Generation gaps can create some glaring differences especially when dealing with the equality of all humans. The old ways of treating people of color are no longer accepted by the majority of people, however some people in older generations still do not make it a priority to make all people feel welcome and valued.
This situation could not be more real for Redditor u/statuethrow who says My [28M] relationship with Mom [60F] and Step-Dad [~60M] is straining because of a controversial lawn ornament.
Here's how it played out:
My mom and stepdad last year moved into a new house that came with a lawn ornament depicting a cartoonishly caricatured black boy dressed in a jockey uniform. I did some research, and it turns out that it was a Jocko style Lawn Jockey. Apparently these were popular back in the day with people that wanted to evoke that old Southern style of welcome that includes casual racial prejudice. The more I learned about these things, the more uncomfortable it made me. It can't just sit there in the yard. They would have to store it, paint it, get rid of it...something. Anything less I feel would be an endorsement of what this statue represents. We are all white, and I don't want to get into a situation where I bring friends over, they see it and get the wrong impression about my folks. I told my mom my feelings about it, and she indicated that her and my stepdad were aware and were talking about what to do about it.
The next time I visited them, they moved it off to the side yard, and this time it was in the same spot and they had put a garbage bag over it. I mean, it's good that they covered it, but I don't understand why they still have it, and it's been a year. I don't think either one of them are racist or anything, I just see the history of this object and it's relationship to racism and it disgusts me. Neither one of them seem to share my disgust, which is frustrating. My gut tells me that I'm in the right, but at the same time this is driving a wedge between me and my step-dad, and my mom feels caught in the middle between us.
Mom and I just had a tearful conversation about this. She's worried that I'm judging them negatively for this, which definitely isn't the case for her. (My feelings about him are up in the air right now.) She seems to agree that this thing is more trouble than it's worth. I offered to take the statue and dispose of it, but she said no and that it was up to my step dad. He seems to have taken an opposing stance on this and doesn't see much reason to get rid of it. Apparently he did his own online research and concluded that it wasn't a racist object, and that I'm wrong and I need to let this go. He says the statue has historical value and he shouldn't be made to feel like a racist for displaying it. I'm aware of the content he's basing his claims on, and will try to show him how they lack a basis in fact. Mom has told me though that he did agree to get rid of it, but I don't know how much I believe him.
I'm now at the point where I don't know if I'm making too much of a big deal about this. My folks and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but that hasn't really been an issue until now. My next step I just want to be able to visit my folks and not have to worry about this s***. Am I right for pushing them towards action on this, or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
tldr: parents inherited a statue of a caricatured black youth. I detest it and want it gone, stepdad thinks it's fine. How to proceed?
Update: Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Just to clear up a few things, I don't think I could persuade them by saying that the neighbors are judging them, they live in a very red area, there was a guy who wore a MAGA hat on the beach with his family the other day and no one seemed to care.
Also, I should have been more specific regarding what I meant regarding the tearful conversation with my mom. I had meant that we both were crying. There wasn't manipulation there. She was genuinely worried that I was thinking about cutting her out of my life, and I was upset about this whole thing. I'm generally averse to conflict and it takes a lot for me to make a stand about something, especially when it leads to this kind of friction.
I feel empowered by your words, and I know that I can't just let this go. I'll be as respectful as I can, but my feelings about the statue haven't changed and I'm not going to really feel comfortable there until they do something about it.
What are your thoughts?
Play dirty in the name of justice and equalityGiphy
I wrote out a lot of analysis, but then decided it was pretentious and deleted it.
- It's not your property, so ultimately, legally, you can't do anything.
- You've made your case. They doubled down. Logic wouldn't appear to work.
My advice to you would be that for every gift-giving occasion, be it birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Labor Day, whatever... I would send them a card, and include the receipt for the donation you made in their name to the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, or the local black historical/heritage society... you know, since history is so important to him.
You're not going to wear them down, so go with the semi-regular notification that he's being an ahole, and maybe the thank you letters from the assorted charities will eventually make him feel like enough of a doofus to take an appropriate action on his own.
You can't teach an old dog not to be an a**Giphy
Yeah, he's a big ole racist. No way he actually googled "lawn jockey"and came away with the idea that its not racist.
Create some distanceGiphy
OP, I'm with you on this one. The statue is horribly racist, and cringe-worthy. I'd go as far as to not visit your mom & step-dad at their home, and only see them away from the house.
It's a two way streetGiphy
Lol @ the pearl clutching over your mom crying about feeling "judged" for participating in racist s***. Honestly, f*** manipulative tears. You get to decide what's more important to you: your relationship with your mother or your principles regarding race. I know what choice I would make. And remember that torching a relationship goes both ways. So your parents also have a choice: their f******* son or their beloved racist lawn ornament.
Ask the right questionsGiphy
Ask them how the statue makes their lives better. Seriously.
Ask them why they feel the need to keep it, even though it causes friction between you guys. To prove how not-racist they are?
It's not like they're rare. There's no historical significance to speak off. They're ugly as shit. Seriously, there's no reason to keep it, except to "stick it to them libruls".
The extreme route...Giphy
It's racist. Them keeping the statue is racist. The lovely thing about racism is it's a great place to take a stance. I would cut back contact with your family significantly and steal and destroy that awful statue.
Stay away from those peopleGiphy
It is IMPOSSIBLE to google "lawn jockey", and not immeidately understand that this is racist. He knows it's racist, but he doesn't care. Your solution is not to take friends around there. You have spoken your peace. Do not argue, justify, or explain your position, because that is as preposterous as trying to explain why you don't walk down the street and randomly punch strangers in the head. It doesn't even bear trying to have a rational discussion about it.
Simply state your position. "Hey mom, I find that statue to be racist. I feel like if you google lawn jockey, and do your own unbiased reading, it is impossible to come away with any other conclusion. Therefore, I will not be visiting your home while you choose to have such casual disregard for a racist statue." That's it. And yeah, I'm sorry to tell you but it sounds like your parents are racist if they feel that displaying that lawn jockey is that important to them.
Let them lay in the beds they madeGiphy
You know what OP, your parents were being ignorant-and there is NOTHING wrong about being ignorant to a subject, we don't know everyone's deal, HOWEVER, you took the time to research this object and educated them, this crosses the line into WILLFUL ignorance, and quite frankly, point blank racism.
I would not visit them until its removed, they know what theyre doing-its not like it pays them rent or adds deep value to their lives, and someone WILL call them out on it, don't be around when it happens.
Stand up to the root of the problemGiphy
It sounds like your mum is just fretting because she's trying to please you both but she's not really thinking about this or taking responsibility for herself. My mum did this with her ex and me, she'd get all tearful and do that mum thing of 'I just try to please everyone' etc. Could you sit down and ask your mum what she really thinks hand on heart. It concerns me that the stepdad sounds like a jerk and your mum isn't standing up to him, either that or your mum is racist too. It could help you to figure out which one it is.
Judge the f*** out of them until they learn their lessonGiphy
How to deal with casual racists: "Don't make me feel bad, it feels like I'm being judged!" "It should. Because I'm judging you."
Talk about the moneyGiphy
Lol have u read Stephen kings duma key be glad it isn't chasing u they should sell it it actually does have value but gives the wrong impression for sure I'd push ur step dad that way he'd probably be more likely to get rid of it if there was money in it
Get rid of it yourselfGiphy
Am I the only one who would throw caution out the window and smash the s*** out of that stupid, racist piece of garbage?? (The lawn ornament, but maybe the stepparent, too. Up to interpretation. )
Hoarding may be the issue hereGiphy
Does your stepdad have hoarding tendencies?? Like, is he scared to get rid of it because he thinks it is worth something?? Look it up on eBay, and see if ANY of them have sold, and what they sold for. Offer to sell it for him??? If it's what I think it is, it's cringe inducing, and I wouldn't want to be associated with the house that displays it.
A different point of viewGiphy
Well, it's not your house, so while you don't like it, it's really none of your business. You are forcing an issue between your mother and your step-father about something at THEIR house.
That said, I think you are also wrong about what you think of the statue, based on a few minutes of my own research:
"The jockey, in a similarly secret way, pointed to safe houses along the Underground Railroad.
"These statues were used as markers on the Underground Railroad throughout the South into Canada," says historian/author Charles Blockson, curator of the Afro-American Collection at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Green ribbons were tied to the arms of the statue to indicate safety; red ribbons meant to keep going.
"People who don't know the history of the jockey have feelings of humiliation and anger when they see the statue," he adds. "But this figure, which was sometimes used in a clandestine nature, and sometimes without the knowledge of the person who owned the statue, was a positive and supportive image to African-Americans on the road to freedom.""
From a 1998 article in the Chicago Tribune.
I'm not researching it any more to have any more of an opinion. Not your house.
The important questionGiphy
You are right for feeling as you do about the lawn ornaments. But I would ask, is it worth straining your relationship with your mother over? I get the impression that your step-dad is taking an opposing stance not because he actually likes or cares about the statue but because you have taking such a vocal position, it's almost like he's doing it for spite. Also, he might feel that you are accusing him of being racists and he's being defensive and doubling down. I bet if you never mentioned the statue to him again it would eventually disappear. Also you mentioned that your Mom said he agreed to get rid of, give him the chance to do the right thing.