Thoughts on Ducks and Racism

by Camille on December 22, 2013

I’m rather weary of all the Duck Dynasty stuff, and no doubt, you are too. Please believe me when I say there are about a gazillion other things I’d rather be writing. However, I continue to be disheartened, if not entirely surprised, by the Christians so determined to defend homophobic and racist remarks, and I guess I’d like to put one more voice out there to share the other side.

I have a transracial family. This isn’t a secret. We’re all right there for you to see at the top of this blog. They’re also the banner on my Facebook page. Yet, numerous social media acquaintances had no problem defending Phil’s comments as non-racist on my page, and while I fully support their right to share their ideas, I simply wonder if they would have said the same things if our families had been having dinner together? I wonder if they’d be so eager to explain away the segregated South if sitting across the table from people who wouldn’t even have been allowed at the table during Phil’s “happy” youth.

Defenses included:

Phil was just sharing his experience. He says he never witnessed the mistreatment of blacks, and the ones he knew were happy. Maybe they were. You weren’t there, so how do you know?

* I played with black children side by side with no problems, so I agree with Phil.

* He was just saying he was equal to African-Americans due to his family’s poverty.

Similar comments flooded many of the blog posts I included in yesterday’s link-up. Charlie and I actually enjoyed some good conversations and laughs with a couple of our kids reading all the opinions on what is racist and what’s not. Please forgive me, but when it comes to what is racist, perhaps the opinions of older white people who grew up in the Jim Crow South might not be the most accurate place to start; history can be recalled much differently depending on which side one was on.

For instance, a close friend’s step-father is a black man in his eighties. Born in Georgia and living several years in Alabama, he experienced Jim Crow at its worst. Some of my friend’s first memories of his step-father were the stories he shared about segregation. It wasn’t a happy time. Even to this day, the elderly gentleman warns his son not to date a white girl for fear someone will come take him away.

So let’s consider a few of these arguments.

Okay folks. If Phil never saw the mistreatment of blacks, then I must assume he was either blind or is suffering from extreme amnesia. There were signs of mistreatment literally everywhere.

White

Waiting Room

 

Water Fountain

All images from Wikimedia Commons

This is the same problem with Phil suggesting any equality with black people at the time. It’s insulting to the victims of segregation. As a white man (even a poor one), Phil had dozens of liberties denied to black citizens. Segregation affected water fountains, public transit, movie theaters, schools, etc. It was everywhere. 

Some will argue that since these things were an accepted part of his society, simply “the way things were,” then he can’t be held accountable for the past. But in 2013, his words attempted to recreate an an oppressive and abusive era as “happy” and suggested black people today are entitled and ungodly. Today, there’s no excuse for not knowing better. I wonder, what would our response be if they’d interviewed an older German man, and he’d said, “Oh, well, I never saw any Jewish people being mistreated. They seemed happy to me.” Wouldn’t we call such a person a Holocaust denier? So what do we call a person who seems grossly misinformed about the realities of the Jim Crow South? As Kristen Howerton said in her recent post:

…many people have responded with comments about how Phil was just sharing his own experience. As if Phil grew up with no context of race relations. And I get that for people his age, it’s common to have a revisionist view of American history. It’s awkward and painful, and much easier to paint those times as pleasant for everyone involved. But this kind of denial is also a form of racism. So when people are suggesting that Phil’s comments were racist, I think that is accurate. Denying racism, pretending that black people were happy during segregation, and then suggesting they were actually more pleasant back then? Yeah. Racist.

If you were a white person living in the segregated South, it’s highly unlikely you ever had a truly honest conversation or interaction with a black person. Phil shared that no black person ever complained to him. (Insert massive Duh! here) Incredibly detailed social codes dictated every facet of how a black person could and could not interact with a white person, and one perceived misstep could be extremely dangerous. As in, “drowning” in a Louisiana swamp dangerous. In Howerton’s blog, she includes a clip featuring a white man and a black woman discussing life in Louisiana during segregation. Fast-forward to around 30 minutes to hear some of her “non-happy” memories. Around 33 minutes, the man shares how he was actively instructed to disrespect black people.

I get it. None of us like to recall unpleasantness from the past, but only by being honest with ourselves can we ensure a better future. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of explaining to do to my own kids about the failures of my generation one day. Maybe they’ll ask me why I didn’t work harder to protect the environment. Perhaps they’ll look at our current educational system (and all its failures) with shocked incredulity. Or maybe they’ll look at pictures of the folks at anti-gay protests holding up signs shouting “God Hates….” and wonder how the heck we managed to justify discrimination with scripture. (Oh wait. We rather have a history of being gifted that way, don’t we? Scripture has been used to justify and defend both slavery and segregation, after all.)

Also people, having black friends doesn’t mean you might not be racist. Even having a black spouse or even black kids isn’t some automatic shield against the failures of the human heart. History reflects a seemingly inherent propensity for looking at others as “less than,” and there is always room to search out our own subtle stereotyping, our tiny discriminations….and bring them to the light. Charlie and I are not immune, and I’m so thankful for all that my children teach me each day.

Y’all, I get it. Race is a crazy complicated and difficult topic to discuss. We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. We’re afraid of being seen the wrong way. But we don’t fight racism by pretending it never existed or turning a blind eye to its current manifestations. We fight racism by being constantly vigilant and by maintaining a willingness to have open, honest conversations. We fight by listening to others.

And when it comes to the “but homosexuality is a sin!” part of this debate, I’d write a bunch of words, but I’d feel like a broken record.  I’m just going to say, did your words show love or judgement? Do you think a gay person read your words and suddenly said, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea!! I’ll immediately go and stop being gay!” Do you think your words helped build trust, relationship, or connection within the kingdom of God?

In attempts to avoid another entire post (no promises),please allow me to refer you to the amazing words of Jen Hatmaker: 

Specifically with issues that have caused such heartache and damage already like gay marriage and racial inequity, we should refuse to contribute to someone’s pain by speaking about them abstractedly, distantly, as if they aren’t real human beings whose lives bear actual repercussions of our casual public conversations. The sterile public sphere outside of the protective confines of relationships is not a safe place for such weighty discussions, and we should not add to the pile of condescending, degrading comments about real human people. These precious, fragile conversations belong among people who love one another, who’ve earned the right to be heard, who can look each other in the eye and listen with grace and humility.
 
We are not judges, because how could we possibly be?? How dare we? What right do we have to cut someone to the quick when we are nothing but sinners saved by grace? Sanctification is Jesus’ territory, and we can safely leave Him to it; He can handle the human heart. Our only sane offering to our fellow man is mercy.

 

So many good words! I encourage you to check out the rest of the post.

Also, please understand that I harbor no hatred for Phil. He too, deserves grace. Contrary to the words and threats hurled toward the true victims of bigotry, I don’t think God hates him. I don’t think he’s going to burn in hell. I wish him good health and joy. I just think he might want to reevaluate what it means to love others as Christ would love.

 

Peace to you all.

 

 

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