Recent incidents on the campus of St. Cloud State University involving students and John Fillah, known as St. Cloud Superman, have sparked controversy within the campus community. Students, as well as top university officials, have spoken out against the actions taken by Fillah by protesting and taking legal steps in order to avoid situations like this in the future.
Fillah was seen waiving a Confederate Flag, which he later claimed to be the flag of the Southern Cross, on city streets lying within the parameter of the St. Cloud State campus. A video of the incident was uploaded to YouTube and has been circulating on the web. The video shows Fillah waiving the flag in front of the Garvey Commons, near the heart of campus. An African American student then confronted Fillah, followed by public safety to de-escalate the situation.
In response to an outcry against him, Fillah sat down with the University Chronicle to talk about some of the things that have been said about him within the campus community, as well as the St. Cloud Community as a whole.
John Fillah, in your opinion is there a difference between ‘Hate Speech’ and ‘Free Speech?’
“Yeah, I think so. Free speech is speech within the law; it involves no actual, physical threats, no verbal threats. I don’t care about perceived threats, that’s imaginary.”
St. Cloud State President Earl Potter made a statement regarding your recent actions next to campus and stated, “It was an assault on our culture, on our community.” Can you respond to that?
“That’s completely his bias opinion. He’s subjecting his biased opinion and acting like that’s God’s word or because he said it, that makes it real, like it has some kind of weight or significance; it’s not.”
“It doesn’t, his opinion is no different then anyone else’s opinion, it’s not set in stone. There may be hundreds of thousands of people that would completely disagree with him.”
At a recent student government meeting, some students shared their concerns with the actions you’ve displayed. Shamso Iman, a Somali woman from St. Cloud and a current student at St. Cloud State, shared her concerns specifically pertaining to your recent Facebook post, regarding your conceal and carry permit.
Iman said, “That means they are coming after me, if he decides one day that he’s going to go through with his threat, we’re done.” Can you respond to her?
“That’s tough sh*t… People don’t seem to grasp free will, individual rights. They think it negates your rights, like somehow they don’t want you to do it or don’t approve of what you’re doing, you’re supposed to cower down… it’s a total lack of respect of other peoples’ rights.”
After further explanation with Fillah about Iman and experiences she has endured throughout her life in St. Cloud, Fillah had this to say:
“I value and appreciate and respect and love, especially people from other countries and other races and other religions, because the bravery it takes to leave a country that you’re from and come to a completely foreign country, you got to learn their language. I mean, some of these people speak better English, and you got to think ‘I don’t know if I could go to another country and learn their language and speak it that well,’ so I respect them in so many ways.”
“That’s why it really infuriates me to see people like her being attacked because, in the worst sense of injustice and the worst sense of wrong, that is the worst.”
The Confederate Flag means different things to different people. What does the Confederate Flag mean to you?
“I was born in Washington D.C., I’m not from Minnesota. I grew up in Leesburg Virginia, which is northern Virginia, and I have a little bit of heritage, southern heritage with that flag. That flag represents to me, southern heritage, southern pride, rebellion from the government, which was the union at the time.”
“Actually, that flag is actually not that Confederate flag, it’s the Southern Cross, and the Confederacy never adopted that flag.”
Fillah said that the real “racist” flag was the Stainless Banner; a flag that he claimed had the Southern Cross on it in the upper left hand corner. Fillah also stated that he made a mistake when making a Facebook post about receiving his conceal and carry, mentioning that he meant to say “the battle flag of west Virginia,” instead of “Confederate Flag” in the post.
Some people perceive what you do as hateful. Are you trying to convey hatred within the community through the actions that have been taking?
“No, I’m trying to be an example and make a statement, similar to what I’ve done with my superman routine for the last 15 years, which is a positive statement, not one that’s meant to hurt or offend or insult or attack or feel like someone’s being attacked. A peaceful patriotic statement meant to instills some feelings of pride in your country, respect for the constitution and also to demonstrate and the freedoms that we have, the constitutional rights as well as freedoms that we have which are in itself are a positive, wonderful thing. So it’s a lot of pride and its a lot of patriotism, and it’s a lot of respect for the constitution and the people. So, it’s just literally the opposite of what they are perceiving.”
Bianca Williams, a current St. Cloud State student wrote a poem. In the poem she says this indirectly about you. “A white man can waive an oppressive flag to my kind, permitted to his own space with a smile on his face, it is comfort that we cannot find.” Can you respond?
“I would say right of the top of my head that I think the black community needs to start becoming more patriotic-minded instead of race-minded to see that the battle flag of the army of northern Virginia, the Southern Cross is symbolizing patriotism and first amendment, versus race supremacy or race hatred.”
“I think that’s the core of the problem here.”
Do you feel that there are issues for the African American community within our society that have not been addressed?
“I’ll just come right out and say it, I love black people. I think they’re a proud race I think they’re a brave race and I think they’ve endured horrible things and I think that I have upmost respect and sympathy for them.”
Do you believe that you are an attribute to racism?
“No, I’m not contributing to that racism, no. What I do is patriotic in nature and if people can’t respect that, then I don’t know what to tell them. I am respecting the black lives movement, [but] I don’t necessarily agree with it but I respect it.”
“And then you got to look at the other side of this now, you’re looking at small minority of people on campus, do you realize the support I get when I’m out there with my flag on the intersection? It’s like every car that goes by me, almost.”
What do you think of liberalism?
“I think that liberalism is contributing to racism more than helping it. That’s all they do is scream racism all the time, that’s all you hear.”
“I’ll tell you what, when I got confronted by all those African American people, it makes you want to be racist. It’s like racism in reverse, the white people ganging up on a black guy that’s equally wrong.”
“The liberal agenda is everybody’s a victim and if anyone offends you, then they’re wrong and they’re a criminal, and that kind of mentality is making these people feel like victims. It’s making these people feel entitled to be victims and it’s not healthy to be a victim your whole life, and to feel like you’re a victim your whole because of something that happened hundred some years ago.”
Do you believe in white privilege?
“Of course not, your always going to have instances of racism, even blacks against whites. It’s always all white, but there are black people that are racist against white people. But I’m saying that the majority of the population… we’re pass that, they’re equal and will always be equal, if not given special treatment.”
In closing, Fillah had this to say:
“People need to step back and say ‘are we playing the victim too much’ or should we question ourselves, ‘why are we acting this way?’ It’s always ‘why is the other person acting this way?’ It’s always ‘why are they doing this?’ ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ‘Why are they treating me this way?’ ‘Why is someone offending me?’ ‘Why is someone insulting me?’ Well, maybe they should start asking, what is it that they’re doing wrong. And they might see that, they might have to set a little boundary for themselves and say ‘hey, you know we can have our beliefs, we can have our passion, we can have our feeling of injustice.’ And, that’s all good but at what expense? At the expense of disrespecting someone else for exercising their rights?”
“I wouldn’t do that at a Black Lives Movement. I wouldn’t be all up in their face and threatening them, I would have respect for them as an American citizen.”
“I think that the answer that these people are looking for is not going to be lying in whatever I say, whatever I’ve told you tonight, that not going to satisfy those kind of people. It may satisfy some people, and I think reasonable people might but there are going to people that are going to listen to this and it wont make one ounce of difference.”