Every parent loves to go watch their child sing at a vocal recital. Many such parents were at Springfield Middle School’s fall concert when the middle schoolers started singing a song with a troubled past and offensive message that left them in shock. The parents were surprised to hear their children start to sing the song Cotton Needs Pickin’, Just days before, some students from the district had gotten in trouble for hoisting a Confederate flag. That incident, coupled with the offensive song, left parents in a rage. Many of them walked out in protest. One parent of one of the students, Nicole Maulsby, recorded the incident and posted it on Facebook for the world to see. Maulsby’s husband, Alonzo, is African-American, and he was so offended that he was one of the parents that walked out of the auditorium during the performance.
Maulsby contends that the song was obviously sung with racist intent. The song does portray people joyfully picking cotton which led Maulsby to see the song as celebrating slavery in the Old South. Most of Maulby’s friends and others who saw the video on Facebook agreed with her. They interpreting the song as an attempt by some of the teachers at Springfield Middle School to send racist messages and whip up support for white supremacy in their community. The Springfield Schools superintendent, however, vehemently disagrees. Matt Geha, the superintendent, denied that there was any racist intent in performing the song. He says that the song was picked from a songbook of American folk songs. He also notes that neither he nor any of the other administrators had received any complaints following the live performance. He was, however, alarmed to see the sheer number of complaints that popped up on Facebook after Nicole Maulsby posted the video of the performance. Geha says that the song was only used because it fit the historical component of choir curriculum that is required by the school.
Others were not persuaded by Geha’s defense. Some have claimed that Geha is merely blaming the choice of song on the school’s curriculum. Whatever the reason for the song’s being picked, Maulsby thinks that choosing it was unwise given the rash of racial incidents that the community had been embroiled in. In addition to the incident with students hoisting the Confederate flag days before, there was also the matter of some youths from the organization Young Life who had sparked controversy by posing with the Confederate flag a month before the concert. The youths had also posted social media videos of themselves using racial slurs. With all of this going on, it probably would have been prudent for the school to avoid singing Cotton Needs Pickin’ at their concert. With so much tension in the community already there was no need for another incident to heighten those tensions. Whatever the intentions were in choosing the song, it is undeniable that the performance raised the temperature even further in an already heated community-wide debate. There is no end to the discord insight.