I live in a red state in a red county. Republicans are and have been the majority in Greene County Ohio for eons, even back when Republicans were decent people. Some of them still are decent people, just too tolerant of indecency when it does not impact them or theirs personally. I lived for a decade in North Carolina which was mostly red, but quite blue where I lived, in the Triangle.
In both these areas I have been struck by the short memories of some white folks. While at UNC I made sure to put on my regalia and march in with the faculty each year on University Day even though my main job was administrative. There were very few black faculty and I wanted to represent. I had to pay for my gesture, however, because I had to watch white folks walk up to the microphone and brag about how their great granddaddy Beauregard Calcuddy graduated from UNC back in the day when they did not have to share space with females and coloreds. They did not, of course, know they were saying that, but it is what I heard, and I complained about it to the powers that be each year. To address a multi-racial, multi-gendered group and brag about how your ancestor took advantage of their ancestors because of their color and genitals was insensitive to the highest degree. I will wager money it still happens every University Day.
After my 45 high school reunion I was invited to join a chat group of classmates. I told them it was a bad idea. I do not believe any of the other participants were black, at least none of the people who posted were black. Oh, they said, no problem, please join. That lasted about three months. The first problem was their need to make their history every one’s history. No, I did not go to The Candy Kitchen because they did not want black people in there. No I did not swim in Pinecrest Swim Club because they did not let black people join. When I would point these things out to them after they posted one of their euphoric “wasn’t growing up in Xenia grand?” , posts they would act like I had thrown up all over the tuna aspic at a dinner party. The number one reaction was some version of “why do you have to ruin it for every one?” So, their position was, if we bring up nasty memories for you then that is okay but if you point out the unpleasant parts of my memories that is rude. I am telling you that your history is not mine and therefore if you want to discuss history you have to discuss ALL of it, not just your part. I told you not to invite me.
We have a great historical society here in Greene County run by a former student of mine. She is brilliant, hard working and totally a social justice champion. The Society is hosting a tour of homes for Christmas. Not, I believe the first time they have done so. I took my grand daughter Ella to tour the main home that is on the tour last year so she could see how some folks lived a century or so ago. She enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. This year, however, they have expanded the tour to four other homes on King Street where the rich people originally lived. I posted on Facebook that I would send the $10 to the Historical Society that I would have paid for a ticket because I want to support their important work. I will not, however, tour the grand houses of people who made their money, at least in part, at the expense of people of color ( and other poor whites of course). So they got to have marble fire places and crystal chandeliers while denying decent paying jobs and mortgages to other people. I am not going to go admire what they did with the money they stole from the less fortunate.
I am sure there are people who would be horrified that I am ruining their enjoyment of the beautiful homes. But, most of those people are not horrified at what was done to get the now dead robber barons those homes. And , they are not horrified that Xenia still does not hire black people in representative numbers to work for the city and when they do they hire them at low level positions. I am not sure we have ever had a black fire fighter and black policemen have been few and far between. We have a black mayor, but that job is ceremonial, not decision making. I am sure they are not horrified that the new banners put up for Christmas in Xenia that were chosen have Currier and Ives type prints of Christmases past with, you guessed it, all white folks. They are not horrified that a black child or Asian American child, or Latino child or for that matter a handicapped child, will not see themselves represented on lamp posts on banners paid for in part by their parents and grandparents.
So, to all of my white friends who a are horrified that I keep messing with your memories I have this to say, a favorite saying of one of my salty uncles: “ It is a tough titty but someone has to suck it. “ I am going to continue to rain on your parade when you bring up things that make me wonder why you thought they were appropriate to offer to the PUBLIC. The public is not monolithic, although I am sure some of you wish it could be. I blame the disgraceful election of the totally incompetent and embarrassing Trump partially on the desire of so many white people to return to a time when the voices of the different were not heard so often or so eloquently. When you could forget about racism because since you weren’t of color it had nothing to do with you. When you had never heard the term ” white privilege” and did not have to consider that perhaps some of the reason you were doing better was that the deck was stacked in your favor. When you could make sexist, gay, black, Asian, Mexican jokes and people did not call you out for begin a bigot or a sexist. When you just wanted every one to forget about race ( except that you never actually did) and just be Americans, ignoring the fact that they were not being treated like the rest of the “Americans.” When there was no doubt that all those black men being shot or put in jail fully deserved it because we all knew that they had to be guilty of something, they were black after all. When women did not work and it was okay to hit them on the butt or tell them their boobs looked good without having to go talk to the folks in HR. When you could send messages to your colleagues telling them how much you hated certain people and not get in trouble once they went public. You know back in the good old Great American days!
This “ make America great again” was an attempt to turn the clock back to a time when white ,straight,male and Christian were the norm and anyone who was not could be treated with disdain and oppressed and society accepted the behavior. Sorry buttercups, but we are not going back there. You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube no matter how many racists you elect.
So, if you decide to honor someone or something and I am in the audience be prepared to hear another view. I am not asking you to like it, I am asking you to think about it. It’s my job.