I will introduce this fascinating Comment of the Day by one of the blog’s masters of the long form comment, Chris Marschner, by saying that I think it is only tangentially related to the post, though he would disagree. Chris is writing about the history of “Dixie” and why it should not be associated with racism. Whether I agree with that analysis or not, the fact is that the public does overwhelmingly associate the song with a longing for the simplicities of the Old South, when the darkies were singing in the cotton fields and those Northern folks weren’t sticking in their noses where they don’t belong. This is the basis of an Idaho court’s decision to overturn the conviction of a black defendant after the prosecutor gratuitously and needlessly quoted the lyrics of the song in her closing argument. That decision was correct, because the issue is whether the comment could reasonably have been an appeal, or seemed like an appeal, or have had the effect of an appeal, to racial bias. I don’t think that conclusion is arguable.
Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury:
The prosecutor failed her client – the people- not because she used the words of an 19th century song but because she failed to come to understand that history and culture of the US has been so bastardized that even an appellate court has no understanding and context of the origins of the song and the history and culture of the south. And, because of its misunderstanding believes the lyrics to be racially prejudicial.
“Maybe Erica is so young, color blind and historically ignorant that she had no idea that “Dixie” has been played at Klan rallies and used as the campaign theme for states rights, segregationist, white supremacy candidates since the Civil War. Maybe she didn’t recognize the cotton reference as racial.”
This song was written by a northerner named Daniel Decatur Emmett and performed in New York in an 1859 minstrel show by Emmitt in blackface. The reference to cotton is geographic in nature because cotton represented the primary agricultural commodity and wealth creator of the southern states – nothing more unless one is predisposed to finding anything related to the antebellum south as racist
Many songs have been coopted by various groups but to suggest that lyrics of Dixie are inherently racial because they are used by White supremacists is faulty logic. If a white supremacist adopted the image of Leonardo D’Vinci’s David or Venus d’ Milo or other classical work of art on their flag that would not mean that any such depiction suggests racial superiority. Continue reading