“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson is quoted in GQ. “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.”
MmmmmHm. You can almost hear the banjos and the singing happy black folks, thanking God for Massah’s kindness. If only them carpetbaggers and Jews hadn’t come down from the North with their newfangled ideas about civil rights and gotten them full of uppity ideas about entitlements. Everybody was Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniels, Mr. Bojangles, Stepin Fetchit and Amos and Andy in those days.
I particularly like, “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!” Yeeahhhh. See, here’s the thing about that whole “not saying a word” dealie:
So: defend if you like this guy’s views on the sinfulness of homosex. But don’t circle the wagons for him. He’s a rather average Christian from what Flannery O’Connor called the “Christ-haunted” South.
What is interesting to me is that A&E chose to get upset about the remarks on homosexuality, not these remarks. It speaks volumes about which demographic matters at the parties of the best and the brightest that networks execs attend.
Update: I’m getting interesting protests, even from some of my black readers, who think I’m calling the guy a bigot and who feel I’m being unfair to him. One of my black readers told me he was sick of demands for white people to abase themselves for crimes their ancestors committed. Another reader notes that the DD dude was only speaking of his personal experience.
To my readers: He didn’t have to abase himself. He merely needed to say that while he is perfectly aware that black people suffered grave injustice under Jim Crow, his experience was that they were all poor folk together who shared that in common and that it bound them together with real bonds of affection. He could say all the stuff about their courage and happiness and godliness (because it is no doubt true) without coming off as a heavily edited version of reality. I’ve never seen the show, but I suspect from what I’ve seen of his remarks that he is probably a very warm-hearted man without a drop of personal race hostility in his bones (I think of Robert Duvall’s character in The Apostle). But the fact is, his comments are absolutely going to read like an apologetic for Jim Crow and people who are supporting his remarks about homosex should bear that in mind instead of instantly making excuses for them. To give an accurate personal remembrance of life under Jim Crow that does not mention at all anything beyond one’s personal experience is to give an innaccurate version of life under Jim Crow.
I realize the guy is not a sociologist. Doesn’t matter. If you are going to slap his picture on your banner as the latest Christian Folk Hero to whom you will rally to oppose homosex, you have to be aware of the fact that those remarks *will* be read, not merely by sinister agents of the Gay Agenda, but by a huge swath of people who are inclined to agree with you, as saying “Jim Crow was no big deal”. Don’t shoot the messenger for pointing that bleedin’ obvious fact out.
“But you admit you’ve never seen the show!” Right. Exactly. That’s the point. It’s the people who have never seen the show who look at the spectacle of Christians a) holding the guy up on a banner while b) appearing to have no big issues with a statement that does look uncommonly like “Jim Crow wasn’t so bad.” The way to get the central message across (about the injustice of trying to muzzle his views on homosex) is, “Jim Crow was that bad and if that’s the subtext of what he’s saying I repudiate it. However, I think a case can be made that this is not what he is saying.”