December 27, 2013

Racism, evangelicals and Duck Dynasty

I read this evening that A&E has decided to take Phil Robertson back after his brief and meaningless suspension.  His homophobia is, as the network decided, part of his "journey," and the duck people are really good people after all:

Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about,"
Yeah, whatever.  I have no problem with the fact that people evolve and change on their journey.  I also acknowledge that these people are probably decent people who do not intend to be homophobic bigots.  Their statements about gays bothered me tremendously, but I have to say that his statements on race bothered me even more.  I think because there is a theological argument (with which I disagree) that says that homosexuality is a sin.  But there is no theological argument (legitimate, anyway) that posits that black people were happy under segregation--as Phil Robertson suggested in his interview.

That aside, because I don't watch the show and won't be likely to do so in the future, the part that bothers me more than anything is that the denomination of my youth had the opportunity here for an easy little win on race.  They could have come out and stated that while they agreed with many of the family's views on religion and family, they could not endorse such racist thoughts about segregation.  It wasn't that hard.  But they decided to tribally back the duck people--because since liberals were mad at them, they must be doing something right.

The evangelical church lost me a long time ago, but it is this response on racism that really leaves me cold.  As I told several people, it is one thing for a white person to suggest that he was convinced that black people were happy in 1950s Louisiana--even though we all know that whites knew that blacks faced lynching for any transgressions outside white supremacy.  Phil Robertson knew that blacks were lynched.  He had to know.

But even if we somehow give 1950s Phil a pass, we can't excuse a grown man of today still suggesting that as fact.  He is either in deep denial or one of the most monumentally stupid people in America.  (Perhaps he should run for President under the GOP?)

What bothers me most is that I know full well that this repeats a long repeated lie for white supremacy.  During Slavery, the South insisted that their "slaves were happy," and were, in fact, happier than those northern immigrants.  During segregation, they repeated the same lie--that "their blacks were happy and understood their place."  We all know that was a lie, and we saw Southern blacks put their lives on the line (literally) to oppose segregation.
I’m reminded of these words from James Baldwin’s essay “A Fly in Buttermilk”: 
“Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see.”
That conservative evangelicals cannot see this makes me sad.  This was easy.


steves said...

I guess it bothers me more that while this faux controversy was happening, congress re-upped the NDAA and we have all this stuff going on with NSA wiretapping and people seems to get more bent out of shape about a reality star. I am not excusing what he said, but I have a hard time believing that this wasn't some kind of elaborate publicity stunt.

Streak said...

Yeah, my point wasn't really about the reality show either, but I do believe that those kinds of sentiments on race have real life implications on public policy.

steves said...

Good point. I also found the race comments more cringeworthy.