After being told by a few of her friends that her long-standing lawn ornament – a black jockey holding a lantern – was racist, a woman finally became fed up with the ignorance. In order to set the record straight, the woman has since written a viral Facebook post, explaining what the statue really means – and it’s blown quite a few people away.
Lawn ornaments are a thing of American culture – the most popular being things like the pink flamingos, garden gnomes, and the black jockey that is usually at the end of the driveway. As it turns out, Sandra Dee McNair has one such yard decoration, which she refers to as her “lantern footman.”
Although she hasn’t thought too much about having it up, it seems that her friends have commented a time or two about it. As outlined in her post gone viral, “I’ve had black people say you shouldn’t have that out that way ‘it makes people think you are a racist’ I laugh, or ‘its offensive to white people’ again I laugh and then explain what the significance of the lantern footman really is.”
Then, she let everyone in on the lesser known reality about what she claims the footmen really represents. She said, “I’m really amazed at how a lot of people don’t know the real meaning behind these statues, so they vandalize them, bitch about them being racist, etc. When the image of a black ‘footman’ with a lantern signified the home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.”
Although the custom was primarily seen in the northern states, the jockeys were eventually brought down south just after WWII, as people moved for various reasons. Sandra also states that the footmen were coded, based on what they were wearing.
She went on to explain, “The clothing of the statue was also coded. A striped jockey’s shirt meant that this was a place to swap horses, while a footman in a tailed coat meant overnight lodgings/food, and a blue sailor’s waistcoat meant the homeowner could take you to a port and get you on a ship to Canada.”
Sandra says that she actually laughs at those who say her ornament is racist, simply saying that they don’t understand what they really represent. Although they look at it and see a black man, Sandra says those who used to have these in their yards “were likely the LEAST racist” people of society.
Although Sandra’s claims about the lawn jockey have not been proven to the satisfaction of Snopes, historian and author Charles Blockson, who is also curator of the Afro-American Collection at Temple University in Philadelphia, says otherwise. “These statues were used as markers on the Underground Railroad throughout the South into Canada,” says Blockson. “Green ribbons were tied to the arms of the statue to indicate safety; red ribbons meant to keep going.”
It’s always funny to me when things that have a negative connotation actually have roots in something good. Ignorance can surely get in the way of things, and that has only been made clearer during recent times, as the entitled members of a society continue looking for a reason to claim “racism” and get offended. Lucky for us, there are folks out there like Sandra, willing to not only set the record straight but shut up those who don’t actually know what they’re talking about.