‘We are no longer going to remain silent when the racists speak
Many know that our home office in Royal almost doubles as a Civil War/ Theodore Roosevelt museum. It is nothing overly extensive but I do have some original items. I had long displayed a replica Confederate Battle Flag in one corner of my office opposite the U.S. and Iowa flags. I never thought that unusual given my perspective that it is history. About a year ago I changed my mind. I realized that the Confederate flag was a symbol of repression and slavery flown by traitors and that was not history worthy being given a place in my world. I removed it. I pondered as to what to replace it with. I chose the Quebec flag. Odd choice? Here is why. I had four great uncles who immigrated to Illinois from Quebec who all fought in the Union Army. They joined Illinois volunteer units, one of which was the Chicago Board of Trade Regiment. They fought with Grant and Sherman. One lost an eye and another an arm. Three of them are buried here in Iowa and the other is buried in Illinois. I visited their local graves on Memorial Day. I returned to Quebec last summer and visited the DeMers House in Quebec City. These men from Quebec became Americans and literally fought and bled for the Union. The Civil War is still going on today.
I see red states versus blues states as stand-ins for the Confederacy versus the Union. I believe that there is a new South and I have very good friends that are Southerners who are not racists but I also believe that the old South has had a resurgence. The local paper reported that there were a number of pick-up trucks flying the Confederate flag that circled attendees at the Spencer park bandshell gunning their engines to draw attention during the recent protest rally. Not all Confederates live in the South. Steve King still got 35% of the vote who were unbothered by his advocacy of White Supremacy. I commend republicans here for purging control of their party from the White Supremacists. Republicans are not racists but the racists try to be republican. That is their cross to bear and deal with. My view was that if my great uncles could fight and bleed for the Union and I were to remain silent and say nothing I should be ashamed. I write this to honor them and the sacrifice that they made. It is our responsibility to see to it what they fought for is not stolen from the country again. Confederate flags are going to be gone from their public perch soon one way or the other. Military bases named after traitors to the Union are also going to be renamed after real American heroes who fought for the freedom of all Americans one way of the other. The history is what it is. DJT (Donald J. Trump) is on the wrong side of it. Everyone’s choice is what side of history that you want to be on. Down with the Confederacyagain.
Our meeting room is the Theodore Roosevelt room. TR was the first president to invite a black man to the White House, Booker T. Washington (a former slave), in 1901 for a private meal as a guest of honor. The South was incensed. There was no new South to back them. Southern Senators railed using the vilest terms that it was no longer the ‘White’ House and that it would have to be exterminated after being soiled by a visit of the lesser race. The political fallout impacted the national convention nominating Roosevelt. One of his most vile critics was Alfalfa Jones, then Governor of Oklahoma. An assassin was even hired to kill Booker T. Washington. Deborah Davis who wrote the book “Guest of Honor” described the meeting, “‘Dining,’ and I put it in quotation marks, was really a code word for social equality. And the feeling was, certainly in the South, that if you invited a man to sit at your table, you were actually inviting him to woo your daughter. He should feel perfectly comfortable asking your daughter to marry him. And so that’s really the primary reason why people were so offended. It just shouldn’t happen in 1901 that a black man would be able to … have that entree into your family.”
Has anything changed in over a century? I and my wife’s college roommate’s husband, a farmer from Beresford SD, were sitting at a picnic table at the Clay County Fair in front of the Drovers Journal booth there. A mixed-race couple had walked by and the person manning the booth behind us felt compelled to tell us in disgust how “he would just never get used to seeing mixed race couples.” I was flummoxed as to how because that we were white, he felt he could confide his racism in us, I guess assuming that we would feel similarity. I would think that he would be very uncomfortable today watching television where commercials have embraced racial diversity.
I had another similar experience when buying calves in Oklahoma City. I was there with a friend and Spencer cattle buyer and we used a local Oklahoma buyer who took us to lunch. The waitress was black and when she walked away from our table the Oklahoma buyer went off on her in the vilest term using the N-word repeatedly. I have no idea what triggered it. He did not know that my friend was married to a black woman. I wanted to slide under the table. Here was another instance of a Southern racist who because we were white felt he could reveal himself to us. I am ashamed by both of these instances because I did nothing, said nothing. I am not doing that today. I should have told these racists where they could go.
What has changed?…we are going to talk openly about this today. We are no longer going to remain silent when the racists speak. That makes us enablers. They can go back in their closet where they belong. I owe at least that much to my uncles considering what they did. The old South met in Tulsa recently.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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