A Lee-Jackson Postscript

I received a note this week from a reader, Frank “Skip” Shaffer, who felt moved to write after reading my account from Lexington’s Lee-Jackson Day commemorations. He shared an interesting story of his own that offered some additional context for our recent culture wars. His note literally made me go, “Wow.” I asked Skip if I could share his experience with ECW’s readers, and he was gracious enough to say yes.

From Skip:

I enjoyed your observations of the Lee-Jackson Day event. I wish I could have been there. You were in tall cotton, as it were, speaking of the home town hero, probably on the dais where Robert K. Krick and James Robertson have addressed that same topic. I attended your first symposium and enjoyed it; some of your writers are good ones.

Please indulge me here; my family fought for the Union, I am a military veteran , and I teach inner city public school in Atlantic City; ergo, I have a bit of cachet to write this.

We are in the process of improving our society and perfecting our union by erasing large parts of our history. The only president ever displayed in our school house  is #44. I have not seen George Washington since I was a kid in school.

I was struck by Richard Williams’ (Old Virginia Blog), use of the terms, ‘virtue-signalling’ and ‘presentism’ as revealed in the context mentioned above. He’s on to something.

But here’s my personal observation based on 20 years of classroom teaching in America, and I believe that there’s something to it. The onion continues to unpeel. Atlantic City is two towns in one, and I have taught in both sections. The demographics where I am now are, in round numbers, 40% Hispanic 30% Asian-Pacific Islanders, and 20% from India and Pakistan and some from Haiti, and just a few African-Americans.

Here’s the story: these children did NOT get the memo that states that America is hopeless, or biased against them. They believe that they can work their way up and out. In fact, their parents (much higher incidence of two-parent families and ability to hold jobs on this end of the island) insist on it. I have not experienced a discipline problem in 15 years! One call home would solve that! That sounds like MY childhood. Many of these children fret over a “B” on a report card as being not good enough.

And finally, when I explain to them about Billie Holiday not being able to lodge and eat with Artie Shaw’s band, or Rosa Park’s bus ride, or Jackie Robinson, etc., their eyes glaze over. It’s not part of their background of experience, and many of them have experienced far worse. This is the point of the peel that I see as unfolding. Just as many enlightened and ‘modern’ Americans don’t value George Washington, my kids don’t value those Black experiences as relevant to their lives. These kids and their families with multiple jobs and obligations are too busy to sweat the small stuff, like flags and name-calling. Methinks that the progressives, egalitarians, and virtue-signallers are at a loss as how to deal with what they, for years, called a multi-cultural society, when at least in my experience, it was a black and white issue. Now it’s a rainbow, and our new minorities are going to make it interesting—in a good way.


Frank “Skip” Shaffer

14 Responses to A Lee-Jackson Postscript

  1. I like what Frank has to say. It adds to the discussion. Buffalo, my town, has a surprising no. of immigrants and they like those in his town are doing fairly well, better than African American kids who often come from broken families, skip school 50% of the time, and the boys at least join gangs and kill one another all too often. You see the black experience is irrelevant to immigrants, but not to blacks who have lived here for four hundred years and have been crushed by white supremacy which still reigns supreme.

  2. Chris:
    Your post prompted me to re-read your Jan. 18 reflection on your visit to Lexington, VA. In that previous post, you lamented that some Northerners paint Southerners with too broad a brush. I must admit, I am guilty of this sometimes. But then I read something like the web page of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group you addressed in Lexington. And I feel a lot far less guilty.

    The SCV’s web page reads, in part: “The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.”

    Whose “liberty and freedom” is the SCV talking about? Obviously not the “liberty and freedom” of the 4 million blacks enslaved in the South at the outbreak of the Civil War. Not surprisingly, the SCV’s web page never mentions slavery as even a minimal cause of the Civil War.

    I am sure there are many Civil War enthusiasts from the South – like ECW contributor Richard Williams – who decry the shameful role slavery played in the antebellum South. But there are many other Southerners – like the leaders of the SVC – who downplay or outright refuse to recognize slavery’s impact on the war. They still view Southern slavery through a Gone-with-the-Wind lens.

    I can sympathize with Southerners who react defensively to Northern critics. After all, race relations in many parts of the North are nothing to crow about. That said, there is no excuse for the SCV and Gone-with-the-Wind crowd’s revisionist view of the Civil War.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to do some additional digging, Bob. I agree, there are plenty of problematic facets to the SCV’s take on history, and I don’t mean to offer a blanket defense of the organization. Ignoring slavery’s central role as THE cause of the war is just willful ignorance.

      But it’s as wrong for people to say “All Sons are racists” any more than it’s wrong for people to say “All Muslims are terrorists” or “All young black males are hoodlums.” That kind of attitude, any way you dice it, is wrong and has led (and continues to lead) to all kinds of problems. It’s entirely counterproductive to constructive dialogue.

      I still believe in the “marketplace of ideas,” and think that good ideas win out over bad ideas. That’s why I believe in people’s rights to express their ideas–even ones that are flawed–because those ideas then have to stand up to public scrutiny, debate, and discussion.

      1. Chris:
        You’re absolutely right.

        Like you, I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-assembly clauses. That’s one of the great values of ECW. It offers a sounding board for a wide variety of opinions.

        Sometimes, in my enthusiasm and passion, I give people the wrong impression. I didn’t mean to infer that all – or even most – Sons are racists. From what I’ve read, the SCV is an excellent resource for folks who want to track down their Confederate ancestors’ military service. That’s a good thing.

        Again, you and the other folks at ECW do a great job.

      2. Nor did I think you gave that impression, Bob. I appreciate your willingness to engage in the discussion. Thanks for all the kind words about ECW, too!

    2. “The SCV’s web page reads, in part: ‘The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.’
      Whose “liberty and freedom” is the SCV talking about? Obviously not the “liberty and freedom” of the 4 million blacks enslaved in the South at the outbreak of the Civil War. ”

      Those of the First American Revolution fought for liberty and freedom…
      …while about 20% of the population were enslaved.
      But I never see the same critique made of the First as I do the Second.

      1. The Founders were deeply aware of the inherent contradiction in what they were doing. They felt they needed to handle Independence first before they could get the rest of the house in order. Much has been written on the subject.

        Just because that critique doesn’t come up with the First as it does with the “Second,” that doesn’t disqualify it as a valid critique of the “Second.”

      1. Part of what he is seeing is also, in my mind, generational, i.e. : “It’s not part of their background of experience.” Ironically, that same dynamic is manifested within the “Confederate heritage” demo. As each generation moves further and further away from the event, it becomes less “visible” to them and less important as well.

  3. You know, it’s always good to see something like this, because it reminds me of all the times when the “progressives, egalitarians, and virtue-signallers” have been on the wrong side of an issue: never. It was the PGVS who were fighting and dying for civil rights in the 1960s; it was PGVS who were fighting for LGBT rights in the 1990s and 2000s; it was PGVS who were fighting and dying for abolition in the 1840s and 50s.

    And it was people like Frank who were trying to ride the coattails of others to push forward their own beliefs. He just knows that “these kids and their families with multiple jobs and obligations are too busy to sweat the small stuff” and he’s going to be their voice, damn what they might actually think.

    Yeah, no. I don’t know that the Military History Digest was driving any traffic to this blog, but it certainly won’t be from now on.

    1. I’m sorry to have you go, David. Just because you don’t like Frank’s experience doesn’t make it invalid, though. I passed it along because it was something I never would have considered; so, because it surprised me, I thought it was interesting enough to share.

      For what it’s worth, I appreciate your defense of “PGVS.” I would add that those were the same sorts of folks also fighting for Women’s Rights and for better working conditions for American workers.

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