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Paige Roberts: White People Need To Stop With The Cotton Field Pictures

“Southern snow” is not the ideal backdrop …

by PAIGE ROBERTS || Although it feels absolutely nothing like fall outside, the calendar has given us the go-ahead to do all the fall-like things we southerners get some strange spiritual-like experience from every year.

It pains me to give the pumpkin-spice market any more free mentions – but there’s that.  And the driving hundreds of miles to pose by an apple tree with a baby who can’t walk the field to pick them or even chew the fruit.

But there’s another new-found tradition that’s had me gritting my teeth for the past few years and it’s time I get it out: Why are white southern families obsessed with getting professional photos in the middle of a cotton field?

Let me go ahead and say, if you are a farming family and harvesting cotton is part of your livelihood, you get a pass on this.  No offense taken.

But for the rest of us who know nothing about the industry, there’s simply no sense in gathering your brood, GPS’ing your way through a rural county you’ve never visited, just to plop yourselves in the middle of a symbol of slavery, pain and tension for more than a fourth of our state.

A simple “cotton field minis” search on Facebook landed me a bale of eye rolling details about how this generally goes down.  Typically the photographer starts by asking the masses if anyone knows of a cotton field within a 60 mile radius and whether permission is needed to go there.  Then a family full of spray-tanned, made-in-China Rayon and Polyester fabric-wearing people gather there to smile in the “southern snow.”

(Click to view)

(Via: Getty Images)

What are you thinking?  The problem here is, you’re not

I know this because I’ve been there.  I was raised in a home full of cotton-pickin’ pictures on the walls.  It never fazed me in the slightest to think it was odd to pay homage to a scene of black people picking cotton as a white man stood in the distance, pointing to where he wanted them to pick next.  But I’ll never forget several years ago when I was  waiting for my coworkers to arrive to my new apartment for dinner and I did a final glance-over to make sure the place was in order.  My eyes went to two 5×7 pieces of art my mom hung on the wall; both which showed black people picking cotton. 

It was the first moment I ever realized I was participating in a pretentious, racist behavior that so many refuse to pause and consider.  My black boss was about to walk in my door- and I was nearly nauseous thinking what he would have witnessed and likely felt had I not taken them down. 

I’m ashamed of what southern cotton fields symbolize, and I’m thankful I had a moment in my life that that made me pause and realize what I was silently approving. And while those who haven’t experienced such a moment in their own lives are not necessarily bad people, they would do well to consider the impact their tacit endorsements have on others.

After all, the time we take to reflect on ourselves makes us better reflections for others.

Perhaps this read will bring someone else to such a place; and they’ll consider a sunset, pumpkin patch or sunflower field instead.  



(Via: Getty Images)

Paige Roberts is a here-and-there writer who grabs the pen when the mood strikes.


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