29 March 2014

Please Remove The Beam From Your Own Eye - You've Got Plenty To Keep You Busy In Your Own Backyard

State Flag of Mississippi
Image source
History blogger and Bostonian Kevin Levin recently posted comments about his anger at having to look upon the Mississippi flag while visiting a courtroom in the Magnolia state. Once ensconced back in the familiar enclave of Boston and safely behind his keyboard, Levin demanded that Mississippi "Take It [the state flag] Down!" 

Uh-huh. I can't help but wonder why Kevin didn't express those sentiments while in the courtroom, when his anger and emotion were fresh, as he described it: "Sitting in that courtroom on Wednesday, however, left me feeling enraged." And I'm not sure why Kevin had to travel all the way to Mississippi to get enraged over what he views as racist symbolism. He could have just hopped across state lines to Rhode Island and gotten "enraged" by walking on the campus of Brown University, named after a slave-trading New England family. Perhaps that's too close to home. The backwater ignorant Southerners of Mississippi are a much easier (and safer) target than the academic elites at Brown.

Of course, I'm not the first person to see the hypocrisy of New England elites. The subject of Brown University's namesake and history has been a controversy for some time. Back in 2009, Brown University decided to rename the Columbus Day holiday, "Fall Weekend." No, I'm not kidding. As an article noted at the time:

Proponents cited Christopher Columbus' enslavement and violent treatment of Native Americans, and argued the name of the Italian explorer should be expunged from the day of celebration.
But some were quick to point out Brown's hypocrisy; as the '09 article points out:
Brown’s founder, the Rev. James Manning, was a slave owner who accepted donations from many slave owners and traders, including the Brown family. The four Brown brothers, a wealthy family from Providence, made their fortune in part by trading slaves.

John — the second born — was the college's treasurer and used slave laborers to construct campus buildings, including University Hall. Eldest brother Moses — supported by family money — freed his slaves and became an abolitionist, as did his nephew, Nicholas Jr., who became the university's namesake.
One observer cut to the chase of Brown's double-standard:
"If you're going to get rid of the day honoring Columbus because he was involved in slavery, I don't see how you can bypass the Brown problem," said John Leo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "They have to be consistent with their message on slavery. And if they’re not willing to do that, then there's no reason to take them seriously."
Yes, consistency and being taken seriously is becoming quite a problem with those offended by certain symbols and symbolism - especially if those symbols are in the South. Folks are beginning to laugh at the silliness and hypocrisy. A representative of the Sons of Italy also pointed out the slippery slope involved in singling out some symbolism and symbols, while conveniently ignoring others:
Raymond Dettore Jr., national historian for the Sons of Italy, said Brown's decision to drop Columbus is "laughable" and has damaged the university's reputation among Italian-Americans. Brown's "intellectual escapades" should not stop until the school's name is changed as well, he said.

"If they want to be consistent, that's exactly what they should do," Dettore said. "If Columbus Day was offensive to Native Americans, is a slave trader offensive to African-Americans?"
But those on the left are always rather selective about what is offensive and what needs to be changed. They criticize anything named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest because of his association with the Confederacy and the slave trade, but are quick to embrace an award (as Nancy Pelosi recently did) named after eugenist Margaret Sanger

Yet even more interesting to note is that Kevin seems to be suggesting some type of correlation between the symbolism of the Mississippi state flag and racial inequalities within that state's judicial system:
. . . all I could do was stare at the judge’s bench with “Justice” engraved on the front and the Mississippi state flag with its Saint Andrew’s Cross. . . . We met in a courtroom. Once again, our discussion returned to racial inequities in the system.
But Kevin didn't need to enlarge his carbon footprint by traveling all the way to Mississippi so he could blog about racial inequalities in that state's justice system. As a 2007 report from The Sentencing Project highlighted, racial inequalities in state justice systems are much more predominant in the Northeast than they are in the South:
States with the highest black-to-white [incarceration] ratio are disproportionately located in the Northeast and Midwest, including the leading states of Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin. This geographic concentration is true as well for the Hispanic-to-white ratio, with the most disproportionate states being Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey;

The last time I checked, none of these states displayed a Confederate flag in their courtrooms. Of course, I may have missed something, but I don't think so. Massachusetts' black to white incararation rate is currently more than 8 to 1, New Jersey's is over 12 to 1 and Rhode Island's is almost 10 to 1.

Mississippi actually falls  below the national average in disproportionate incarcerations by race with a black to white ratio of almost 4 to 1 - less than half of the New England states named above, as well as many others. (View the interactive map here.) While I applaud anyone addressing government injustice in our judicial system (I witnessed it first hand while serving as a Virginia magistrate for 12 years), it would appear that Kevin's outrage is misdirected and not based on current realities.

Once again, the obvious hypocrisy seriously damages the credibility of those who constantly point to the South as bearing the burden of America's racial problems. And some wonder why so many Southerners can't take busy-bodies like Kevin seriously. In many cases, they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. These elites often focus on symbolism over substance; an emotional (and often agenda-driven) analysis of history and facts. Preconceived notions do die hard.

The issue of the Mississippi flag is Mississippi's business and, in 2001, they voted by a two to one margin to keep the Cross of Saint Andrews as part of their flag - in large part because many saw the controversy being orchestrated by others from outside the state. Even in predominantly black counties, the flag issue simply did not translate into the outrage some believed it should.

If Kevin wants to demand removal of the Mississippi flag from government buildings, fine. That's his right. Nonetheless, he will be unable to avoid being viewed as little more than yet one more meddling, hypocritical, busy-body elitist who can't seem to see the beam in the figurative eye of his native New England. He's got plenty to be enraged about in his own backyard.


ropelight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The Richmond Daily Dispatch has some real interesting articles relating to the 'state' flags and confederate flags, especially between Dec. 1860 and July 1861. After Manassas, the articles switch over to white flags of truce.

The Daily Dispatch: June 15, 1861.
Federal outrages in Alexandria.

To the Editor of the Dispatch:--Having just escaped from the vicinity of the "vandals" now occupying Alexandria, I cannot forbear giving you a few items with regard to their conduct and actions there, hoping. it will not prove uninteresting. Soon after the Federal troops took possession, Col. Wilcox, who by the death of Ellsworth was left commander of the whole forces, issued a famous proclamation, offering protection to all private property belonging to peaceful citizens, and declaring his intention only to be the "putting down of all unlawful combinations." ...

!" They then proceeded to break into private houses and search for arms, Southern flags, &c. No house was sacred from their intrusion — stores were broken into and valuable property stolen. People actually buried their silver, their flags and arms, rather than let them fall into the hands of these ruffians ...

But the Seminary proving rather a quiet locality, and finding time to hang heavy on their hands, a party of these valiant Michiganders suggested for amusement the capture of another Southern flag Accordingly they sailed forth about five miles from Alexandria, and come upon a lonely country house, which they stormed and took — fortunately "no one was hurt. " It being rather early in the morning, (the favorite hour of the Lincolnites,) the poor man of the house was not up, but was soon roused.--His flag they wrapped around him, made him walk barefoot to Alexandria, and then trample on it. ...

Anonymous said...

Compare to Martial Law during Reconstruction:

Important Order
Headquarters, Post of Grenada,
Grenada, Miss., July 20th, 1865


Sufficient time having elapsed since the surrender of the Confederate to the National forces for all officers and men of the late Confederate Army to procure citizen's clothing; the wearing of military buttons, insignia of rank, and distinctive badges of the late Confederate Army, is prohibited after the 23rd inst., within the limits of this post; except by paroled soldiers en route home.
The Provost Marshal and commanders of stations within the jurisdiction of this post are charged with the execution of this order.

By Order of W.S. Friesner,
Lt. Col. O.V.V.I. Com. Post.
J.T. Morrison,
Capt. and Post Adjutant

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

ropelight said:

Kevin Levin didn't need to leave Boston to find historical evidence of racial animosity. The 12 year long Boston busing crisis provides ample opportunity for his students to learn about race hatred.

Violent protests and riots engulfed the city in response to the 1965 Racial Imbalance Act, which ordered public schools in the state to desegregate. Bostonians refused desegregation orders and eventually, in 1974, the US District Court ordered compulsory busing of students from predominantly white areas of the city to schools with predominantly black populations.

White Bostonians were outraged and their widespread protests and violent public demonstrations (shown on TV) shocked the nation.

Boston's racial tantrum stretched out for over 12 years and resulted in a demographic shift in enrollments in the city's public schools. Significantly fewer white students enrolled in public schools (down about 25%), they went to private schools instead.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Rope - that's older history, but point well-taken. The more recent statistics and examples, I think, are more indicative of the rank hypocrisy demonstrated by some New Englanders like Levin. Nonetheless, a Google search reveals that Boston still has a reputation for being "racist."

D. Hill said...

I never quite fully understood what a pathetic character Levin is until now. Thanks for completing my enlightenment.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I don't know if he's intentionally ignoring the much worse issues in his own home state(s), or if he's just ignorant. Either way, it is so typical of NE elites.

Betty Giragosian said...

I am going to read this article over and over. It so daggoned good. I have recommended to Kevin that he read it. I commented on his blog a little while ago.
The beam in his own eye is so large, he can see only the problems down south.

But alas, he is a meddling busybody. I like that appellation.

Thank you for this wonderful masterpiece. I still wish i kn
ew how to get this on my FB wall.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that the great state of Mississippi and her citizens are thinking " if you don't like something about our flag, please leave and don't come back!"

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Betty. Thank you. I'm sure Kevin has read my response, but I don't expect any acknowledgement. The last time Kevin responded to something I posted, he ended up eating crow and deleting the post, something he publicly criticized another CW blogger for doing. Just more hypocrisy.

You can simply paste the url to the piece in your FB page. (Be sure and click on the title of my post first, then copy the url.)


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon - I doubt the kind folks of Mississippi would act like that, unlike the Governor of New York who wants everyone with conservative views to leave the state - he said so publicly.

Jubilo said...

Dear Old Dom.,
Mr.Levin has many good qualities but I fear the constant company of juveniles has retarded some adult judgment. Thus, he remains the "Kevin the Carpetbaggger," of Virginia infamy.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Jub. He's a man on a mission. Remember, it's social justice, not history. That's quite obvious for those familiar with Kevin's blog.

Moreover, as I point out in this post, if he was truly "enraged" about inequities in the justice system, he'd be blogging about his native New England. But New England is north of the Mason-Dixon line, so he ignores those inequities, or he's ignorant of them.

Kevin is loyal to the Pro-Union, anti-Confederate narrative. That's fine with me. My problem is his laughable claims of objectivity. If ever a post revealed that nonsense, the one of the Mississippi flag did.

Thanks for commenting!

Michael Bradley said...

No need to leave Boston to find reminders of slavery or racism. Faneuil Hall was partially financed by profits from slave trading and Harvard University has historic ties to slave owning. C. Vann Woodward, "Strange Career of Jim Crow", points out that the system of legal racial segregation began in Boston.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

No need to do so unless you're heavily invested in a particular perspective.

Good to hear from you Dr. Bradley - I trust all is well in Tennessee. Thanks for commenting.

Eddie said...

As D.H. Hill noted in a March 24, 1863 letter --

"A meddling Yankee troubles himself about every body's matters except his
own and repents of everybody's sins except his own. "

Things have not changed.

ropelight said...

Michael Bradley's comment caused me to take another look at Levin's grievance mongering. He's worked up over symbols he finds offensive, specifically Mississippi's state flag, which includes the Dixie Cross.

Symbols are one thing, but tangible evidence of the real thing is practically in his own backyard. The Royall family's slave quarters at #15 George Street in Medford are open to the public free of charge.

Incidentally, Isaac Royall Jr's dirty slave money founded the Law School at Harvard. Let's see if Levin demands that symbol of slavery be taken down.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I doubt it. If he can come South and become enraged over "inequities" that are half what Mass. and NJ are (in regards to disproportionate black/white incarceration rates), I doubt he's concerned. As I said, Kevin's worldview focuses on symbolism over substance. Facts don't really seem to matter.

Anonymous said...

These types of discussions can be educational.

It wasn't until I read about the case of Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave who was tried in Mass. and returned to VA, that I could see some of the abolitionist passion of that state.

When I read over and over the sentiments of Mass. in the Richmond Daily Dispatch and also the Official Records, I saw a consistent passion for the plight of slaves that could not be compared to any other state. Some of these feeling may be attributed to the case of Anthony Burns. From the Wiki article, notice this quote:

We went to bed one night old-fashioned, conservative, compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists. ”

— Amos Adams Lawrence, Conscience Whig, on the Anthony Burns affair, 1854.

Anonymous said...


I applaud you and your site. Kevin Levin is a politically correct, non-productive, teacher of elitist children. That's about the only attention he can maintain; that required through forced attendance of a one-percenter school(s).

Ron Walker

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Thank you sir. Kevin is most assuredly PC but I would not say he's "non-productive"; though what he produces is often a lot of PC jibberish and agenda-driven nonsense thinly veiled as "historical analysis."

That being said, I read his blog regularly and have learned quite a bit from his Northeastern elitist perspective. He does provoke thought and offers me an opportunity to reexamine my own thinking and sharpen my reasoning.

Yes, I consider him an elitist, but I don't think it's fair to classify the children he teaches as "elitist."

Eddie said...

" but I don't think it's fair to classify the children he teaches as "elitist." "

Considering the elitist nature of the recent schools which Levin has indoctrinated at and the exorbitant tuitions, it may not be wrong to classify the students as elitist.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Children's minds are malleable. I view Levi as an elitist, based on his own writings and views, but going to an elitist school does not necessarily make one an elitist (especially a child) any more than going to a dog pound makes one a dog.

"the exorbitant tuitions"

Elitism is not solely defined by income or class, though many elites are wealthy. I know wealthy, conservative families who send their children to expensive schools.