The news that HBO was, at least temporarily, moth balling the racist film, Gone With the Wind, brought back memories of my mother.
I wouldn’t exactly call her a helicopter mom in that I pretty much could run the old north Philly neighborhood where I spent my first nine years of life unsupervised.
But she would crack the whip on what I could watch on TV or what movies I could see. Anything with a hint of white supremacy was off the table. No discussion. No Gone With the Wind (although at the age of seven I don’t think I cared). But no Disney’s Fantasia (racist caricatures of Asians). No Disney’s Song of the South. No Amos and Andy. No Ramar of the Jungle.
To be clear. We didn’t watch these racist films together as a family and then discuss the racism as a teachable moment. She just laid down the law. If she thought they were racist end of discussion.
Not that I didn’t watch an episode or two of Amos and Andy if she wasn’t home.
Five years ago I stood before 10,000 delegates of the National Education Association and argued for two hours (the longest debate in the organization’s history) for action by the NEA against public monuments to the Confederacy. It finally passed, but no action was ever taken by any NEA state affiliate to my knowledge.
The last couple of weeks have witnessed a sea change.
Racist monuments are falling all over the place following the Black Lives Matter protests of the police murder of George Floyd.
And, boy, have they been teachable moments.
“In two days, the British public have received more education about slavery than the entirety of their secondary school curriculum,” writes Aditya Iyer in the art blog, Hyperallergic, referring to the destruction of the monument to the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England.
Then there is the current fight to rename U.S. military bases that are named for soldiers of the Confedracy.
The generals are for it since they now seem to want to take any public opportunity to show they hate Donald Trump.
But the president’s outburst infuriated senior officials at the Pentagon at a time when the commander in chief and his top military leaders have already been clashing over how to respond to the street protests.
A number of people have said to me, “I didn’t know Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood were named after Confederates.”
A teachable moment.
Leaning into the argument, Ms. McEnany then expanded on the point, criticizing HBO Max for announcing this week that it has temporarily removed “Gone With the Wind” from its catalog over concerns about the film’s romanticization of the slaveholding South.
“Where do you draw the line here?” Ms. McEnany (Trump’s current press secretary) asked.
Mom knew where to draw it.