Aaron Cox-Leow’s 116-acre farm in rural Virginia has a penchant for controversial signage. She’s the third generation owner of Cox Farms, and the sprawling business has expanded and moved since her grandparents — “a bunch of hippies,” as she called them — began the enterprise in the 1970’s. Back then, according to the Washington Post, people used to get upset when they’d riff clever zingers on the family name. In the Trump era, though, opinions are so controversial that even signs admonishing the ugliest of ideologies are often weaponized to show disloyalty to the country. So she did what any self-respecting American in 2018 would do: she wrote a Facebook post that went viral AF on Saturday with over 15,000 shares so far.
In 2015, Cox-Leow put a “Black Lives Matter” sign in the window of the farm, famous in the region for their yearly Fall Festival. The local police union quickly reacted, threatening to boycott the farm’s “hayrides and pumpkin patches.” Recently, the sign read “Rise & Resist,” but was lambasted on Facebook for seeming like it was in response to President Trump, who, it seems, conservative voters still take seriously.
Her sister had an idea, though. “Maybe we should change ‘rise and resist’ to ‘resist white supremacy’…,” Lily Cox-Richard said. “That way, if someone takes a picture of one of our signs to post and says they are ‘saddened’ or ‘disappointed,’ they will be explicitly revealing themselves as the racist that they are.”
And this is where things went viral. Only an hour after the new language appeared, Cox Farms received a comment on their Facebook page from a disgruntled Rebecca. We all know one of those. “Whatever your own personal agendas are none us want to see them on display at a place we once enjoyed going to for tradition. It’s TRULY disappointing.” But Cox didn’t back down. Aaron’s got a psychology degree from Smith College in Massachusetts and she saw all the negativity as a chance to holler at folks.
So when Patty Weston Meizlish slid into her post to leave this remark, “Resist white supremacy is not an inclusive message, When you single out a group of people you exclude them. This is a sad message.” Aaron responded this way, “Yes, generally speaking, we are comfortable excluding white supremacists. If you know some who would be interested in dialoguing with us, please have them contact us!”
This continued through hundreds of messages. For example, look at Lisa here throwing a fit.
“So black supremacy is okay then? This is not a message of love, this is a message out to divide people even more. I would never ever visit your farm because you try to force your views on your customers. That is WRONG no matter what you say.”
And here’s Aaron’s response.
“Lisa, when we talk about white supremacy, we’re referring to a systemic racism that is much deeper and more pervasive than any individual or group could be. Black people do not have the institutional power in our society to benefit from so-called ‘black supremacy.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”
All in all, the positive responses far outweighed the backlash, even after hundreds of people tried to downvote her page through sheer rage. And Aaron explained what she was doing isn’t brave, it’s only natural.
“We are white people using our privilege and power to say something that should be obvious but clearly still needs to be said,” she wrote in a follow-up post, “and there’s nothing brave about that.”
Guys, this is how you ally!