For nearly a year now, a community in Duval County of Jacksonville, Fla., has been in the midst of a controversy that is all over one thing as far as I can tell: White people love their slavery symbols.
Thursday marked the final debate in a series of debates over the renaming of Robert E. Lee High School—which of course is named for the Confederate general whose legacy is that he fought valiantly in a war...to keep Black people in chains. A debate like this in a state like Florida is only likely to go one way: Whiny and terrible white adults will quickly show their racism and ignorance and students who actually attend the school will feel ignored and devalued.
Now, because I’m always concerned about the overheating of Black people’s rage-o-meter when writing up reports on aggravated white nonsense, I’m going to start with the least fucked up anti-name change comments before moving on to the more caucacious of flagrant displays of caucasity. Spoiler alert: One of these mother fuckers actually defends the school name by defending slavery.
From News 4 JAX:
“Why should the name be changed, because it’s offensive? If this is a real issue, will it stop here? No,” Don Likens said during the meeting. “This will continue until everything that is offensive to this cancel culture movement is just that. Canceled.”
“We’re here because this situation has been created to promote unrest,” said Cathy Silcox.
CNN shared video footage from the community meeting so that we could hear more from the lily-white...I mean, lovely color-redacted members of the county.
“Communism destroys a nation by removing all icons,” said one angry white boomer who, like many angry white boomers in America, has no clue what the fuck communism is—a thing this guy makes crystal-clear when he goes on to say— “Such as Aunt Jemima’s face from pancake mix.”
This fool thinks “communism” is why Aunt Jemima was removed; not the fact that the symbol is demonstrably racist—demonstrated by the fact that white people keep using the name as a racial slur against Black women.
Anyway, I’ve already done a whole thing about the largely fictitious thing people call “cancel culture” and the hypocrisy of conservatives railing against it.
Besides, the wilfully obtuse wypipo comments get so much worse than this.
“I was taught that the chiefs of the tribes in Africa sold their people into slavery,” one woman of the Klan-ish Karen variety can be heard saying. “If it had not been that way, there would not been slaves anywhere in America for Robert E. Lee or anybody else to have owned.”
Already this is a display of ahistorical honky-fied hogwash, but this woman takes things even further by telling Black students: “Don’t blame Robert E. Lee; maybe you should be after your ancestors.”
I rue the day that white conservatives discovered the fact that Africans sold their own into slavery—because they only care about the part of that history that they think excuses America. While it’s true that West Africans sold slaves to Europeans, it’s not like they showed up on America’s doorstep like the fucking Avon lady and presented Americans with an array of living products. People of the western world bought their slaves while colonizing Africa.
The system of slavery that existed in Africa wasn’t race-based and it wasn’t intergenerational. Slavers in Africa could never have conceived of a system of slavery as high-demand and as cruel as the transatlantic slave trade—where the enslaved were tortured, sold away from their families, and removed from their heritages, and one where the children of the enslaved were born into bondage for generations.
Besides, what the hell does it matter how white people got their slaves when they are still the ones who upheld slavery for hundreds of years and then confined Black people to second-class citizenship for a hundred years (at least) after that?
Somehow, the testimonies of the clueless and hueless got even worse—which brings us to this last guy.
“It says in the bible, Jesus himself never condemned slavery,” one man who clearly has no qualms with his own bigotry said. “In fact, he said slaves have an obligation to obey their master.”
As bad and bigoted as things got during this meeting, I must admit even I didn’t expect “Robert E. Lee defended slavery and so did God” to be a hill anyone was willing to die on.
Who cares what these ignorant wastes of space who don’t even go to the school think anyway? What about the students?
More from News 4:
“Every day I see my African American friends, peers, teachers and administrators walk the halls of a school that is named after someone who oppressed their people and led a war to continue to enslave them,” said a student who supports a name change.
“We need a change, and the people here in this room today are for that change,” said another student. “We have come here five times and we will do it as long as it takes for us to get change.”
18-year-old Senior Class President Deyona Burton said many students simply feel ignored and unheard.
“We weren’t being heard at the community meetings because a lot of students can’t make it,” she said. “We are posting it on social media but they are not really looking on social media. Now, we’re literally not being heard in the school. Now, it goes hand in hand, so yes, tension. Yes, confusion, hesitancy, because we have been threatened with not being able to walk the stage.”
When asked if she was still proud of her school—which recently removed a teacher from the classroom over a Black Lives Matter banner—Burton basically said, “Nah.”
“So I have always told people that I always thought Lee was the students’, but lately, I cannot tell what the school stands for,” she said. “I don’t know if we the current students are the school, if the alumni are the school, if the admin are the school because each of them have a different agenda. So I can’t say I’m proud of the school without knowing what it stands for and that symbolism and definition has been lost or I can’t see it anymore, and definitely not in this climate, but I will always be proud of my peers and my students.”
According to News 4, the “School Advisory Committee will meet on April 5 to finalize up to five name recommendations to include on a ballot.”