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A statue of the defeated Civil War traitor Robert E. Lee over a prominent intersection . . .

is a blatant and intentional symbol of racism and white supremacy--and it needs to go



Making the Crackers Crumble

It's time to put all racists and reactionary icons back in their place

By J.B. Borders


Let's face it, crackers--that peculiarly seedy subset of American Caucasians--have gotten out of hand lately. I don't simply mean Trent Lott, the embattled U.S. senator from Mississippi, exercising his constitutional right to speak his gone-with-the-wind mind in public. No, the problem is much larger than one befuddled opportunist.

Country music, stock car racing, rassling, Confederate flags, tattoos, racism and lynchings have always gone hand in hand. It is no coincidence that all--except the barbecuing of black folk--are extremely visible and profitable at present in white communities across this land.

For our own well-being, then, it's time we put all these crackerisms in check. They are, as Lott said apologetically about racial segregation, "a stain on the nation's soul."

Trent Lott, you may recall, achieved popularity initially as a cheerleader at Ole Miss in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He carried the Confederate flag onto the football field. That flag waving helped him get into law school at Ole Miss (he didn't know that in those days all he had to do was be white and show up on the doorstep) and later into a career in politics.

On December 16, 2002, a day that shall live in infamy in the annals of KKKlandom, Lott went on BET to reiterate to African Americans everywhere that segregation is illegal and immoral and that he has been such a good friend to the dark people of Mississippi that it would be immodest to point out that the space research center at Jackson State University is named in his honor. Reports are that when he first attracted notoriety for his verbal indiscretions, Lott even called Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to publicly vouch for him. Both, however, declined.

The timing of this latest racist brouhaha couldn't have been worse. Lott's son, Chester, had just signed on with The Livingston Group, a powerful Washington, DC, lobbying firm. The operation is headed by Bob "Family Values" Livingston, the former right-wing Congressman from suburban New Orleans who had been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 106th Congress before leaving public office in 1999 in the wake of an extramarital sex scandal. Livingston has apparently decided it is more profitable to be the seducer rather than the seduced, so he has become an influential and well-paid political lobbyist.

For the senior Lott, who had just been elected Senate majority leader, the new connection with his former Congressional colleague from the Solid South meant he and his family were finally in position to really start raking in the big dough. The set-up was too sweet. Then Pops opened his big Mississippi mouth and gave his adversaries all the ammunition they would need to thwart his ambitions.

Heart of Dixie
Before I go any further, let's be candid about a couple of things: since the Reagan era, we have generally interpreted "Republican" as code for white supremacist, "conservative" as a byword for de facto segregationist, "neo-con" as synonymous with suited confederate. And long before Reagan, "right wing" always meant racist.

Moreover, there is a corollary between how the Bush administration feels about Iraq and how we should feel about American racism. Baby Bush feels that if the U.S. had clobbered Iraq the last time it went to war with that nation, there would be no need to fight it again.

In our case, of course, if we had wiped out the racists when we had them on the run in the '60s-the 1860s-we wouldn't have to constantly beat back the Trent Lotts, Strom Thurmonds and Jesse Helmses of the world. We wouldn't have to still be dealing with Confederate flag controversies in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi.

In New Orleans, we wouldn't still be tolerating the indignity of having a statue of the defeated Civil War traitor Robert E. Lee towering over a prominent intersection (with its back--some say its behind--turned to the north in true unreconstructed redneck fashion). It is a blatant and intentional symbol of racism and white supremacy--and it needs to go. By the same token, we should have found a new name for Jefferson Davis Boulevard and a new home for the Confederate Museum many years ago.

"And," to appropriate the words of the infamous Trent Lott again, "if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."

Solid South
Since all our lemming-like political leadership is spouting off about regionalism these days and the need for us to maximize our assets, why not sell the lot (no pun intended) of our confederate monuments to the state or to our neighboring communities. Both Kenner and Slidell are named for Confederate heroes. Let them buy these unwanted assets from New Orleans and use them to brand their communities. We need the money; they need an identity. Let's make a deal.

Deep down, I believe the world should be large enough for white supremacists and normal self-determining black folk. But when the interests of overreaching rednecks clashes with those of striving people of African descent, then I am siding with the black folk 100 percent of the time. In practical terms, that means lots of white racists have to be corralled in, their greed checked, their destructive behaviors circumscribed. Trent Lott, obviously, is one such miscreant. It's time to send him back to his trailer park for good.

Lott, of course, doesn't agree with that analysis. Neither, apparently, does an Insipid Northern Negro (INN) columnist for the New York Times. He says it's not necessary to remove Senator Lott from his post as Senate majority leader. He says we just have to keep our eye on him. That's mighty white of him, that INN. Of course, he's not alone in his views. The organized corps of ultra-conservatives supports that position, too. So do a few Southern Insipid Negroes (SINs). But you must have already guessed that not all INNs need be northern.

At any rate, this let's-go-easy-on-racists attitude has put all kinds of fools in public office and permitted lots more idiots in the private sector to start acting out. Now they want to go gallivanting across the globe, toppling governments, hording natural resources, controlling access to markets, ordering troops into battle, bogarting their way into being 21st century neo-colonial masters of the universe.

Flaunting White Supremacy
This is how bad the situation has become: Last month, 18 of the world's largest and best-known European and white-American museums issued a joint declaration that they would not return artifacts in their possession that were looted from such countries as Egypt, Nigeria and Greece. They just flat out said they really didn't care how the museums acquired these treasures in days of yore, the fact was they were in possession of them now and they were never sending these antiquities back to their countries of origin, damn what the rest of the world thinks. Now, when some little cotton-tailed museum directors can be that flippant without getting their faces slapped in retaliation, then you know crackers in general are full of themselves. Imagine how high-handed the oil men and the bankers must be in their dealings abroad.

This is delusion of the highest order. White folks are less than 20 percent of the world's population. And they haven't proved to be exceptional at anything except killing whatever they have tried to control. But if we don't put our foot down and tell them "No, you cannot disrespect us or violate our rights any more," then we are simply empowering them to actualize their fantasies.

Who do we think we're fooling? The Robert E. Lee statue, for example, is a blatant piece of racist propaganda, every bit as odious as the old Liberty Monument. And the only reason more black people are not in arms about it is because most of them don't yet know what an insult that statue was intended to be to us. When more people are informed, there will be more public outcry. But it shouldn't have to come to that. The city council should do the right thing and get rid of this racist monument without us having to act ugly first.

So, it's time to stop the foolishness. It's time to fire the lot of racists and to get rid of these insulting Confederate monuments scattered across our city. It is time to put the Old South to rest for good. It's time to launch a new frontal assault on racist terror in the U.S. It's time for our political leaders to stop whistling Dixie and stand up for us. It's time to round up the neo-Klansmen and send them to Undoing Racism workshops where they can learn there is life after white-skin privilege.

Later on, they will thank us for it--and the world will be a much safer place.

Borderline 12.02

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J.B. Borders is a social commentator and cultural critic. He is also president of J.B. Borders & Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, fund development, and program implementation and evaluation for nonprofit organizations. Borders was the founding editor of the New Orleans Tribune and an erstwhile editor of The Black Collegian Magazine. He has also served as managing director of the National Black Arts Festival and executive director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Borders earned a bachelor's and a master's degree at Brown University, where he co-founded Rites & Reason Theatre in 1969.

James B. Borders IV / J.B. Borders & Associates / 3655 Piedmont Drive / New Orleans, LA 70122-4775 / 504 945-7015, voice & fax
504 442-1645, mobile /

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Ancient African Nations

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