Jim Crow South continues to haunt Black Americans
Thirty-five years ago, I was quite the mischievous second-grader. At the time, dropping eggs from my third-floor classroom on passersby below did not seem like such a bad idea to me, but my teacher, principal and parents thought differently. Sitting in the principal’s office surrounded by adults, I was given that dreaded final warning for about the 15th time that week.
After all the threats, my dad pulled me aside and promised me that if I behaved for the rest of the school year, I could have any toy I wanted. That was more than enough incentive for me, because there was a toy I wanted with every fiber in my body.
When report card day arrived, my behavior grades had improved slightly, so my Dad took me to the toy store. We were there for less than five minutes when I showed him a large toy car — not just any toy car, but the “General Lee,” the Confederate flag-covered racecar from my favorite television show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
I saw a look on my dad’s face that let me know something was wrong.
He would not buy it for me and all of his explanations fell on the deaf ears of a 7-year-old who believed that the “General Lee” was the symbol of the “good guys.” He told me to choose another toy, but as an act of rebellion and to completely accept the role of victim, I refused. I felt as if my dad had betrayed me.
An important fact to know is that my parents were born and raised “colored” in the Jim Crow South. Being colored in the Jim Crow South meant a life of sitting in the back of the bus; learning from hand-me-down books; and facing the ever-present possibility that at any moment your life could come to a violent end for violating any of the written/unwritten laws or traditions of the Old South.
I cannot fathom the daily indignities my ancestors lived and died to change, but there I stood in a store, holding a symbol that represented my ancestors’ oppression.
There is nothing more insidious than tying these images and symbols of death and degradation to wholesome family fare such as “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It panders to Confederate sympathizers’ continued attempts to make it seem as if these images and symbols are simply innocuous representations of a genteel Southern past.
I have no problem with Confederate sympathizers’ desire to paint the Old South as being some sort of Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post-type picture of a kindly gray-haired couple sitting on the front porch, sipping lemonade, and watching their grandchildren playing in the yard, while a gentle breeze sways the Confederate flag on the flagpole — as long as they also show the charred body of the Black person hanging from the tree in the back yard. It is that image, that strange fruit, in the back yard that Caucasian Southerners want the rest of the world either to forget or not associate with the Old South.
Throughout the South, the images and symbols of the Confederacy adorn everything from museums and parks to schools. Yes, the individuals who are responsible for secession, civil war and the assassination of a president — all in the name of maintaining their so called “way of life” aka slave-holding — are honored and revered. Instead of labeling these men honorable but misguided, we should place Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee & Nathan Bedford Forrest in the same category as Adolf Hitler, Josef Mengele & Adolf Eichmann.
The war on terror must begin at home. Therefore, we must remove all vestiges of the terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other — the Confederacy. All images & symbols of the Confederacy should be displayed in museums or on private property. As for Uncle Jesse, Bo, Luke & Daisy, you can put them in a museum too. –samuel adams
(Used with permission of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, copyright (2015). No endorsement by the Sun-Sentinel is made or implied. Originally published in 2005 and titled: Outlaw Toy)