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.
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