Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

Seeing Race and Racism #3 “Look Up”

So HR (Husband Robert—you should know that by now!) and I ventured up to Atlanta this past weekend to see, believe it or not, the Atlanta Opera‘s rendition of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” Beyond fascinating, the opera focused not only on Jobs’ incredible technological accomplishments but even more on his nature as a flawed human, similar to all tragic heroes. And like each of us, I suppose.

Near the opera’s end, at Steve’s memorial service (you may remember that he died of pancreatic cancer), wife Laureen sang a cautionary song about the advice an evolved Jobs would perhaps give to the world: “Version 2.0 of Steve might say: ‘Look up (from your phones), look out, look around. Look at the stars. Look at the sky. Take in the light.’”

Of course, walking out of the Cobb Energy Center after the performance, many in the departing crowd were multitasking by seamlessly looking down at their “One Device” (including me, I must confess), while walking without falling.

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While in Atlanta Robert and I stayed at the incredibly beautiful Georgian Terrace Hotel on famous Peachtree Street.

The Georgian Terrace Hotel

The grand old hotel, completed in 1911, has hosted Presidents and other luminaries over the decades. (Btw, we got a good deal, and an upgrade—we always request them everywhere we go. Try it.) And one morning we learned, after grabbing our morning coffee and chocolate croissants on the hotel’s terrace, that the stars of “Gone With The Wind”lodged at the Georgian Terrace for the 1939 World Premier of the iconic movie.

Historical marker just off the hotel’s massive terrace

But hold on just a second. Our history lesson was about to take a somber turn. See the last sentence in the historical marker’s second paragraph? “Clark Cable, Vivian Leigh, and most of the ‘Gone with the Wind’ cast stayed here ….” Interpretation: the white actors stayed at the Georgian Terrace, not the black actors. The black professional actors did not stay at the Georgian Terrace because they were not allowed to attend the world premiere at nearby Loew’s Grand Theatre. The Grand was a segregated theatre in 1939.

Butterfly McQueen (“Prissy”) did not attend. Hattie McDaniel (“Mammy”) did not attend, even though she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Butterfly McQueen and Hattie McDaniel on the set of Gone with the Wind

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Here’s Robert, in front of the hotel’s very cool multi-level marble staircase, which Clark Gable, “Rhett,” probably traversed.

And here’s Robert on the 17th story rooftop (we bypassed the fancy stairs for the elevator), beside the pool.

Do you see that little bump in the distance, to the left of HR’s head?

To the far left in the photo below.

It’s Stone Mountain.

(travel channel.com)

Ever heard of it? Well, Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock (okay, that’s a mouthful). “The mountain is the world’s largest single piece of exposed granite. It weighs over a trillion pounds and covers 583 acres. Only about a third of it is visible above ground. It was formed completely underground and has been uncovered over millions of years of erosion.” (stonemountainguide.com)

It is also the home of Stone Mountain Park.

From the “Explore Georgia” website … “Stone Mountain Park is Georgia’s most visited attraction. With more than 3,200 acres, the park is a unique destination where guests can experience an exciting variety of attractions, entertainment, and recreation. Check out Sky Hike, the nation’s largest family adventure course in the treetops … The Lasershow Spectacular at Stone Mountain Park is the world’s longest-running laser show. Other attractions include Summit Skyride, Dinosaur Explore, Dinotorium, Historic Square, Farmyard, Camp Highland Outpost, Scenic Railroad, Great Locomotive Chase Adventure, Geyser Towers, golf, and museums.”

But there’s something else at Stone Mountain, something that’s kept pretty low in the advertising. “The largest high-relief sculpture in the world depicts hand-chiseled figures of the Civil War. At Memorial Hall, visitors can see the carving’s original designs, scale models, and an 11-minute feature film.”

The carving depicts three Confederate leaders: Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), Robert E. Lee (a general and overall commander of the Confederate States Army) and Stonewall Jackson (another Confederate general and one of the best known commanders after Lee).

But that’s all in the past, right? Old history.

Climbing up, 2021. ABC News

I SO agree with The Stone Mountain Action Coalition about the problem TODAY with the carving …

“Stone Mountain Park, a public park owned by the State of Georgia, is the world’s largest Confederate memorial and shrine to white supremacy. The Park is the birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan and was established as an official Confederate memorial by the State in resistance to desegregation and the civil rights movement. To this day, the Park’s prominent hateful symbols continue to cause pain and attract hate groups and violence.” (stone mountain coalition.com)

And with ideas about what could be done …

“The Stone Mountain Action Coalition wants to reclaim Stone Mountain Park from the state-sponsored Confederacy. We are calling for immediate changes including removing Confederate flags, renaming Park streets and features currently honoring Confederate and Ku Klux Klan figures, and advocating for new legislation to address the restrictive Georgia laws that require the Park to serve as a Confederate memorial.”

Stacey Abrams says it best …

“Confederate monuments belong in museums where we can study and reflect on that terrible history, not in places of honor across our state. Paid for by founders of the 2nd KKK, the monument had no purpose other than celebration of racism, terror & division.” (Fox 5 Atlanta)

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I’m married to a black man.

And even though we talk about all of this, I can’t truly understand his feelings and responses to it all. The horror goes back, way back, to the founding of our nation, built on the backs of slave labor. When all men were created equal.

Well, except for black folks. And indigenous folks.

States (including my own) are now passing laws making it illegal to tell what truly happened in our past, “Gone with the Winding” our racist legacy. “Protecting our children” from … truth. Here in Georgia, less than a month ago, misguided Governor Brian Kemp signed into law House Bill 1084, unconstitutionally banning free-speech discussions of “divisive concepts.”

cnn.com

Note #1: The celebratory revelers are overwhelmingly lily white.

Note #2: The location of the signing is Cumming, Georgia. Here’s another historical marker, this one in downtown Cumming, remembering the city’s and Forsyth County’s incredibly violent and racist past.

Question #1: Brazen insensitivity or purposeful symbolism?

Question #2: Why are So Many So Afraid of recognizing the significance of the year 1619? The year 20-30 enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia?

hampton.gov
In my old faithful study chair. With our newest read.

Question #3: Why keep the stone mountain hidden, obscured underground? Some things need to be uncovered, exposed.

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Maybe 2.0 Steve Jobs was right. We might be better off looking up, looking out, looking around, away from denial of what was, and in many ways, what still is.

Away from the racist carving near the base of the mountain. And up to the yellow daisies that occasionally appear on the summit.

Letting in the light.

New Georgia Encyclopedia
Martin Luther King Jr.

7 thoughts on “Seeing Race and Racism #3 “Look Up”

  1. Thanks for this Neal. It must have been such an emotional tour for both of you. I feel like the country is building new monuments to racism and misogyny rather than tearing them down. Fight on!

    Like

  2. Oh my. I just do NOT get the Confederate flag thing. How can people carry them like that? I am shocked. I find it hard to understand how people cannot see the error of taking out all the books that tell the truth,the history. I’m glad you wrote this post.even though I found it distressing to read. On a final note HR is a handsome fellow and I would be happy to meet both of you and sit down for a nice cup of coffee or tea and chat more about all this

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m currently re-reading William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner, so this post resonated with me more deeply than it might otherwise have. (Anyone who has a “Gone with the Wind” view of slavery, should read it.) Aside from making me weep for the ignorance and injustice of my fellow countrymen, I was exhilarated by the travel journal. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Neal and Robert for reminding us that our country’s racist history is still present, that we cannot yet rest while the truth cannot be told in Georgia and nationwide. Thanks for the photos to exemplify the issues you are discussing. Dr. King’s words were especially poignant in that context.

    Liked by 1 person

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