Art Ethics: The South Carolina Toilet Brush Flag

SC flag design

You would think it’s such an easy principle to understand and execute. In art, as with all products and services, it is the quality of the work that matters, not the artist, creator or provider. But in the era of The Great Stupid, where woke sensibilities routinely turn logic and wisdom on their heads and inside out, something as intrinsically sensible as this suddenly becomes hard to grasp.

Take, for example, the new South Carolina flag design, as fine an example of “bias makes you stupid” as one could imagine. You see, the South Carolina flag has long consisted of a crescent moon and a palmetto tree, but designs varied. Why a palmetto tree? Also known as the Sabal palmetto, cabbage-palm, cabbage palmetto, blue palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, swamp cabbage and sabal palm…


…the tree is native to the southern United States, as well as Cuba and the Bahamas. In the Revolutionary War, South Carolina palmettos played a key role in the defeat of the British fleet at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. The fort was constructed out of palmetto logs, which efficiently absorbed the impact of cannon balls, according to the State Legislature’s website. Col. William Moultrie’s 2nd South Carolina Regiment wore uniforms of deep indigo, so Moultrie used the color as the background for the moon and the tree when he designed the first South Carolina flag. Since 1940, however, South Carolina has had no required design for its state flag, leading to an infinite number of variations on flags, logos, posters, mugs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. See?


So South Carolina concluded that it was time to standardize the flag design, a reasonable decision. A commission was appointed, they engaged in extensive research, looked at hundreds of designs, and finally came up with the ugly thing you see under the title above.

Just about everyone hates the proposed design. The tree has been widely compared to a toilet brush. Others think it is reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s sick-looking Christmas tree. So it’s back to the drawing board.

The commission chose that version of a palmetto tree because it was based on a pencil sketch by Ellen Heyward Jervey (1879-1967) who was an amateur artist and a librarian when she made the crude drawing in 1910. She was a woman, you see, so her sketch was accorded such value by virtue of her chromosomes that it elevated the quality of her drawing in the warped judgment of the commission members. She was also a librarian; maybe this was another group that the bureaucrats choosing the design wanted to suck up to. I can’t find a biography or a photograph of Jervey, but I’m laying 2-1 odds that she was also African-American.

But Jervey’s occupation, race and gender still don’t make the palmetto tree she drew look any less like a toilet brush. This should have been obvious to all, but, incredibly, it wasn’t.

Because bias makes you stupid..

16 thoughts on “Art Ethics: The South Carolina Toilet Brush Flag

  1. Ugh. I just noticed that Ann Althouse beat me to a post on this topic by a couple of hours. She wrote, “The new flag designers seem to have gotten caught up in the idea of honoring the woman…”

  2. There really wasn’t any woman in South Carolina that could do better than this? Sorry, I forgot. Having a competition stating that only women could enter might be illegal. Having a competition and picking the best one is meritocracy and that is racist. So, the only thing to do is get a bunch of unelected elites together and let them pick based on their judgement. Yes, ‘trust the experts’.

  3. “I’m laying 2-1 odds that she was also African-American.”

    You could be right. However, I’m not finding any mention of her race in any article pertaining to the controversy. I would imagine that, if South Carolina’s flag commission were truly trying to pander, Mrs. Jervey’s skin color would be front and center of any reference to her. Also, I find no articles about African-American activists protesting the re-thinking of Jervey’s work as being the result of racism.

    Doesn’t mean she wasn’t black, but I’m thinking she was probably a measly white woman so her drawing can get kicked to the curb.

        • I could only take about 5 minutes of news coverage on it – less than 2 minutes from randomly picking a news station and watching, the conversation centers around “right-wing extremist groups” being “encouraged by the president” to “revolt against the duly-elected government” “being indoctrinated by the president to reject any election results as being rigged” … and we’re done here. There is no path to any kind of objective complaint. I can’t even summon the mental space to decide if the people storming the capitol are in the wrong or not. Ive been told they are. Agree, or be an enemy of the state.

  4. I kind of like it. And having grown up in south Florida when palmettos were rampant, I know a palmetto and a sabal palm when I see one. But also, as a wannabe graphic designer, I think it’s neat. Kind of minimalist and stark. But maybe it’s simply a little too interpretive and artistic for a state flag. Sheesh, at least there are no stars and bars.

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