Promoters have billed Branson for a long time as Americana at its finest. They tout its squeaky clean image, music from days gone by, patriotism, Christianity, and traditional family values. Unfortunately, an altercation in a recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration has taken the focus away from the town’s apple pie and simpler times persona–at least temporarily.
Two rival groups held demonstrations in Branson recently. The event took place outside of Dixie Outfitters, a family-owned business that specializes in selling merchandise promoting confederate, Christian, Trump, and second Amendment themes. The company shared video footage on its Facebook page of an opening group prayer, followed by blaring music which appeared to be an attempt to silence Black Lives Matter protesters.
Things didn’t go well, particularly for one of the individuals who garnered a lot of national attention she didn’t plan on.
To BLM Protesters: I’ll Teach My Grandchildren to Hate You All
The woman, later identified as Kathy Jenkins, taunted Black Lives Matter protesters in a video that has gone viral. Clad in her “Make America Great Again” cap, Jenkins proudly waved the confederate flag, paid homage to the Ku Klux Klan, and assured protesters that she would teach her grandchildren to hate them all.
Ms. Jenkins may not have been prepared for the national backlash that was to follow. Consequently, she has since lost her job and moved away from Branson. Her new job, it seems, is an attempt at damage control.
She’s tested out several possible explanations. So far, none have succeeded in putting this matter behind her. Examples include:
In a video statement to KOLR10 in Springfield Jenkins explained her perception about the confederate flag: “I always thought it was about uniting people together, not dividing people. I didn’t understand that the confederate flag meant hate…”
KKK Issues a Press Release
The Ku Klux Klan published a press release on June 24 about the recent incident in Branson.
“It’s crazy people like this that give organizations like the Knights Party a bad name…It seems like the greatest hatred is coming from those that hate white people. Anti-racism is just a code word for anti-white.”
The quote in the press release was credited to National Director of the Knights Party of the Ku Klux Klan Thomas Robb, who’s based in Harrison Arkansas. Robb is the father of Nathan Robb, owner of Dixie Outfitters in Branson where the incident occurred.
Can Branson Bounce Back?
Branson tourism was already hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis; the area’s entire economy rests on entertainment, hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Business owners enjoyed a record 9.1 million visitors last year and Branson promoters are working hard to draw visitors back.
Unfortunately, this incident could further keep visitors — and their vacation dollars — from returning. Tourists may opt for a location where black lives really do matter.
In its own attempt at damage control, Branson mayor Edd Akers released a Proclamation promoting unity and condemning hate speech at a Board of Alderman meeting on June 23. Nonetheless, it didn’t assuage those in attendance.
The Mayor’s Proclamation is a good first step. However, Branson movers and shakers need to communicate in the strongest possible terms that there simply is no space for racism and hatred there. The city’s official government’s website bills as, “A Community Like No Other.” They need to work hard to make sure people view this as a positive thing.
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