Editorial: Short takes on St. Louis' flag and Aunt Jemima

Editorial: Short takes on St. Louis' flag and Aunt Jemima

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North Korea destroys empty liaison office with South

North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building just inside its border in an act Tuesday that sharply raises tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (South Korea Defense Ministry/Yonhap via AP)

Flag madness

It’s official: St. Louis has won March Madness. No, not the basketball tournament — that got blocked out by the pandemic — but the global competition for best city flag.

As the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Holleman reported this week, St. Louis’ eye-catching banner has reigned supreme since April over other American cities in the U.S. portion of the “March Madness of Flags.” Now it has beaten out Yaroslavl Oblast, a Russian federal district north of Moscow, for the global title of “coolest flag.”

Admittedly, the Russian city’s entry — a bear holding a battle-ax — is pretty cool. But the purveyors of the online worldwide contest (which winnows down competing cities using the same kind of brackets as basketball’s March Madness) went for St. Louis’ elegant entry.

St. Louis’ flag, created in the 1960s, is a red field divided by two converging blue and white lines symbolizing the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, joined by a fleur-de-lis harkening to the city’s French heritage.

Goodbye, Aunt Jemima

In a sweet victory for progress against racial stereotypes, Quaker Oats announced this week it will do away with the slave-based name and imagery of its Aunt Jemima brand pancake-mix and syrup. No doubt the grumbling choruses of the right will bemoan it as political correctness gone amok. But advertising of this kind should be offensive to anyone in a nation that has suffered so much from racial oppression and division.

The relatively modern-looking illustration of the black woman currently portrayed as Aunt Jemima on the packaging is an updated version of a grotesque caricature: the grinning, kerchief-wearing slave, perfectly happy with a life as someone else’s property.

As The New York Times noted, the founders of the 1889 brand went to the trouble of hiring a living ex-slave to portray her, with early imagery that included a slave plantation. The woman’s name itself is drawn from the title of a 19th-century minstrel song. This isn’t what America should be having for breakfast in 2020.

Incinerating democracy

Michigan’s secretary of state mailed out applications for absentee ballots to all 7.7 million of the state’s registered voters, so if they want to vote in November without potentially contracting the coronavirus, they can. It’s a logical approach to the dangers of the pandemic at polling places.

But a group of President Donald Trump’s supporters didn’t think so: They burned the applications during a public protest they called “Operation Incinerator” near Grand Rapids.

If the image of Americans angrily setting fire to applications offering to make voting easier sounds unhinged, consider their unhinged inspiration: Trump has falsely accused Michigan of sending out unsolicited ballots to all its citizens (they’re just applications, allowing voters to apply for mail-in voting if they want) in order to promote voter fraud.

There’s no evidence that mail-in voting promotes voter fraud — but it could definitely promote higher voter participation, and that’s what Trump is trying to tamp down. He has said plainly that he believes a smaller turnout will help him and other Republicans.

Justice (eventually)

An African American pastor in Virginia confronted a white family trying to illegally dump a junked refrigerator at an apartment property he owns. When the family surrounded him, assaulting him and slinging racial epithets, the pastor drew a legally registered handgun to back them off, then called 911.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived … and arrested the pastor, for brandishing a weapon. He was driven away in a squad car while the white family stood “waving at me” and continuing to shout racist comments.

Only after the pastor, Leon K. McCray Sr., told his congregation of the incident earlier this month did the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department last week issue a statement apologizing to McCray and saying all charges against him have been dropped. Five members of the family that had surrounded McCray were ultimately arrested and charged with felony abduction, assault by a mob and other crimes.

It’s far from being an all’s-well-that-ends-well story. McCray’s treatment, he noted, “would not be acceptable if I was white.”

Boom

North Korea’s leaders aren’t exactly known for their subtlety, but this is ridiculous. After diplomatic talks broke down with South Korea recently, it wasn’t enough for North Korea to just lock the doors and turn out the lights in the building where the talks had taken place, on North Korean soil. So they blew up the empty building.

North Korea — still technically at war with South Korea, though it’s mainly a war of words at this point — recently broke off diplomatic talks that had been conducted in a joint liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong, which had become a kind of unofficial South Korean embassy. The latest friction is reportedly over North Korean defectors, among other issues.

This would essentially be like the U.S. government kicking, say, China out of its U.S. embassy, and then, just for good measure, blowing that embassy up. Not that we’re trying to give President Donald Trump any ideas.

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