Jesus Billboards and Confederate Statues – What do they have in common?

I was watching a short video about the history of Confederate statues. The video was very enlightening because the speaker traces how the Confederate flag and Confederate statues were not actually put up right after the Civil War; they were put up much later in the 1920’s and 1950’s when White Southerners were feeling threatened by Black people’s upward mobility and success. The Confederate flag had been largely forgotten until the Dixiecrat Party brought it back in 1948 to maintain segregation and Jim Crow laws in the face of upcoming federal laws to end discrimination. Confederate symbols were intentionally placed to establish supremacy for White people

In 1974, my family decided to drive down from Chicago to Disneyland in Florida which was a usual trip for many families. However, it did require a couple of roadside restaurant visits. I don’t remember exactly what state it was, but we walked into one restaurant and every person there stared at us as we walked in. If steely stares were knives, we would have been slashed a hundred times over.

My older sister (13) and I (12) knew what those stares were about, and we tried to urge my parents to leave. (We had just finished integrating our elementary school) Hey, we weren’t really that hungry. We tried to slowly back out of the restaurant while my parents argued about staying or going in their native language, Malayalam.

Bombings and murders over civil rights in the deep South had occurred just 10 years earlier. However, my Mom insisted that we stay because she always believed that people weren’t really racist. Any report of racism that my sisters and I voiced were always met with, ‘Well, they weren’t really racist, they were just mean”.

So we sat down at a table, my sister and I scared to death, but my Mom and Dad just started to ask for menus and we finally did get served. I had my first cinnamon toast at that restaurant, so one good thing happened there. Personally, I think they served us because my Mom was wearing her Indian dress and my parents were speaking in their native tongue, it was obvious that we were ‘just’ foreigners.

Well now with all the attention and discussion with Black Lives Matter, Confederate statues and systemic racism, my Mom is finally WOKE!

Every time I call her, she tells me something new that she is learning about racism, never mind that we had been telling her these things for years. When she had been discriminated against in her work and personal earlier life, she would just brush it off. In the context of her new awakening, she feels it is important to inform people at her Arizona senior citizen house parties that she attends that she had faced discrimination in the US. She is going to tell everyone whether they are a Democrat or Republican. She has decided to speak out!

Go, Mom, go!

However, I do have reservations, I am not sure what is more dangerous…going to house parties in Arizona in the middle of a pandemic, or speaking out about racism to Arizona seniors who are mostly Republicans. I remember when she told me that she was scared to tell people there that she had voted for Obama.

I was pondering my Mom’s new Wokeness as my husband and I were driving to Nelson again. We own a business there that we visit once a month, and I had noticed that a couple of years ago someone had put up two double sided blood red Jesus billboards in Grand Forks. Grand Forks is a really small town and we had been driving by or visiting it for the past 30 years. Only recently were these billboards put up.

So in my conspirator mind, I was thinking, have these signs been put up because there are now a lot of new Indian immigrants who have moved into Grand Forks. They have bought hotels, franchises and other local businesses. Is it because most of these immigrants are not Jesus followers?  A sign saying that Jesus alone is God, is similar to those Confederate statues declaring a certain type of supremacy.

Someone or a group of people must feel a need to exert their supremacy in the religion business as the new people aren’t following their god, so let’s stick it their face it seems.

Of course, I don’t really know the impetus for these blood red signs appearing all of a sudden. I would have to do an investigation and ask some people in Grand Forks. But I must say, it is a turn-off upon entering Grand Forks and for many people these are not welcoming signs.

by Nina