Racist Kich !?!

After Walmart and other retailers announced that they would stop stocking and selling items that feature the Confederate flag and related symbols, the news commentators on the cable news networks (or at least on CNN and MSNBC) began to refer to those items repeatedly and rather uniformly as “racist kitsch.”

“Kitsch” is, of course, pronounced exactly as my surname is pronounced, as you can see from the phonetic spelling of the word that is included in the definition of “kitsch” that Google provides:

Kitsch (kich)

Noun: art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: e.g., “the lava lamp is an example of sixties kitsch.”

Adjective: considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: e.g. “the front room is stuffed with kitsch knickknacks, little glass and gilt ornaments.”

There are many more people named “Kish” than “Kich” in the United States. “Kish” is the anglicized version of a Hungarian surname. As far as I can tell—and I addressed this ambiguity at least partially in a post that I made some time ago–“Kich” is the anglicized version of a Slavic surname. I believe that my ancestors were from what is now eastern Slovakia—or southeastern Poland, northwestern Ukraine, or northeastern Hungary. I believe that they belonged to the ethnic group variously referred to as Rus, Transcarpathian Slavs, and Ruthenians. One of the distinguishing features of this ethnic group is that, unlike the Roman Catholics to their west and the Russian Orthodox to their east, they were Greek Orthodox. But in researching the pre-Anglicized version of the name, “Kicz,” I have discovered that it seems to have been a somewhat common Jewish surname in that fairly remote if very war-scarred part of Eastern Europe. Regardless of their religion, there are now at least as many, if not more, people named “Kicz” in the United States as those named “Kich.” (Or at least that is the case if one focuses simply on those with European surnames. I have discovered that “Kich” is also a fairly common Cambodian surname, though I would not be at all surprised if the spelling is also the result of Anglicizing.) I suspect that at least some of those named “Kicz” may have been post-World War II refugees from Europe and that during that period, there was much less effort to Anglicize names.

In any case, as I watched the cable news programs, I became increasingly ambivalent about the recurring use of the phrase “racist kitsch.” On the one hand, I have to admit that it was a little unnerving to hear my name repeatedly preceded by the descriptive “racist.” On the other hand, the repetition did keep bringing my attention back to the issue, and I eventually began very curious about just how many items featuring the Confederate flag had been offered for sale prior to the backlash over the massacre in Charleston.

Having now surveyed the whole gamut of Confederate-themed products, I am tempted to say that perhaps they should continue to be offered for sale because only an extremist or someone with very dubious taste would buy some of these items individually—never mind make the flag the dominant theme of their home decor or wardrobe. Therefore, the presence of these items could serve as a sort of immediate, unmistakable identifier—much like those ceramic statues of Black liverymen at the ends of driveways that I mentioned in my previous post on this topic. But then I remembered that before the items were pulled from the shelves, the demand for them skyrocketed. Moreover, in skimming the Google search page, I noticed that many online sites seem to have sprung up, some literally overnight, in order to take advantage of the heightened demand for and more limited availability of these items. So, it does not seem that, at least for the time being, there will be any problems in people providing this sort of conspicuous self-identification.

In any case, here are a few of those Confederate-themed items:

Curtains—

Confederate Item 1

 

Shower Curtains—

Confederate Item 2

 

Doormat—

Confederate Item 3

 

Electrical Switchplate Cover—

Confederate Item 4

 

Cellphone Case—

Confederate Item 5

 

Beverage Can Coozie—

Confederate Item 6

 

Beer Pong Table—

Confederate Item 7

 

String Bikini—

Confederate Item 8

 

“Onesie” for an Infant–

Confederate Item 9

 

Parking Sign—

Confederate Item 10

 

This last one reminds me of the signs–“Private Property Keep Out”– that I have seen posted around some truly ramshackle homes surrounded by heaps of hoarded trash. As if most people driving by would look at the yard and feel an irresistible impulse to go clambering through it. When even the guys on American Pickers would take a look and then decide to keep driving.

And if any of this post seems too openly contemptuous, I will make a standing offer to issue a very public apology if anyone can provide evidence that any of those candidates from Southern states who are seeking the Republican presidential nomination have home decor that prominently features the Confederate flag. Those candidates would include Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and perhaps even Rand Paul and Jeb Bush. Any of those candidates can have the satisfaction of having made me publicly eat my words–while kissing any chance at the GOP nomination, never mind the presidency, good-bye.

 

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