It is often said that words matter. Historically speaking, this is often seen by using a particular word to connect to the past. The Whig Party chose that name because in the 1830s everyone knew that the Whigs in England were the ones who had opposed the King. By calling themselves the Whigs, they were criticizing Andrew Jackson by implying he wanted to be a monarch.
Recently this idea has played out with a Twitter beef between certain sports writers and LeBron James. After the shooting of Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks announced they would not play their opening round game against the Orlando Magic. Quickly the rest of the NBA games were canceled as players refused to play in light of the most recent shooting. The NBA came out in support of the cancelations and announced the games would be played at a later date in the near future. In writing about the games, many writers referred to the canceled games as postponements. It was at that time that LeBron James tweeted, “Boycotted not postponed.”
Why does the name make a difference? Either way, postponed or boycotted, the games were all held two days later and the playoffs continued. May I suggest that James, understanding the historical significance of boycotts, wanted to connect his actions to the past. By insisting what he did was a boycott, the current movement could be seen in a similar light as, say, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. James did not articulate his reasons for his Tweet, but there must have been a reason for his insistence he was boycotting.
To be fair to the journalists, they had reasons for their word choice. First, traditionally in sports a boycott has referred to players skipping a game or event while the game went on without them. When past NBA All-Stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor boycotted games because of racial injustice, the games were still played but without them. So when the NBA rescheduled the recent playoff games, to many it seemed more like a postponement.
Secondly, though not required, to make a good sports boycott story, some amount of sacrifice is usually made. There are some excellent examples in history. In 1936, the Olympic Games were held in Hitler’s Germany. Hitler planned to use the games as a showcase for his achievements and show off he did. He built amazing venues and used the world’s captured attention to turn everything into a pageant of Nazi propaganda. He also showed off his nation’s athleticism by dominating the games and winning the most medals. Even while cautious of Hitler, most of the world arrived in Berlin anyway, not wanting to let politics ruin the games. However, there were some athletes who just could not bring themselves to ignore Hitler’s treatment of the Jews.
One such athlete was Albert Wolff, a French fencer. Though Wolff had a chance to medal in the Olympics, as a Jew he simply could not tolerate Hitler’s Jewish views. Instead of competing, he gave up any chance of Olympic glory and remained at home. He never gave up on his Olympic dreams, however. In 1948, twelve years later, when the games commenced again after WWII, the now 42-year-old athlete finally got his chance to compete. Much older now and out of his prime, this time he represented his new home of America and had the honor to carry the flag in the Opening Ceremonies. It’s worth noting how Wolff spent his time between the two Olympics. Instead of sitting in his hotel suite for a few days, eating room service, he decided to enlist with the French army and left for the front, willing to die for his beliefs. He did not just fight; he earned his nation’s highest honor for bravery. Eventually, he was captured by the Germans and sent to a Jewish war camp. He managed to escape the camp and made his way to Portugal and then eventually the U.S. Once in America, he enlisted in the American Army and was sent back to the front in Africa to fight again.
There are other famous boycotts. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Russia because of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. Many athletes who had trained for years for this one event were forced to give up their only opportunity to ever win a medal. There was some satisfaction for America, not the summer athletes, but for the winter ones. Later that year America did play in the winter games. That was the year when the American hockey team beat the Russians during the “Miracle On Ice” game, arguably the most inspirational American Olympic game ever. By not sacrificing even one game, James’ boycott does not seem to measure up for many.
In the end it really does not matter what the game stoppage was called, the playoffs have continued and James looks poised to win his fourth championship. James wants to be seen as fighting for social justice like those who came before him. However, maybe it is the very fact that he might win that fourth title that some have questioned his choice of words and have denied what he did was a boycott.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Justice is a must – EDA scandal not to be forgotten
Warren County has experienced and been violated through a $21M embezzlement that appears to have extended roots beyond the EDA. Our community has witnessed several arrests in relation to this crime and saw charges dropped, a sheriff’s loss of life, the resignations of a County Attorney, EDA Chair and other EDA Board members and a County Finance Director, the rotation and changes in our Judicial System, the retirement of a school superintendent, our new Board of Supervisors wisely releasing a long-time County Administrator, with an Assistant County Administrator and a Fire Chief’s announcements of retirement following, the county taking fiscal responsibility of the EDA without providing insight on the loss incurred.
All the while, the Town of Front Royal gathered and reported their loss along with the filing of a lawsuit. Yes, I agree, Warren County can do better than this! I commend and thank the new Board of Supervisors who have the courage to stand and make decisions for the betterment of our entire community – that is truly service above self! Your diligent work in learning and perseverance is not going unnoticed!
The reprimands made to the new Board for their decision in declining a renewal contract for the County Administrator, makes me question what is known, or what one may be involved in? In my opinion, the comment using military lingo to describe our past administrator was an insult to the men and women of our US Armed Forces. It takes very strong and courageous people to wear the boots of the “Best of the Best”, as they willingly and tirelessly put their lives on the line – with some having given their all to protect the Freedoms of this Nation. During this administrator’s tenure, he served on several Boards/Committees in the county, taxes were consistently raised year after year, an increased budget of $6.1M was submitted during this pandemic crisis, an empty and still empty warehouse building on Baugh Drive was purchased for $5M owned by the EDA, with a resolution that the county would pay; one signature being that of this administrator, costing the citizens $26K a month over the past few years and still going, the county has over $90M in bonds and has extended them through 2040, lawsuits were filed against the county, school property has been used as collateral for renovations on buildings and for the construction of the new Fire Department, as well as another building being used as collateral for the purchase of 2 new fire trucks.
Warren County has the potential to rise above and thrive – now and for generations to come. This scandal needs to be fully exposed, corrected, and accountability being put on the shoulders of those responsible, regardless of their level of power! Do not forget – Justice is a must and is – what’s right!
Warren County, Virginia
Thoughts on the Confederate statue removal at the Warren County Courthouse
To the Editor:
On August 4, Tony Carter, a member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, offered a motion that would put the question of whether the Confederate statue on the Courthouse lawn should be relocated to a referendum on November 3.
One opponent of the relocation said, “it’s in the bag.”
It seems obvious that they did not want any public comment on his motion, but word got out, and several people came at the last minute expressing their frustration that they had no time to prepare their remarks on a matter of some sensitivity.
Nonetheless, it seems poor sport to argue that allowing the people to decide the issue is wrong.
Were the public schools in Warren County desegregated in the 1950s by a popular vote? No, they were not. It was the State Supreme Court that protected minority children. In 1965, did the citizens of Alabama, by popular referendum, allow black people to vote?
Confederate statues and flags tell the country that the South had school integration and black voting forced on them. They never accepted black advancement.
Lynching used to be discussed as something that happened in “the bad of days.” In 2020, we saw the lynching of George Floyd on our television screens. His killing and that of others have caused people around the country, Virginia, and the world to take a hard look at their racist past and rid themselves of the stain. Will there be such introspection in Warren County?
If others think relocation of the statue is ill-advised, will they come forward to offer other changes as evidence that they hear the cry of black citizens?
Your move, Mr. Carter.
Front Royal, Virginia
Reader asks ‘What Heritage’
You say it is your heritage, not hate.
But what is your heritage, if not hate? What do you call the rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and pillaging of a people? Are you proud of stealing generations from their future? What does the history of the dixie heartland stand for if it doesn’t stand for hate rooted in blood-stained injustice? What good comes from staking a claim in a mountain built on the backs of other men, with a treasonous flag wavering overhead?
You say they were veterans and deserve our homage; as if we should so easily forget the very things they fought for, or rather, against. Protecting the institution of slavery, secession and mutiny are suddenly honorable values that we must exalt in statue form? Since when do the losers of a war get to have a stake in the statue arena – is it a participation trophy?
My mind, nor my heart, can fathom the pride you carry for your “heritage.” The ignorance of deeming all veterans heroes, while ignoring their true motivations, seems blasphemous in the eyes of the Constitution. I think it would be far more courageous to show compassion for the people we share the world with today.
To understand that the battles that they have faced, collectively and historically, far outweigh any contributions given to us by the short-lived Confederacy. To see past our privilege, to put ourselves in the shoes of a Black American who just wants to walk to the courthouse without having to be reminded of the effort put into keeping them 3/5 a human. That maybe, as white men and women, we listen with open hearts and sit this one out.
It seems to me, that every significant change for the better in the Town of Front Royal, whether it be the desegregation of schools, the building of new bridges, schools, and sidewalks has to be fought for to come to fruition. Front Royal refuses to come into the 21stcentury on her own, and instead prefers to be drug a few decades, kicking and screaming, until she begrudgingly accepts her new reality.
That is why I’m so disappointed in the board of supervisors’ cowardly decision to leave this ruling to a non-binding referendum. When you have the privilege and responsibility of a position of power, you use it for good. You use it to showcase your leadership skills and to stand up for the minority. If the south left it to a non-binding referendum, we’d still have slavery.
Sometimes the right thing isn’t what the majority demands. The law hasn’t been our best moral compass in history, time, and time again. You want a count of hands, regardless of the lack of representation for Black citizens. I urge you to instead consider the history and reputation of this town and vote with all constituents in mind, not just the white majority.
Front Royal, Virginia
Response to Mr. Bianchini’s Oct 22 letter and the Courthouse Statue
I certainly believe there has been racial inequality in our history but am aware of no such instances in Warren County in the 15 years I have been a resident and would object to any claim that our community does not offer equality to all its citizens. While an insignificant number may hold biased beliefs it is in no way representative of the majority. No person has been the property of another for over 150 years so can we let that rest? Plus, I’m not ignorant that discrimination continues to occur but sincerely believe that it’s on the fringes of our society rather than being pervasive as some assert. And yes, Mr. Bianchini I listen. The recounting of Ms. Freeman’s life experience at FRU’s ‘teach-in’ is from over a half-century ago and such situations have for the most part been remedied. I am sad that she was mistreated but that is in the past and cannot accept that it’s representative of our society today.
Too many choose to ignore the social justice strides made in the past half-century where Virginia citizens (majority white) elected a black Governor in the 80s when the Commonwealth was still a red state. In 2008 and 2012 a mostly white America elected a black president. Let’s also acknowledge the educational preferences and minority contract set-asides and programs that have been instituted as well that promoted equality.
While there may be some institutional bias in law enforcement we cannot overlook that they deal with black criminals everyday disproportionate to their representation in the population and thus it is rational for police to exercise greater caution when interacting with males of color. However, there is no justification for excessive use of force against any citizen and various efforts are occurring to address that specific issue.
Had Mr. Bianchini paid full attention to my testimony at the Oct 20 BOS meeting he would have heard my proposal for a compromise of possibly adding a plaque clarifying that the courthouse civil war monument is not to be interpreted as supporting past slavery or oppression and clarifying its focused intent. I could certainly support the idea of another statue as well that he mentioned which could acknowledge the contributions of slaves in Warren County’s history and would offer to donate the first $1,000 towards such a marker and challenge Mr. Porter and Ms. Cascada to match it were such an idea to move forward.
So, maybe Mr. Bianchini and I aren’t as far apart as, he may think, at least on this issue, and I appreciate his statement that he does not see me as having racist beliefs. So, how about everyone keeps their powder dry and await the results of the referendum. It might also be valuable to recognize that making frequent assertions that our community or even some of its citizens are racists will not contribute to an environment where mutual understanding, compromise, and healing is possible.
A Perhaps Futile Search for a Middle Ground on the Confederate Soldier Statue
(Royal Examiner reporter/editor Roger Bianchini’s response to Gary Kushner’s Oct. 22 Letter to the Editor)
Having butted heads philosophically in print with both Mr. Kushner and the current leadership of Front Royal Unites over the issues of institutional racism in modern American society (Kushner) and the advisability of compromise on the Confederate Statue issue to avoid the very backlash we are now witnessing (Porter/FR Unites), let me attempt to draw a middle ground on this conflict of perspectives.
While I sincerely believe Mr. Kushner does not consciously harbor racist intentions, I think I might be safe from a threat of civil action in describing him as somewhat racially insensitive to the plight of citizens of color in modern American society as a consequence of the lingering aftermath of slavery and racism in our culture.
I also feel that Mr. Kushner may be correct in his description of the current FR Unites leadership’s intransigence on the Confederate soldier statue’s location issue. As I have written in a past opinion piece, I felt and still feel that a compromise allowing the statue to remain, but adding some sign that the statue remains at the courthouse with other war memorials as a result of two opposing perspectives reaching agreement in 2020 on a mutually satisfactory outcome. As I wrote in the story on the Oct. 20 meeting, I believe the suggestion expressed at the meeting by Richard Hoover that a statue commemorating the sacrifice of Warren County people of color who were held as slaves be erected on the courthouse grounds is the best compromise idea out there.
Let me add one personal observation on a related subject. Several FR Unites speakers expressed disappointment at the absence of county officials at their previous Sunday “Teach In” as I understood it to be, revolving around the statue removal issue. I observed some of the speakers in the online live stream of the event. An LFCC professor described slavery as the root issue of the Civil War underlying the “state’s rights” issue – which was essentially the right to keep slaves as free labor to bolster the Southern state’s economies; as well as the racism expressed openly by Confederate political leadership in justifying secession and racially based slavery. Okay, most rational, educated people understand these things.
Another speaker and county citizen of color eloquently described her experience of racism in this community during the era of desegregation of our public schools, and consequently after in her adult life and work experience. Again, this isn’t news to people who are paying attention – are you listening, Mr. Kushner?
But I ask, and from what I saw there was no one present at the event who asked this question – how much do these known historical experiences of about 160 years and 50 years ago directly address the issues at hand concerning the fate of the Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse lawn in 2020?
Wouldn’t an advisable strategy for anyone concerned with advocating equal treatment under the law and an end to protections of institutional racism, particularly in the conduct of law enforcement in the treatment of suspects nationally, be NOT to give those not so concerned with these issues or even perhaps harboring lingering racist tendencies themselves, an issue upon which to aggressively push back against your organization and its root issue of equal treatment under the law?
If there was a statue of openly racist Confederates like its President Jefferson Davis or Vice-President Alexander Stephens on the courthouse lawn, I would vigorously support their removal. But as has been noted by supporters of the Confederate soldier’s statue remaining where it is, most, if not all, of those 600 or so names on that monument were not from slave holding families. To my knowledge there are no known writings of any of those men justifying slavery and promoting the racism at its root. None of us will ever know what was in their hearts and minds when they went to war, or when they returned from it, if they did.
So, why draw a hardline in the courthouse grass on removal of a monument to the sacrifice in going to war, even if on the wrong side of history, of those 600 county sons?
Wouldn’t the cause of equal justice under the law be better served by focusing our energy and the energy of our municipal governments on a positive act, rather than a negative one? That act would be raising public funds to see a memorial to the human sacrifice of those who lived in Warren County as slaves be erected in a place of honor on the courthouse lawn, not far from the Confederate soldier memorial.
Now THAT would indicate that Warren County is exhibiting progress and cultural growth and a desire for equal treatment under the law for ALL its citizens in the 21st century. But that is only likely to happen after people with opposing perspectives begin, not only to talk, but to LISTEN to each other with a willingness to at least consider the other’s perspective.
Is it too late for that to happen here in Front Royal and Warren County? – Ms. Cascada, Mr. Porter, Mr. Kushner are you LISTENING?
Gary Kushner asks ‘Who is Racist’ in Confederate statue debate
Courthouse Statue, Oct. 20 BOS meeting discussion
On Front Royal Unites (FRU) Facebook page, Laura Lee Cascada posted on Oct. 16 that the Examiner had published my Letter to the Editor that was a ‘racist rant’ and referred to a Facebook comment I had recently made.
First, I would caution Ms. Cascada about calling me a racist or I’ll have her radical left behind in a civil action for slander for calling me a racist, which is not true.
Second, the comment that she referenced was in response to a heated argument I was engaged in with a Facebook user who I thought was black who I felt was trashing America and its slavery history. The idea I attempted to relay in that comment was that slavery had a silver lining for the descendants of slaves in that being subsequently born free in America provided them with the liberty and opportunities of all American citizens as opposed to possibly being born in a third world African country with its political strife, violence, famine, challenging economies and lower standard of living. The comment I made was, “You should be thankful your ancestors were slaves because they paved the way for your freedom. Otherwise you’d be living in a grass/mud hut in some shit-hole country”.
While I freely acknowledge that my choice of words was over the top in the frustration of a heated argument, but I continue to defend the validity of the concept. No one is clamoring to move from America to Africa with all its political and economic troubles and that statement is not evidence of racial bias on my part, it simply states facts. I hold no views that any race of people is superior to another or that any group of people should be discriminated against for any reason.
At the October 20, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Public Comments segment where the issue of the courthouse statue was the topic of interest, Ms. Cascada testified in support of removing the statue and made an underhanded attempt to embarrass me and to delegitimize my pro-statue testimony by reading the Facebook comment referenced above. However, feeling confident in the concept I previously explained I was not embarrassed at all. In a meeting break thereafter I approached Ms. Cascada and attempted to engage in dialogue to see if we could improve our mutual understanding, which was witnessed by the Examiner Reporter, Roger Bianchini.
Mr. Porter, President of Front Royal Unites, advised her not to talk with me and they both left without further interaction. I was not surprised in it seems that neither FRU nor Ms. Cascada has any sincere interest in exchanging ideas like mature adults and they present the impression that you either agree with and accept their perspectives or you’re wrong and biased. I believe that persons with weak ideas commonly refuse to engage in rational discussion because their arguments are difficult to defend with logic and the truth.
Mr. Porter recently posted a comment (that may have subsequently been deleted) on Facebook insinuating that a person who had assisted in the creation of FRU was separated from that group because they had been ultimately recognized as being ‘white’. If that, in my opinion, isn’t considered a racist view than I’m a ‘monkey’s uncle’. That from the leader from an organization that claims to be all about equality and unification of the community.
Mr. Paul Gabbert also testified in support of the statue at the Board meeting and that FRU was only successful at dividing the community rather than being a group with positive results. Thus maybe Mr. Porter should consider renaming his group Front Royal Divides, it would be more accurate.