A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Cole County Fair, Jefferson City, Missouri: Confederate Clothing is not a Heritage Statement

We went to the County Fair on Saturday night to see the demolition derby. One of our neighbors has been blasting the block with noise and smoke for a few weeks now getting ready and we felt we had to go to support him. So we parked our car, walked a quarter of a mile to the front gate, and another block to the arena. We were on time. There were a lot of good seats left. Forty-five minutes after the scheduled time, it started. Then the stadium filled. (Guess the regulars knew it never starts on time.)

But this is not what I want to write about. Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the Confederate flag. Men wore them as scarves on their heads, patches on their pants, as shirts, t-shirts, all over their body. We even saw one tattooed with the flag--and it was only because he wore a skimpy t-shirt exposing it. Women wore them as scarves, shirts, skirts (though this was uncommon) and as jewelry.

One man's shirt said: "If this flag makes you uncomfortable, then you made my day."

I guess I made his day, but not for the reasons he thinks. I was uncomfortable because Missouri fought for the North. Grant was the general in charge. When the South tried to regain the state, it got its butt whipped. So I was uncomfortable because it was obvious this man didn't know his history. Furthermore, he had no understanding of how the large landholders disenfranchised the poor whites by making them feel better than the black slaves. (At least the slaves had food to eat.) Both groups were victims then and both have been struggling since for economic freedom. (Keep in mind more non colored people receive government assistance than people of color.)

I was uncomfortable because of all of the beer around me--cups and cups stacked high as if they were a sign of greatness. I admire great thinkers, great writers, great doers. Drinking beer until your beet red faced and sweating is not my idea of greatness. And here's one observation that scared me: Every individual with any Confederate symbols on their person also held a cup of beer. There was not a single exception. Unfortunately, from the extreme redness of their faces, they were also getting incredibly drunk. So, yes, I was uncomfortable because my family and I had to smell this incredible alcholic stench no matter where we went.

And, yes, I was uncomfortable for the reason he wanted me to be uncomfortable. A quick look around the fairgrounds showed only a handful of people of color. But it also showed only a handful of people who looked like they were in Disney World. In other words, he was wearing this shirt with this slogan because he was comfortable with his surroundings. He wore it for what it was: a symbol of racism. A symbol that he was proud to be a racist. And everyone around him and with him were a support group. Now I'm told he may have worn it to show off his heritage. OK. Like a NAZI wearing NAZI symbols because his daddy fought in the Great War and it was a part of his heritage. Or a member of the KKK wearing a hood in public because his grandaddy wore one when the landownwers empowered him to attack people of color (but did not offer him food for his family or a job; but, yes, you can be a sharecropper) because that's his heritage.

OK, I've said it.

Now I don't know this man. He may not be a racist. But then again, if you're with someone who is a racist and they start bad mouthing a race and you remain silent--well, I'm sorry--in my eyes your silence condemms you as a racist, too.

Forty thousand people live in Jefferson City and about four thousand are of color. A visit to any of the state buildings reveals a great absence of people of color. Oh, they're there: as janitors, landscapers, etc. But they have no real presence. If you stand on High and Broadway at the closing of business, you will see a steady stream of non colored people. Oh, my mistake, there may be one or two people of color. We saw none.

At the County Fair, all of the people--and there were lots and lots of them--wearing Confederate clothing and/or other Confederate decorations appeared to me to be totally comfortable. Totally at home. We went to the County Fair to see our friend in the demolition derby and came home with a new understanding of some of the undercurrents and values of a town that should know better.

By the way our friend came in second.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unit four of all of our
deals with treating others the way we would want to be treated but we
do not
specifically mention racism. You and the Mrs are still my urban heroes.

Rose Fisher
Customer Service Representative
1-800-345-2974 XT 106

12:22 PM  

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