Alonzo Weston

In our rush to remove symbols and images deemed racially offensive, we must use a little common sense and forethought.

I understand wanting to tear down Confederate monuments and statutes of Civil War southern dignitaries. It’s as if we were glorifying and deeming heroes those who championed slavery and were traitors to our country.

I hate seeing Confederate flags anywhere. What makes little sense to me is driving by a house and seeing the Confederate flag flying alongside the American flag. It’s utterly contradictory. A flag of treason against the United States alongside the American flag? Some folks need a history lesson unless they see their patriotism standing for racism and xenophobia.

That’s disrespecting our flag, not kneeling during the national anthem as some professional athletes like Colin Kapernick have done and were vilified for doing.

That was never in disrespect to our country, soldiers or flag. It was taking a much-watched event to call attention to police brutality against minorities and other racial injustices and doing so during the anthem to show the hypocrisy in it. Liberty and justice for all is a mockery to those who experience neither.

Now in the wake of recent police killings, some of us got woke to the fact that those kneeling Black athletes were not dissing our flag or veterans. Yes it’s everyone’s flag. Those veterans fought for the athletes’ right to kneel. Many saw communism up close and experienced what happens when people lose their lives and their freedoms.

But tearing down statues is one thing, killing off Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben is another. Sure early images of those two icons were offensive in portrayal, but both were modernized to portray distinguished-looking Black people of today.

Many Blacks, including myself, were never offended by Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. We took pride in knowing they stood for good, wholesome nutrition, just as Betty Crocker also did. So by this logic, should white housewives be offended?

I knew the two women who portrayed Aunt Jemima here in St. Joseph. Both were honored to have that distinction. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were positive depictions of Black people rather than those of watermelon-eating pickaninnies used in other blatantly racist advertisements. Blacks were never portrayed in a favorable light for years. It was even rarer to see a positive Black image on TV — or anywhere for that matter.

When James Brown, Sidney Portier or some other Black entertainers came on TV, it was a family gathering event in many Black households, including ours when I was a kid.

Before then the only Blacks we saw were butlers, maids and Africans getting beat by Tarzan.

We can tear down all the statues and retire Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, but until there’s a change of heart with love and respect for our fellow men and women, things will stay the same. We need inward change to make things really change.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.

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