This Has Got To Be Just Plain Wrong or Am I Wrong? Part 2


Back in January we discussed a lawn jockey I had seen. Back then I learned that “back in the Underground Railroad days these lawn jockeys used to signify a safe place. Sometimes those supporting the Underground railroad would tie a a green string around the wrist to signify a safe place.” But this one I passed last weekend doesn’t even look like a lawn jockey does it? Here’s the one I saw back in January:


So do you find this particular statue offensive?

37 Comment

  • If it’s in a black person’s yard, no. If it’s in a white person’s yard, yes. It’s pretty much that simple.

  • is it wearing cutoffs?

  • I agree with the SG but as an African American, I never understood why another African American would put a lawn jockey in their yard.

  • i think that first comment is a lot more racist than any statue… thinking like that is what propagates racism in the 21st century.

  • I have matching afro head bookends. Does that make me a racist. I think people need to define what kitsh is in today’s culture. Is it still considered tastless?

  • I’m black. I have seen black people paint them white. Is that also offensive?

  • No, christopher, a lot of it is about intent. It’s the same with the “N” word. If I (a white person) called my friend “whitey”, would it really be that offensive? I don’t think so… But if someone of another race did, then it probably would be.

  • I’m hoping it’s in front of an antique store.

  • thats ridiculous, and ridiculously racist. basically youre arguing for ‘seperate but equal’… as long as there is a different set of rules for each race, class, sex, whatever, we will never all truly be equal.

  • They look scary. Now I know what I’m going to be for Halloween!

  • SG Says:

    October 30th, 2008 at 11:32 am
    No, christopher, a lot of it is about intent. It’s the same with the “N” word. If I (a white person) called my friend “whitey”, would it really be that offensive? I don’t think so… But if someone of another race did, then it probably would be.
    What if the person is of mixed race? Does he get to choose if he can say the “N” word or “whitey”? Or can he say both? This all gets to be comical afterwhile.

  • Even if a black person calls another black person the “N” word, I think its either racist or just plain disrespectful for a number of reasons. I think the same of the term whitey (though no one has ever called me whitey, that I can recall). I don’t believe that using the N-word serves any useful purpose, and using it in any context just perpetuates the us v. them mentality that underlies racism in this town. The N-word serves to positive purpose.

    I agree with SG, though. We should look to intent. If the owner of the statue intended it to be racist, then the statue is racist. If not, then its not. At this time, we just don’t know enough.

  • christopher:

    Simply slamming the obviously legit point that SG makes is not making a point yourself. One can define racism any way they please, but if getting your ass kicked for mouthing off is any indication of crossing into some area of racist behavior, SG is completely on point.

  • The underground railroad aspect behind lawn jockeys is legend; these statues served as pop-culture (at the time–think aunt Jemima) kitsch.

    And it’s not ‘the same as the “n” word’. But, since we’ve strayed slightly, I have to side with george carlin, whose view is unquestionably accurate–though it will never be accepted by society:

  • These were considered offensive back when there was racism in America. Thank goodness for the “post-racial” society we all now enjoy. I know I do.

  • Those of you who favor the “intent” argument will then agree with me that I can raise the stars and bars in my front yard with immunity. Because it’s about southern heritage and not intended to be racist.

    See? If the argument doesn’t work both ways, it’s a not a good point.

  • Yes. You can raise the stars and bars, if the intent is not racist. Its not the Stars and Bars, its the “southern heritage” aspect that’s could be construed as racist. If “southern heritage” means publicly celebrating the fight to keep people enslaved, then yes, its racist. I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the southern heritage argument. Were the stars and bars around before the Civil War?

  • To quote Frank Zappa:

    “I’ll take a drive to Beverly Hills just before dawn
    and knock the little jockeys off the rich peoples lawns
    and before they get up I’ll be gone.”

  • Was Southern Heritage around before the Civil War? and what exactly is “southern heritage”? or how does the flag represent it? I’ve always thought flying the southern flag was a bit like someone in France wanting to fly the German flag in reflection of the German occupation. The singular thing that I can think the confederate flag represents is secession. I’m from the south and i still can’t figure this one out. Can anyone explain?

  • sg – your reasoning combats itself. i love history, and as a wanna be collector, i would love to have the piece in the picture soley for its historic value. im cleared and damned under the two thoughts youve posted. i agree with your second thought, that intentions are what makes most situations racist or not, but you cant believe that and still stand by your first evaluation that any white person with that statue would be a racist.

    the point about name calling, i dont get it. do your friends affectionately call you whitey? if so, then would a black friend calling you whitey be less sincere? i dont think any deragatory terminology should be tolerated within or across racial boundries… when it comes to owning a lawn jockey, i believe intentions matter…when it comes to calling someone a slur, is the intention ever not to harm? the meaning of a word doesnt change just because of the color or creed of the mouth it comes out of.

  • I believe that intentions mean nothing and the audience means everything. Which is to say that anyone should be able to say, “This offends me due to my history” but it becomes harder to say, “this is racist.” I was talking to a neighbor on her porch about 8 years ago. One of the guys on the corner called his friends by that word. They were not offended that he used that word. She was offended that he used that word. They were the same color. The offense was there, not along ethnic lines, but along class and generational lines.

    So it comes down, in many ways, to the display itself. I am old enough to remember unironic lawn jockeys on suburban walkways painted white. And this was in Maryland, with a plantation and horse racing history. Even a white-faced jockey was just weird. Putting one in DC and out of the suburbs DOES AUTOMATICALLY change it’s message, but the question is, how much does it change the message? Does it change it enough so that the majority of audience is offended or not?

    Having been called slurs, I promise you, Whitey is not one.

    How about “wet-dog-smelling ofay?” or more commonly, “Go back to Virginia!” or what I’ve been hearing for months now, “This is MY NEIGHBORHOOD!”

  • A lot of black people (including me) collect black memorabilia. Some of it is just really cute. The problem is that the collection has led to a thriving industry in reproductions, and I do worry a little bit about the fact that there are still factories turning out Aunt Jemima salt shakers and stuff like that.

    But lawn jockeys in general, eh. There are more offensive things out there, to me.

  • @yatrakarna – what you said is tantamount to calling all southerners racists. The point is that, no, you can’t fly the stars and bars. You might just be celebrating the fact that you’re from Mississippi, but other people will not get your “intent,” and presume you are racist.

    @pukka13 – you say you’re from the south but don’t understand “southern heritage?” Then I dont buy that you’re really from the south. Fairfax county is not the south.

  • To get away from the race issue for a minute…I wasn’t reading this blog in January, but between then and now I was curious about the history of lawn jockeys (must have seen one somewhere)…of course I went to wikipedia and one of the things they discussed were the two different types of lawn jockeys…the more eloquent type from Janaury and the more “offensive” type with pronounced features.

  • @RCR: I’m pretty sure that northern Florida (at the Alabama line) is the south. I don’t know where Fairfax county came from? Also, i can’t justify myself when you say that you ‘don’t buy’ it, since, like i said, i don’t understand what it is. [at the risk of turning this into a Clintonism, I am happy to continue after more explanation.]

  • While we are on the subject of distasteful and disrespectful lawn art (which is the bottom line here), were you all aware that the factory that manufactured the pink plastic lawn flamingos, that were so popular for so long, has been outsourced to China, taking jobs with it. I think that’s a sin. Can we please all gang up on some other group of people? We can no doubt find unity in that. How about Exxon Mobil, they posted record profits again. Have you also noticed all of those PR (public relations to be clear) commercial spots from the big oil and energy companies that are pretending they are heavily invested in alternative and renewable fuels – and right at election time. How stupid do these people think we are!?!?

  • This is silly…

    Those of you who choose to support or display symbols and vocabulary that are popularly known to disturb others without directly intending offence should be prepared to explain the cultural significance and reason for those symbols existence in your life to a hostile party without getting flustered when challenged about your expression of 1st amendment rights or cultural heritage.

    Those of you who are inclined to become flustered by such symbols should take a minute and recognize that your reaction is the only thing someone displaying these inflammatory symbols out of malice can take from you. By stifling an instinctive reaction towards anger you may bridge a cultural gap you hadn’t expected or at least clearly display your superiority as a individual of calm cognitive thought and understanding.

    Those of you who would like to beat the dead horse of predjudice for your own personal gain or public recognition should chill out and focus your nervous energy on something more deserving… tai chi perhaps.

  • reuben, I seriously hope you are being sarcastic – the tenor of your previous posts suggests to me that perhaps you are – but it’s important to keep in mind that there are any number of people who actually believe that, and I think it impedes our progress as a society.

  • I can’t believe that no one has mentioned that our football team is called the WASHINGTON REDSKINS. To me, that seems a lot more racist than some stupid lawn ornament.

    Might as well call them the Washington Whiteys, or Washington Wetbacks.

  • I’m currently living in self-imposed exile in Lexington, KY. These ‘statues’ are seen all over the place-Keenland Racetrack, large thoroughbred farms, small 1950’s era houses. There’s even a place the next county over that sells them, unpainted, and will paint them any color you desire, and according to the slack jowled local working there, they are a “big seller.” I remember seeing them while growing up in Atlanta in the 1970’s at friend’s homes, painted in blackface. Unless you are collecting them for historical significance, as was my African-American Studies professor at Univ. Alabama, I’m not certain why you would need/desire one.

  • You PC you 😀

  • Dear Lau- I was indeed being sarcastic. It’s just that I keep hearing this “post racial” riff. That and “get over it”..

  • Where is this located? If I ever saw some crap like that on public display, I’d smash that piece of sh*t into dozens of pieces. I’m thoroughly surprised that hasn’t happened already.

  • I don’t really get what these signify – like a Step-n-fetchit thing?

    Anyway, a lawn jockey is much less offensive than the decorative noose I saw hanging at a well-kept home in Roanoke in August (while canvassing for Obama).

  • The particular statute you are referring to – with the regal looking black face – I do not find offensive. The statute with the exaggerated bug eyes and sh-t eating grin is somewhat offensive because it appears to be an exaggerated caricature based upon racist stereotypes of what people of african descent are supposed to look like. Am I going to lose any sleep over it? No. And as far as I am concerned, you can fly your stars and bars wherever you want to – including over a state capital. It won’t change the fact that you lost the war.

  • It doesn’t look right. It looks like it’s been messed with since its original creation. Look at the level of paint decay on the body and then look at the face. I think it’s unlikely that these were both painted at the same time. I suspect the face has been repainted recently. So, whether or not it’s appropriate, it’s of questionable value if it’s purporting to be an antique.

  • Racial stereotypes were not uncommon a century ago is not respectable now, note old pictures of Al Jolson whose father was a rabbi in SW, I think this sculpture is based on a book of that era, S—-.

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