The historian, John Hope Franklin, chaired a commission on race during the Clinton Administration. He concluded America could never get to the root of its racial problems until it admits for over 300 years; this nation has been based on the philosophy of white supremacy. Despite what you may think of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, and his comments on homosexuality, proof of Franklin's conclusion is contained in the deafening silence which accompanied his comments on race and African Americans.'
Imagine what the reaction would have been if Robertson had denied the Holocaust. He would have been condemned as ignorant, deluded, bigoted and wrong. Robertson made no comments on Jews, I'm guessing it's only because he wasn't asked, but his observations about "black" people show just how engrained racial prejudice is in our culture and how it doesn't even cause the winds of criticism to stir.
"...I never heard one black person say, 'I'll tell you what; these doggone white people...Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
It's difficult to know exactly where to start to deconstruct this screed, but we can start by acknowledging these comments did not cause any outrage...A&E did not suspend him over them...it was as if they had been said in apartheid South Africa by the screaming silence which followed their utterance.
"I never heard a black person say...those doggone white people." In the Jim Crow south how could it have been any different? What good would it do to complain? If you did it loud enough you could end up dead. To whom would they complain? Robertson never heard them complain, therefore things had to have been hunky dory for black people in Louisiana in the 40's and 50's. There was no need for a civil rights movement... no need for a Martin Luther King...no need for Medger Evers...no need for marches in Selma and Montgomery and no need for freedom riders because black people were happy. To be sure, the laws and discrimination in the north were not any better than Jim Crow, but in Robertson's home it was vertically integrated into every facet of life.
"...Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare...were they happy?... they were happy; no one was singing the blues." Really?
The very nature of the blues came out of the black experience in this white supremecist nation. It was white performers covering blues written by African Americans, not the other way around. Pre-entitlement? Robertson believes the granting of civil rights to African Americans was giving them an entitlement...a privilege...something they didn't need...a favor? Being able to vote, own a home, marry whomever you wish, live wherever you desire, be free from lynchings and church bombings, being able to drink out of any water fountain you wished...these expectations, according to Robertson, are entitlements?
Pre-welfare? Does Robertson understand more white people are beneficiaries of welfare benefits than African Americans? Is he suggesting poverty programs only are aimed at the black community? When Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, is Robertson saying he conscientiously objected because blacks would benefit disproportionately?
"They were happy;” I recently watched Gone With the Wind for the fourth or fifth time, and Robertson's comments and observations about "black" people could have come out of the mouths of any of the southern men in the cast and would not have been anachronistic in the slightest.
Why is it Robertson's gay pronouncements caused so much of an uproar? He believes homosexuality is wrong...it's immoral...it's a sin...it's against nature...a vagina makes more sense than an anus...what's next bestiality? His opinions are repeated by national religious leaders, national politicians, celebrities and common folk. His views are mainstream, fundamentalist Christianity. Perhaps they might have been more diplomatic, but Billy Graham and Pope Benedict XVI would not disagree with Robertson. Yet, A&E suspended him for the bias and bigotry the remarks represent without even a single comment on anything else he had to say.
When he denies over 100 years of Jim Crow...when he whitewashes the struggle and prejudice and bigotry African Americans faced and still face in this nation...when he denies how oppressive and back breaking the southern culture, and its institutions, was for African Americans...when he cavalierly states in Louisiana, in the 40's and 50's, blacks were happy and he never met a black who acknowledged the 24 hour, 365 days a year of second class citizenship they were forced to endure...nothing happens. No one gets upset. A&E ignores it, as do their advertisers.
14 million Americans reportedly watch Duck Dynasty each week. They watch a family which publically supports all the positions their patriarch espouses, including those that are racist and homophobic, without a second thought and the Robertson's are taking this apathy, and their 19th century claptrap, to the bank because they are funny, seem to get along with each other, are quirky...eccentric...don't shave, and we need something to entertain and divert us. Would those same 14 million continue to watch if the Robertsons occasionally put on sheets with eyeholes cut out? What's the difference and what does it say to John Hope Franklin's point when Robertson denies 300 years of systematic oppression and discrimination...300 years of racial bigotry, and instead of paying a price...prospers?