of the German government after the Nazis took power), based loosely on traditional German coats of arms. Following World War II, the symbol was appropriated by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists worldwide, with many variations. The symbol originally featured an eagle clutching a swastika, but many variations replace the swastika with some other hate symbol, such as SS bolts or a Celtic Cross. Occasionally, extremists will leave the circle blank where the swastika normally would appear; this seems to be more common in countries where the swastika is prohibited.
The ADL page also writes, “It should be noted that eagles are a common symbol among nations worldwide, including the United States, and not every image of an eagle is derivative of the Nazi eagle.”
So what makes the East Side logo look like the Nazi eagle?
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the East Side logo with a photo of the Nazi eagle from a Nazi-era police cap badge.
The things that make the visual impact of these similar are the sharp angles, the horizontal line forming the top of the wings, the 90 degree profile of the head, and the emblems at the bottom of the eagle (on the East Side logo the “ES,” and on the Nazi eagle the swastika.
Where should the Cobb County School District go from here?
When I began writing this article I intended it as a straight informational article, but decided I couldn’t do this topic justice without giving commentary on it.
The Cobb County School District refuses to comment for Courier articles, so we haven’t been able to get word from them on their intent regarding the logo as of this writing, but other sources have stated the district is “pausing” the rollout of a logo, presumably to execute an do-over.
That is good, as far as it goes. Create a new logo appropriate for an elementary school that doesn’t bring Nazi iconography to mind, and move ahead.
But the district keeps making decisions that run contrary to best practices for ensuring inclusion and celebrating diversity. Repeatedly.
Examples are removing the ADL’s No Place for Hate from the curriculum, and the absurd and racist banning of CRT and the 1619 Project from classroom discussion (which has a chilling effect on teaching the accurate history of slavery, Jim Crow, and race relations in the U.S.).
If there were an orientation in the Cobb school district to root out antisemitism, someone on the approval chain for the logo might have asked if it could be a problem.
So by all means, design a new logo. But until there is also a redesign of the district’s policies on racism and antisemitism, incidents like this will keep relentlessly cropping up.