A note on the below. Most of the tweets referred to in the tale have now been deleted from Professor Whitaker's Twitter feed. Thus they can be seen only imperfectly in the Cabinet's account. We are nonetheless leaving the post in place. The Cabinet believes in maintaining the historical record. As we think about it, the Cabinet exists precisely to tell the tale of effacement of the historical record. Usually we point to plagiarism's lamentable effects on the truth of both history and scholarship. Here, we set out to display a story that was about the misuses of the past, and thought we'd departed a bit from our original mission. But we've ended up once again displaying a story about the effort to hide the past. Our education at the hands of Professor Whitaker, rolls on.
Our story begins with ASU Foundation Professor Whitaker sending a series of outraged tweets. Each bears the same disturbing image: a lone flag flying at a local family-owned sports center, apparently in order to declare neo-Confederate allegiance. Professor Whitaker alerts a local news station:
He breaks the story to an Arizona Republic reporter...
He contacts a local morning news program....
And he urgently sends word to a local leadership development organization:
He also tweets the image to an(other) historian. You might keep that plot point in the back of your mind, as we continue with our tale.
Completely understandable outrage ensues.
Good-hearted people are repelled and spread the word....
Some seem to ponder whether the circle of responsibility spreads outward.
But then, there is an intervention. Has Barney Family Sports Complex chosen to reach back in time to display an 1894 flag?
So, it's the current state flag, not a throw-back. Hmmm....that seems relevant, somehow. And does it fly, as the tweeted image suggests, alone? A quick bit of investigation shows that Barney Family Sports Complex has flags from all around the nation and world decorating its walls. Could it be that Barney Family Sports Complex might not be the best recipient of our ire?
A contacted reporter corrects the historian about the flag and redirects the inquiry to the larger and much-discussed issue of Mississippi's self-presentation....which would seem to be what we should be discussing...
Is Dr. Whitaker concerned by his earlier error and its possible consequences for Barney Family Sports Complex and historical awareness -- after all, he let Missisippi completely off the hook? Does he ponder whether his Center's mission of "education" and "healing" might have been ill-served? Of course not. He redirects his indignation without breaking a sweat.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done.