Greg and Kjersten Offenbecker, owners of a bed and breakfast near Lansing, Michigan, were forced to take down the Norwegian flag flying outside the establishment after passersby mistook it for the Confederate flag on numerous occasions.
The Lansing State Journal reported that The Nordic Pineapple in St. Johns, Michigan, is run out of the couple’s home, a Civil War-era house built on a 9,000 square feet estate in 1861 by a Union brevet general. Kjersten’s grandfather was born in Norway, and the business was named in honor of her Norwegian heritage.
The flag has never been a problem since they first moved to the house in 2018, but the race issues in the recent weeks has seen the couple’s emails flooded with “at least a dozen hateful emails,” and tons of disapproving comments.
Speaking to a local paper, Kjersten said that she first heard that members of the community were whispering about the flag when she visited a shop downtown.
“I was so happy at first,” she said, recounting the moment when the shop owner told her that he had heard people talking about her bed and breakfast.
When she found out that they were claiming she was flying a rebel flag, she recounted: “We were panicked initially because we were like, ‘Oh my Gosh. This town thinks that we’re hanging the Confederate flag.'”
The Norwegian flag, which was adopted by the Scandinavian country in 1821, has a similar design and color scheme as the Confederate flag, but their differences are distinct. Like several of its neighboring countries, Norway’s flag has a blue Nordic cross, which is outlined in white, and laid over red. Meanwhile, the Confederate flag has a St. Andrew’s cross adorned with stars, a design with roots in Scotland.
Kjersten stated that she can’t see the resemblance between the two because she grew up with the Norwegian flag.
“To me they are two distinct flags,” she said.
Her husband expressed his opinions bluntly, revealing his frustration with people’s ignorance.
“It bugs me as far as the stupidity of people,” he said. “Even if the flag is blowing in the wind or laying limp, there are no stars on it. They look nothing alike.”
After community members accused them of promoting racism, they made the decision to remove both the Norwegian and the American flag flying at the bed and breakfast.
They wrote in a Facebook post: “We love being members of the St. Johns community and are heartbroken to have had to make this decision. Given the current cultural climate and the idea that people are judging us based on the misconception of the national Norwegian flag vs. the Confederate flag, this is what is best for our family and our Inn.”
Sources: America Now