Something You Don’t See Everyday: A White Lawn Jockey


As I was driving to Creation Fest last week, I saw something I don’t see everyday.

Yeah, one of them.  And it was white to boot. 

I have very mixed feelings about lawn jockeys.  I did a quick Wikipedia review, and my confusions were echoed there as well.  The article was saying that essentially that black lawn jockeys were really a symbol of refuge for slaves on the Underground Railroad  depending on a different colored ribbon tied on the ring held in the hand of the jockey.

Sorry, I don’t buy into the myth.

When whomever thought it was “cute” to exaggerate lips, and darken skin color is a fool and have fooled themselves and the rest of world into thinking that this was a good thing.  I’m not doubting the good intentions of those who participated in the Underground Railroad (although the road to hell is paved with good intentions) who sported a black lawn jockey on their front yard, but for those that kept them in their lawn well into the 20th century and are of a skin and cultural persuasion that is not African American, then we have a big problem.

It hearkens back to this notion of being culturally aware but being culturally insensitive.  Most people are aware of the history behind the lawn jockey and many other things that are racial flashpoints, however many people aren’t sensitive to how others may perceive such racial and cultural incendiaries and just how offensive they may be.

Personally, I’m offended when I see a lawn jockey and it echoes of an era, not where this lawn jockey may have been a beacon of hope in a dark situation, but rather was a symbol of the entrenched racism and prejudices that pervaded the lives of millions living in this country.

Per the Wikipedia article, I wonder if the lawn jockeys that I saw, I counted three as our bus passed through the village of Shirleysburg, Pennsylvania (clearly this was Hillary Clinton territory, Obama didn’t even stand a chance in places like this), were in fact formerly black and now painted white.

Interestingly enough, when our bus passed back through this town four days later, I didn’t see nary a lawn jockey–white or black.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL


12 thoughts on “Something You Don’t See Everyday: A White Lawn Jockey

  1. Though I know nothing about this topic, I would imagine that the very reason that Negro Lawn Jockeys were used by those supporting enslaved efforts to free themselves via escape was because they were so very … racist. In a society dominated by racism, what better way to camouflage good intent? I sincerely doubt the users of the lawn jockey were promoting their own racist beliefs. Rather they were more than likely using a pre-existing emblem, then enhancing it with a clear sign (the ribbon) to guide people to their abodes.

    A thing’s use and its cultural significance and manifestation are probably two different things here. I also seriously doubt that people who helped to set up the Underground Railroad would have used a symbol that did not fit into a racist culture for fear of being.. well, uncovered.

    So I would guess the Lawn Jockey came before its use as a symbol to people trying to free themselves and this usage has become confused with what it represents. Which is racism.

    It is similar to those touting the Confederate Flag down here in Richmond, Virginia, who say that it represents their great grandfather’s participation in said war. Bullshit. Find another way of showing your pride, and one that will not remind people of an egregiously painful and abusive past that reverberates when one human being condemns another to bondage for profit.

    1. Your both wrong in assuming all are raving racist! My jockey is very old and has good security! We value it very much!

  2. Hi there,
    White lawn jockeys are common in areas where there is thoroughbred racing. In fact, most lawn jockeys today are sculpted with decidedly caucasian features. It is no more considered a racial slur to have a jockey painted in the stable’s colors standing in the yard than it is to hang a flag with one’s NFL team logo. While I do not deny past prejudices have been associated with lawn jockeys, today’s models are quite far removed from that horrific stereotype.

    FWIW, horse racing was the first integrated professional sport. Fifteen of the first 28 Kentucky Derby winners were ridden by black jockeys, and five winners had black trainers.

    1. @skipaway2000

      I think seeing a lawn jockey, black or white from the perspective of black history in this country is the equivalent of seeing a Rebel Flag flying on the back one’s pickup truck or the front of their house. While the owner may justify it as being part of their heritage and that it instills a sense of pride, it still harbors deeply negative feeings for blacks. It’s very apparent that history is always told by the victors and not the victims.

    2. Black jocks and even trainers were at one time…until purses increased.. the norm in racing. I see nothing wrong with black, brown, white or tranny lawn jockeys. Isn’t there something more important you can complain about??

  3. Hello,
    It’s just a concrete painted statue resting
    upon someone’s recently mowed lawn. It
    doesn’t rationally represent anything more
    than garden Knomes. And if someone places
    a garden knome on their front lawn, are we
    to believe it represents a satanic cult?
    In our time of economic, moral and environmental failures, perhaps we should
    be working our brain a bit harder to examine
    how we as a society are going to drag
    ourselves out from this mess that we have
    created. So please remember, it’s just a
    lawn jockey.

    1. Thank you for a well thought out comment. I’m white, and have a black lawn jockey displayed outside my garage. I admired this as a little boy when it adorned my grandmother’s walk way , the only outdoor light on her long driveway. It was gifted to her by her daughter when the house was built. Black men were jockeys and horse groomers in the last century, even winning the Kentucky Derby, more than once. I can’t see why people are offended at racial caricatures, is their self esteem so low that a cartoonish representation of someone like themselves emotionally damaging to them? Are these people that intellectually and emotionally frail? Seems they need the grow a set.

  4. Here is the history of Jocko…

    If you think there is some sort of conspiracy going on to re-write history, then I feel sorry for you because you’ll probably spend the rest of your life being pissed out at white people…Get over it!

    FYI..I collect these items for their historical value. If you would rather have them all destroyed, then you would be destroying a part of our history as Americans.

    1. @ Patrick

      If you’re of the belief that the mere use of lawn jockeys used on the Underground Railroad redeems the caricature-like nature of enlarged lips and bulging eyes, then you’re the one who’s living in a dream world.

  5. I have one of these statues that I had taken from my grandmothers lawn shortly after she died. I have it simply as a memorial of her to the memory of going to her house as a kid and remembering it being there every time we pulled up her driveway. She was a devout Christian and not a racist. I never thought of the statue as a racist thing. Personally I think the topics completely overblown. Mine is painted white and always has been. Doesn’t matter to me either way what color he is though, I have many black friends and have been educated enough to know that color does not matter in the end. Based on the intentions of the first commisioned sample it should be judged as racist more so if they are not dipicted as a colored jockey as it gives credit of an important event in US history to the wrong race. Anyone who thinks these are offensive needs to look more into their history. Furthermore, some people just like them for their vintage nature and nothing more. Not everything is a statement.

    1. @Robert

      Thanks for commenting!!!

      While I understand your point of view and thank you for it, I’d have to contend that everything is a statement, whether it’s one we see or not. A study of semiotics would show that everything points back to something greater than what it is. There is a statement, even if it’s a benign statement that’s being made. And contrary to popular opinion, I’m really not convinced we’ve moved into a post-racial society where “color does not matter in the end.” I hope we get to that day, but that day is not today.

  6. A black lawn jockey is no more inherently racist than a white one. However, not all black lawn jockeys are created equal! It is the ones with out-sized lips and popping eyes that are racist, and these are not the traditional black lawn jockeys. The early ones represented the proud tradition of black jockeys who competed in the Kentucky Derby (many were winners) and other races, sporting the racing silks (custom colored and patterned jackets) of the horse’s owner. Black trainers were modeled in lawn statuary as well. The cartoonish, racist lawn jockeys came later. As for the Underground Railroad and Washington/Jocko tales, they are romantic myths. There is no historical evidence to support either story. Do your homework…

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