|FRC's Tony Perkins addressing a white supremacist group|
Having followed a number of "Christian" organizations - many of which are designated hate groups - for many years, one constant under current one finds in these organizations is racism and white supremacist yearnings. This holds for American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and, here in Virginia, The Family Foundation. Racism is a twin pillar with these organizations hatred towards gays. It's all part of a mindset that America belongs to white conservative Christians and that everyone else is unwelcome. While the "Duck Dynasty" brouhaha has focused on the homophobic statements of Phil Robertson, blatant racism and an effort to promote the myth of the "happy and fell treated Negro" was prominent as well. These fundamentalist simply put are NOT nice people. A column in the New York Times looks at the racist element of the controversy. Here are excerpts:
I must admit that I’m not a watcher of “Duck Dynasty,” but I’m very much aware of it. I, too, am from Louisiana, and the family on the show lives outside the town of Monroe, which is a little over 50 miles from my hometown. We’re all from the sticks.
So, when I became aware of the homophobic and racially insensitive comments that the patriarch on the show, Phil Robertson, made this week in an interview in GQ magazine, I thought: I know that mind-set.Robertson’s interview reads as a commentary almost without malice, imbued with a matter-of-fact, this-is-just-the-way-I-see-it kind of Southern folksiness. To me, that is part of the problem. You don’t have to operate with a malicious spirit to do tremendous harm. Insensitivity and ignorance are sufficient. In fact, intolerance that is disarming is the most dangerous kind. It can masquerade as morality.
I don’t want to focus on the employment repercussions of what Robertson said, but on the content of it.
In particular, I want to focus on a passage on race from the interview, in which Robertson says:
While this is possible, it is highly improbable. Robertson is 67 years old, born into the Jim Crow South. Only a man blind and naïve to the suffering of others could have existed there and not recognized that there was a rampant culture of violence against blacks, with incidents and signs large and small, at every turn, on full display.“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. ...They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! ...Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Louisiana helped to establish the architecture for Jim Crow. First, there were the Black Codes that sought to control interactions between blacks and whites and constrain black freedom. The Jim Crow Encyclopedia even points out that in one Louisiana town, Opelousas, “freedmen needed the permission of their employers to enter town.”Then, in 1890, the State Legislature passed the Separate Car Act, which stipulated that all railway companies in the state “shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races” in their coaches.
Robertson’s comments conjure the insidious mythology of historical Southern fiction, that of contented slave and benevolent master, of the oppressed and the oppressors gleefully abiding the oppression, happily accepting their wildly variant social stations. This mythology posits that there were two waves of ruination for Southern culture, the Civil War and the civil rights movement, that made blacks get upset and things go downhill.
Furthermore, Robertson doesn’t seem to acknowledge the possibility that black workers he encountered possessed the most minimal social sophistication and survival skills necessary to not confess dissatisfaction to a white person on a cotton farm (no matter how “trashy” that white person might think himself).It’s impossible to know if Robertson recognizes the historical resonance and logical improbability of his comments. But that’s not an excuse.