To the editor:
I would like to comment on Mr. Sylvester Courtney’s letter to the editor that appeared in The Central Virginian’s July 16 edition. I cannot remember when I read such a thoughtful, insightful, and meaningful letter.
Mr. Courtney, an older black man, refuted what is now considered racism. In six short paragraphs he identified Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, Brer Rabbit, Tar Baby, Amos and Andy, and little black girls playing with white doll babies as acceptable in his youth. He implies in his letter his dissatisfaction with “the messing” with the classics Gone With the Wind, The Simpsons and Song of the South and the removal of Traveler and Little Sorrel – Lee’s and Jackson’s horses.
Mr. Courtney, I thank you for your “from the heart” letter and your plea not to defund the police. I would welcome the opportunity to meet you and have us share our experiences over a cup of coffee. Maybe The Central Virginian can bring together those of us who still can discuss our lives and experiences without rancor.
As for myself, I am an 82-year-old white male; born in western New York, first-generation American of Polish heritage. In no way did I or my parents suffer the indignity heaped on our black brethren, but we did experience a bit of pushback. My parents were denied purchasing a home in an exclusive area in Niagara Falls. The Italian, Irish and Poles were the new immigrants and besides being picked on by others, we picked on each other with ethnic slurs. Of course, most of you remember the “Polish Jokes” of the 1980s that were commonplace and uttered by all segments of our society. The lesson I learned was: Do not attack others based on their race, creed or ethnicity, because words hurt. As for Uncle Remus, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, I love them all with joy, love and respect.
As I conclude this letter, I am struck by the intolerance that is being exhibited today by all segments of our society. Sixty-seven miles south of Louisa County is the small town of Appomattox where Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender was a “gentlemen’s agreement” where Confederates were not punished, executed, or imprisoned; they were sent home with their side-arm gun, their horse and provisions.
For his part, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction that allowed Southerners a full pardon, demanded an oath of allegiance, restored their local governments and freed all slaves. Today, we have political leaders resurrecting the Civil War, removing historical icons that define our history through troubled times, judging historical individuals using today’s mores and placing the blame of past injustices on today’s citizens.
Let us treat each other with respect and tolerance. Let us learn from our history, not destroy it. It is my hope that the views of Mr. Courtney and myself exist in the hearts and minds of most Americans.