Remain Calm, Etc: The (White) Elephant In the Room
Posted July 11, 2013on:
Good Thursday, Widdershins.
I have noticed a dearth of conversation about Trayvon Martin and Paula Deen on the blog, and I thank you for respecting my Southern sensibilities, but that is not really necessary. For the most part, even older white Southerners are not big fans of racism in any form or fashion.
Consider the recent media castigation of Paula Deen. She is two years older than I am, and from the same state, although from the opposite end. She is from Albany, which is deep in southwestern Carter Country, and I am from northeastern Rabun County. The two are – or at least were different worlds back in The Day. In fact, the whole state was a different place back in The Day, though mercifully free of horrific incidents during the civil rights era. Georgia is and always will be my much-loved home, but she does carry some indelible stains on her soul.
Paula went to high school with a colleague of mine, married young and had two children as was the custom at the time. She divorced, developed agoraphobia, yet had two kids to support without much education to fall back on, so she stated a home business which made and delivered lunches to local offices. The business was successful, she opened her restaurant and took off from there.
In a recent deposition she admitted using the N-word in a conversation with her then-husband thirty years ago. She had been robbed at gunpoint by an African-American male, and was probably somewhere between frightened and furious at the time that the statement was made. I’m not going to pass judgement on the statement, other than to say it was inappropriate, but I do have to question whether or not Paula Deen may have done something to redeem herself in the past thirty years. Her restaurants have provided employment (yes, including the infamous “Old South” wedding), and her television show has featured a number of AA guests, including Kris Jenkins of the Carolina Panthers. Jenkins had this to say about the situation in an interview with MetroNY”
He said he was surprised to hear the recent issue surrounding Deen and when asked by Metro, said he never experienced any of the behavior alleged against Deen during his appearance on the show.
“I enjoyed her. Her not being on the show, it’s a drag, but it’s out of my control,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes it strikes me odd that when you give an opinion, everybody wants to condemn for an opinion but if the same shoe was on the other foot, the same people would want to play.”
Nevertheless, the media hype has continued to the point of being utterly laughable. Yes, I know that Chris Rock avers that it’s just fine for African-Americans to call themselves the N-word, but it’s wrong for any other group to do so. (So it’s fine to disrespect yourself while demanding that others respect you, or is this part of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”?) I even sat through an excruciating commentary where an Ivy League professor postulated that the use of the N-word was appalling on the part of Paula Deen some thirty years back, but the latter day statement by Trayvon Martin that he was being followed by some “creepy-a** cracker” was perfectly fine by ghetto standards, even though he suspected that some rural white Southerns might object.
Wow! Where do I begin? First, Trayvon did not live in the ghetto, he was from Miami Gardens. Our ghettos are Overtown, Brownsville, and perhaps a few parts of Liberty City. I have lived and worked in an ER through three hum-dingers of riots, and I know from whence the victims came. Miami Gardens is part of North Miami Beach, and if I were to get in my car and drive south for about 15 miles, then turn left at the iconic Coppertone billboard, I would find myself in Miami Gardens. Further, his mother is an educated woman who works for Miami-Dade County, and his father drives a truck and lives in a gated community. Anything smack of the ghetto to you?
I could easily give Trayvon a pass for being an adolescent, however. Anyone who has had a child or a younger sibling can tell you that your sweet baby goes to bed an adorable munchkin and wakes up as an adolescent. Adolescents do and say the damndest things. However, it really isn’t okay to call someone a cracker, as most white Southerners are somewhat offended by being called poor white trash. I’ve never lived in the rural South, but I’ve lived in towns with populations ranging from 1200 to over a million, and have yet to find a soul who felt complimented by this term. Now, I have heard white Southerners say something to the effect of “Shucks, ma’am, I’m just an ol’ cracker”, and I cringe. They are usually millionaire politicians attempting to convince the masses that they are just plain folks.
My parents did not shine on the N-word, but not on a purely racial basis. They felt it was part of a spectrum of hurtful names for other ethnicities and religions that just did not belong in polite conversations, and I honestly believe that they were correct. I could easily qualify for slurs such as mick or papist, and I can assure you that I would not be thrilled with either. In fact, I had dinner with a Jewish couple who have been my friends for thirty-odd years a few weeks back. He had apparently had a difficult day in court and was not in the best of moods, with the problem being that “the goyim are all alike.” I wondered if I should be flattered that he was comfortable enough to speak freely around me, or appalled that me and mine were held in such contempt. I’m still mulling that one over.
If I really thought that we could possibly erase the sins of the past, I would permit you to call me the contemptuous name of your choice. Sadly, our history is our history and needs to be viewed honestly to avoid repeating past mistakes. So, pretty please with Southern sugar on top, let’s not take another thirty years to stop calling each other names. It’s fine to have conversations about our differences, and it’s fine to have pride in whom and what we are. However, it just isn’t fine to call each other names, and I would like to suggest that we agree to worry more about tomorrow. The defense has rested in the Trayvon Martin trial, and I am not comfortable with how things have gone. Neither are the local police departments, who are gearing up for problems while Lebron James is begging for “Calm for Trayvon”.
This is an open thread, and please do state your honest opinions.
22 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: The (White) Elephant In the Room"
Comments are closed.