Are you familiar with this version of the American flag? It’s known as the Thin Blue Line flag. The lone blue horizontal line is meant to represent law enforcement officers who stand between innocent people and criminals or, between order and chaos. Some people use it to pay tribute to those officers who have died in the line of duty. The phrase originates from The Thin Red Line – an expression that emerged from a battle the British forces, in their scarlet tunics, fought against the Russians during the Crimean War in 1854. Based on this military reference, Americans, who wore blue uniforms for many years, adopted the phrase – changing it to The Thin Blue Line.
In 1988 American Errol Morris’ documentary film Thin Blue Line was released. It recounts the murder of a Dallas police officer and the subsequent conviction of an innocent man. The film went on to win numerous awards. As a result, the phrase Thin Blue Line gained renewed popularity and became firmly associated with law enforcement.
The Thin Blue Line flag is not without its fair share of controversy. Some believe the flag desecrates the beloved Stars and Stripes and devalues all that it stands for. While others feel that the colour black, found on either side of the blue line, portrays innocent people and criminals as equals. Adding to the confusion, the Thin Blue Line flag was seen being waved by white nationalists during the 2017 Charlottesville protests. It all goes to prove that colour can play an important role in defining our cultural symbols – especially those with deeply held allegiances.