You Have To Be Carefully Taught
John J. Dunphy
Originally published in the 6/27/20 edition of The Telegraph of Alton, IL
I once visited Branson, MO. It’s become such an American icon that I wanted to experience it for myself. Branson is now marketing itself to Baby Boomers by offering shows featuring 1960s rock music. Louise Harrison, the sister of the late George Harrison, introduced a Beatles tribute band. Harrison lived with his sister and her family in Benton, IL for a time in 1963. During a question and answer segment, I asked Louise Harrison about her brother’s experiences while living in deep southern Illinois. She said that George even jammed with some local bands!
Branson was in the news recently — but not for its music. A local resident shouted some truly disturbing statements, which were recorded and then posted on the internet. Black Lives Matter activists were protesting outside a store called Dixie Outfitters. I’m almost certain I know the place from my visit to Branson. I vividly recall driving by a store that had a mannequin dressed in a Confederate flag bikini.
According to the Springfield (MO) News-Leader, Dixie Outfitters was targeted by the protesters due to a 2015 news article about its owner’s alleged history with the Ku Klux Klan. About 50 counter-protesters showed up to express their support for this business. Branson resident Kathy Jenkins, who draped herself in a Confederate flag, was among the counter-protesters.
I have no problem with Jenkins’s presence at Dixie Outfitters. She and the other counter-protesters had every right to demonstrate their support for a business that markets Confederate paraphernalia. The issue for me wasn’t her presence. It was her words. During a heated exchange with one of the BLM protester, Jenkins shouted, “I will teach my grandkids to hate you all.”
That’s a truly chilling promise. Jenkins surely loves her grandchildren and wants what’s best for them. Tragically, she believes that hatred for BLM protesters and, presumably, everyone who voices their opposition to racism and the Confederate flag is one of the most precious legacies that she can pass down to them.
Jenkins’ grandchildren will pay a heavy price if they indeed take such a toxic lesson to heart. They’ll grow up believing that activists who protest racism are nothing more than bothersome troublemakers, who are paid to protest by some wealthy behind-the-scenes liberal. Racism doesn’t even exist, they’ll insist. Anyone who says it does has been brainwashed by liberal schoolteachers and the mainstream media.
They’ll also be indoctrinated to believe that the flag of a short-lived nation based on white supremacy and perpetual slavery for blacks is somehow worthy of respect. The Confederate flag is about heritage, not hate, they’ll claim. Besides, slavery wasn’t nearly as bad as those black radicals and their white allies say it was.
Many parents, grandparents and other family members are only all too eager to teach children to hate. Hearing her words reminded me of that song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” from the musical “South Pacific.” Its lyrics affirm that children must be taught at an early age to hate those who are hated by their families. Such hate is a lesson that many American children learn well indeed.
After publicly proclaiming her intention to teach her grandkids “to hate you all,” a protester responded, “Hating is not a way to live.” For some Americans, unfortunately, hating seems to be the only way they can live.
In a July 25 statement to KOLR of Springfield, Jenkins apologized for her comments. She said that someone had handed her the Confederate flag she flourished. “She claims she didn’t fully know what it represented but assumed it was a symbol of unity,” according to the KOLR web site. A BLM activist dismissed her apology and noted that she “was there from the start…shouting obscenities and hateful words at our protesters.” The activist said Jenkins apologized “because she got caught in her acts of racism” I tend to agree.
John J. Dunphy is the author of Abolitionism and the Civil War in Southwestern Illinois and Unsung Heroes of the Dachau Trials: The Investigative Work of the U.S. Army 7708 War Crimes Group, 1945–1947.