It’s Complicated

America Protests New Orleans Statue
Demonstrators in New Orleans pulled down the bust of John McDonogh, a slave owner who left his wealth to build schools, and took the remains to the Mississippi River and rolled it into the water. (Photo Credit: Rebecca Santana) 

 

Hello, New Orleans. Welcome to the Juneteenth week of America’s existential dread.

How upside down is the world? NASCAR is leading the way with racial consolation and community. And yes, I understand that I am grabbing low-hanging fruit here.

Then again, keep in mind, that NASCAR is a sport solely driven by turning left. Literally. So there’s that.

But it simply cannot be overstated how important and symbolic it is that America’s most identifiable Southern sport – after cornhole and SEC football, of course – has taken such a reckoning stand as to ban the Confederate flag at its events.

IT’S A REALLY BIG DAMN DEAL.

And I’m not gonna dig into the white privilege thesaurus here for my fellow Caucasians. If you don’t get it by now, you never will.

In Germany, it is against the law to display a swastika. Literally, illegal. In America, it isn’t. Yay 1st Amendment. Go figure. Truthfully, I haven’t looked it up, but maybe it’s OK to fly the Confederate flag in Germany.

It’s iconic, after all. Colorful. Truthfully, a pretty cool design. Other than that it represents centuries of oppression, subjugation, intimidation and – at this point – just hate.

And don’t throw your “Southern Heritage” argument at me. Unless your last name is Lee, Beauregard or McDonogh (or Skynyrd), the actual fact is: You have no skin in the game. No white skin. No black skin. You’re simply posing, strutting and pretending.

Unless they bear your name – by actual Ancestry.com verification – those guys are of absolutely no “heritage” connection to you, no more than I am “heritage” related to Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. None.

Week by week, in this blogspot, I try to post the pithy, witty, erudite commentaries for which I am renown. Almost famous. But the proverbial excrement has hit the proverbial spinning blades and it’s getting really hard to try and be funny right now.

When a guy in Atlanta gets shot in the back twice for the crime of DWBAWDT, then we are a civilization* on the brink of demise. (That’s Driving While Black at Wendy’s Drive-Through. And *civilization is pretty much a metaphor at this point.)

Although we’ve had our Crescent City Connection pepper ball incident and the implosion of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx (see: myneworleans.com/a-bad-year-for-the-mystic-krewe-of-nyx), New Orleans has seemed to hold it together. As well as could be expected. Or hoped for.

Sure, they had to fish the bronze remains of John McDonogh out of the Mississippi River last week. He got torn down and dunked by protesters who took offense to his presence in Duncan Plaza, the public square in front of City Hall and a central gathering place for folks who are trying to quell the unquellable: Our city and country’s deep and systemic and so often oblivious history of racial injustice and prejudice.

Yes, every word in that sentence above sounds plaintive, cliched and sloganistic. Sharpie scrawls on cardboard boxes. And therein lies one of the biggest problems: You’ve heard the term “systemic racism” so many times on cable TV news these past few weeks that it may have lost its power and meaning.

Don’t let it, my Dear New Orleans. Please, don’t.

McDonogh did a great thing. He financed the New Orleans public school system. Bravo. He was also well known to be a cruel and unrepentant slave owner. He taught a couple of his slaves how to read. But he also wanted to send them back to Africa.

McDonogh joins the legion of Confederate “heroes” and national heroes who are now conjoined – lots of them portrayed on our money and for whom our cities and squares are named.

Yes, these are tender, precarious times for a reckoning. But a reckoning is coming. Like my Facebook relationship status says: It’s complicated. To say the least.

Because banning the Confederate flag and knocking John McDonogh on his ass won’t solve our problems. But maybe it’s a start. I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. And I just didn’t have it in me to write a post about New Orleans restaurants opening again or the Pelicans coming back to play this summer.

Although that’s a big deal. I love that team. Do you remember Zion?

 

 

 

 

 

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