The Fourth of July is supposed to be a time where we gather with our friends and family to celebrate the birth of the greatest country the world has ever known: the United States of America. We grab a grill, some burgers, brats, and beers, and head toward the nearest beach or backyard. It's a day marked with parades and fireworks. For the small North Carolina town of Hope Mills, though, a racially insensitive float brought unwanted attention to their Fourth of July parade. The "White History Month" float was disgusting and has no place in any Fourth of July parade anywhere in the United States.
The float in question consisted of a John Deere tractor with a Confederate Flag, some watermelons, and a sign that read, "White History Month Hug WTE PPL." It was entered by local resident Donnie Spell, and according to the Parks and Recreation Department of Hope Mills, Spell told them the sign would read, "Watermelons for sale." Parks director Kenny Bullock said he requested that member of Spell's family remove the offensive sign, and was not aware that the sign remained on the float until the parade had started. The town has promised to review and change the policies regarding registering future floats in town parades to prevent this from happening again.
Now I recognize that the Southern Cross is a sign of pride for many in the south and has no connection to slavery. I can recognize this cultural difference. However, in this manner the flag is clearly being used as a racially charged symbol. Spell sought to bring about an argument on race via the flag. He also blatantly made a racial statement by including watermelons on the float, a long-standing staple of any stereotype of the African-American community.
Lastly, the sign on the float is specifically designed to ignite a racial conversation. Spell is looking to strike up the conversation that since there is a Black History Month, then there should be a White History Month. He thinks people should go around and hug white people — as if they're in need of being uplifted. A Fourth of July parade is no place to make a political statement.
Hope Mills must look into making the proper reforms to insure a message like this is not delivered again in their parades. There is a time and a place for making points and using your right to free speech. No matter how offensive his opinion may be, Spell has the right to express himself. However, the Fourth of July parade is not the place for this. It's a day to celebrate what bonds us as Americans, not a day that to expose and exacerbate the differences between us. In these days of hyper-partisanship, can't we have just one day where we focus on being Americans?