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I am the proud creator/instigator of the “Respect Rappahannock” signs. I first saw the sentiment on a similar sign down in Chincoteague, that lovely old fishing village on the Eastern Shore, which is now overwhelmed by developers and tourists.
I remember Chincoteague “back in the day,” when it was truly charming, down to earth, and in a commonsense way, “real.” So I got a kick out of the sign, and whipped up a Rappahannock version of it. I had a hundred or so printed, and they were gobbled up in a day or so, so I had another batch printed and the same thing happened. I find them to be whimsical and absolutely inoffensive,
Having read (in the “Rapp News”) some of the recent vitriolic over-reaction to the signs, I am beginning to think that they have become something of a Rorschach Test for folks who can project all sorts of unintended dark motives to the message. These “snowflakes” seem to see themselves as endangered victims who are being threatened by some evil cabal of bigoted locals. That is true “bizarro” thinking in my opinion. Get a grip, y’all. And if the shoe fits, wear it.
The purpose is to suggest, in a tongue in cheek way, questions that some of the folks who come here, pulled by the captivating appeal of this disappearing part of our Blue Ridge paradise, might want to ask themselves: (a) how have the local folks managed to protect a place like this against the avarice of developers? and (b) why is this vigilance a very fine thing that needs constant support and protection?
Well, the vigilance is necessary because there are indeed schemers and shortsighted individuals who wish to turn this bucolic rural area into a trendy and fashionable suburban playground community of D.C. hotshots. Others convince themselves that their motives are entirely altruistic, and that good just naturally flows from them. But, since some truly wish to change the natural ambience and culture of our community such as this, they are finding a natural and inevitable “Rappahannock Resistance.”
The responses that bothered me most in the Rappahannock News were those from Andrew Evans of Sperryville, whom I don’t know, and Henry Gorfein of Washington, with whom I have been friends since the last century. Both of these citizens read the sign and somehow decided it was likely the work of a racist bigots. They are sadly deluded. Clueless, in fact.
The folks who put up those signs are as far as one could be from bigotry and hatred. Most of them are of families that have been here for generations, and are too polite to tell these newcomers how they really feel. So they say it in an understated way. But some “enlightened” individuals can somehow contort it to convince themselves that it smacks of the KKK.
Well, since I am the one responsible for the signs, I would like to point out that I grew up in a railroad shack without electricity or indoor plumbing, and that we were the only “white family” in Sugar Hill, which was an all African-American neighborhood on the freight yard docks of Portsmouth. So I knew more Black folks by the time I was five years old than most people meet in their lifetime.
During the civil rights movement in the South, I was arrested at sit-ins, sucker punched, shot at, and spent a lot of time in jail. In Atlanta, I befriended John Lewis, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Julian Bond, and the King Family. I was elected to Congress with an overwhelming majority of the Black Vote. I am a founding sponsor of the MLK Memorial on the National Mall, and a life member of the NAACP. I am also a life member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Mr. Evans implied that the language of the sign is akin to the KKK. That is sickening and pathetic, especially from a man who makes his living as a writer. With one letter to the editor, he became a poster boy for arrogant assumptions about Southern culture and heritage, even while claiming an ancestor from 17th Century Jamestown. He is a Mormon from Utah who is suddenly an expert on the American South.
I also had a 17th Century ancestor from Virginia. His name was Gabriel Jacobs, and he was born around 1650. An African slave, he was freed by John Custis in 1690. Gabriel’s progeny over the next several generations went to Southeastern North Carolina, where they prospered and multiplied. In the swamps and the sandhills, they intermarried with white, black, and Native Americans in what sociologists now call “tri-racial isolates.”
By the 1820’s many of the Jacobs family were considered to be “Caucasians.” And in 1862, a young “white” Confederate soldier also named Gabriel Jacobs was killed at Frayser’s Farm, on the last day of the Richmond Campaign.
Gabriel’s sister, Annie Jean, married Harley Jenrette when he got back from the War. They were my mother’s great grandparents.
So, spare me the “woke” rhetoric about open-mindedness and diversity and inclusion and all the other cliches. I have lived a life which you guys could not begin to imagine and I’ve got the scars to prove it. And if anyone is the bigot in this discussion, it is those who wish to label the good hearted people here who genuinely care about the future of this County as racial bigots. So I must reluctantly say, “shame on you, Andrew Evans, and shame on you, Henry Gorfein.”
The writer lives in Harris Hollow