The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 October 2003

As opposed to "Uncle" Tom

Wake Forest University is wondering what to do about Doctor Tom.

Doctor Tom wasn't a real doctor; he didn't even play one on TV. In fact, inasmuch as he died in 1927, he never saw a TV at all.

Tom Jeffries was the maintenance man for the Demon Deacons for forty years, and a plaque to his memory was raised by alumni in 1933. When the new Wake Forest campus was built, a replica of the plaque was created.

None of this would be controversial except that (1) Doctor Tom, as he was known to everyone, administration, faculty and students alike, was of African-American descent, and (2) some in the university community have decided that the plaque "is a daily insult to Mr. Jeffries and every other person of African descent who walks onto this campus," in the words of Rev. Carlson Eversley, an adjunct professor at Wake Forest's school of divinity.

What should the university do? Eversley wants the plaque amended to show Tom's last name and an explanation on another plaque of why and how the omission of same is dehumanizing, complete with references to the practice as it existed in the antebellum South. Oh, and an apology from the administration.

It is, of course, fascinating how unpleasant memories from the pre-Civil War era are so easily evoked in people who weren't born until a century afterwards.

(Via Tongue Tied)

Posted at 12:12 PM to Dyssynergy

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Tracked: October 4, 2003 12:38 PM

You know, I'm to the point where I could give a flying Confederate flag whether or not the black community is insulted. I couldn't care less if this is insulting to them, hurts their feelings, makes them demoralized, or dehumanizes them somehow. Basically, all I want to say in response to this article is get over it already, live your damn life, and move on. This whole race issue is nothing short of a major pain in the ass and one that has gotten older than the size 2 jeans in my closet from when I was in college and listening to the Black Panthers ranting back then. And if this is a politically incorrect statement to make, then thank God I am a politically incorrect, insensitive, and inhumane monster. At least I'll call it like it is, not that I've ever been accused of reticence in expression of opinion.

Posted by: Vickie at 3:33 PM on 3 October 2003

Here in subtropical west Georgia, ladies are called "Miss" (first name) regardless of race. Unless there's something racial about calling him "Doctor" (first name), I think the university should tell the whiners to take a flying leap.

I've reached the point where I may just start asking people, "How can I possibly have offended you when I never gave a rat's *** about your feelings in the first place?"

Posted by: McGehee at 6:51 PM on 3 October 2003

What frosts me about this is that real racism, relatively uncommon but nasty enough to get people maimed or killed, might end up getting overlooked because so much attention is being given to piddling incidents like this or the absurd Limbaugh/McNabb dustup. (See Wolf, Boy who cried.)

Posted by: CGHill at 9:58 PM on 3 October 2003

Difficult to believe, isn't it? Unfortunately, there will always be someone who will (claim) to be offended by another's actions, either honestly or with the intent of using it as a basis for promoting their own views (which they assume could not possibly offend anyone else). I tend to think it is the second of these.

Has anyone bothered to ask Mr. Jeffries' descendants what they think?

Posted by: Woody at 10:09 AM on 4 October 2003

Woody, the opinions of actual members of an Allegedly Offended Group never matter -- only those of self-anointed spokesmen for same.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:58 AM on 4 October 2003

Too true!

Posted by: Woody at 2:52 PM on 4 October 2003