The hits keep coming on Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, this time from New York Times columnist Charles Blow, a black man whose hometown is about 50 miles from Robertson’s northern Louisiana home.
He’s no fan of animus to homosexuals, but that’s not his point today. He has no dog in the hunt about whether A&E should sever its relationship with the Duckhead either.
Mostly, he is supremely well placed to speak in response to the blissful ignorance with which Robertson recalled the 1960s-era South, when he said he toiled side-by-side in the cotton fields with happy Negroes who loved the white man. Robertson says he never saw mistreatment of blacks. Did he really not see the TV film from Birmingham, Selma, New Orleans, Shreveport and countless other places where white mistreatment of blacks was abundantly visible in his youth, along with the obvious trappings of inequality — from the segregated schools Robertson attended to segregated transportation and restaurants and water fountains? I credit Robertson with more intelligence than believing black people liked these conditions. I don’t credit his implicit suggestion that he knew nothing of it. Pre-welfare and pre-entitlement, he told GQ, the black folk were singing and happy.
Blow’s column is illustrated in the Times by the poll results shown here, which happen to have been compiled in Arkansas in 2010. He commented on the happy black people Robertson remembered:
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. Whether he personally saw interpersonal mistreatment of them is irrelevant.
I’ve made this point myself a few times and the outpouring of indignation from Duck Dynasty fans on Facebook has been wondrous to behold. It is the faith-based brand of herding all too evident in the rising political force in the South today. Don’t disturb these angry people with facts about their cherished icons. Blow continues:
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.
Blow notes, as others have, how far off Robertson is about there being no blues singing, though the blues were born in the second generation of slaves, work songs.
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).