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07 January, 2014

What Phil Robertson Said...Don't Shoot the Messenger

Lately, the Internet has been abuzz about the future of the hit show, Duck Dynasty, and the fact that one of its stars, Phil Robertson, has been suspended from filming indefinitely because of comments he made about gays and blacks. Well, for the comments he made about gays, anyway. For many, the comments were offensive and, as a result, Mr. Robertson is on the hot seat. Deservedly so? Not for me to say.

What I do find interesting is the discrepancy between the level of backlash over Mr. Robertson's comments about gays and the level of backlash over his comments about black people. For the former,
there has been a lot of heated commentary and for the latter, little to none. Hmmm, interesting.

Here's what Phil Robertson had to say about black people: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” he said. “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.”

Say what, Phil?

A few things about this statement stand out to me and they are...

1. The term mistreatment is subjective, depending on what one views as mistreatment. So the validity of this statement, as implied by Mr. Robertson, rests with his own individual opinion of what, in fact, mistreatment is. Considering the entire comment, at least in my opinion, I think it's safe to say that Mr. Robertson could have witnessed black people being lashed for moving too slowly and he wouldn't have made the connection between that and mistreatment. You see, if you believe that certain people are deserving of a certain level of treatment, as opposed to other people, then you might not think that the treatment those people receive is necessarily mistreatment. He did say, "I'm with the blacks because we're white trash." Let's all take a moment to remember what trash is and then let's reflect on where that trash was placed - with the blacks. You see?

2. Why would Mr. Robertson base his opinion on the state of pre-Civil Rights blacks on what he did or did not hear from the mouths of blacks? Okay, so he was relegated to working with blacks because he was considered white trash. But to those blacks, he was still white. How many black people do you know, then or now, who routinely bash white people to other white people?

3. Mr. Robertson assumes that, because blacks were singing while they worked, they were happy. Because everybody knows that blacks just love to sing and dance a jig...

Whatever, Phil.

I wasn't particularly offended by the comments Mr. Robertson made. For one thing, I do believe that people are entitled to their own opinions and, for another thing, other people's opinions aren't what I govern my life by. He has a right to feel the way he feels, just like I have a right to feel the way I feel. And, frankly, as a black woman in 2013, I'm a little desensitized where racist comments made by white people are concerned. I mean, are we really surprised? Did we really think that, with the election of a black man to the White House, racism had suddenly disappeared?

Not. If anything it's gotten worse.

I do, however, agree with Mr. Robertson that blacks seemed happier pre-Civil Rights. Now, before you put a hit out on me, hear me out. What I'm saying is that, sadly, in today's society, put a group of blacks together in any work environment and there's bound to be too much discord between them for any kind of collective singing to take place. Harmonizing? Forget about it. What you'll likely end up with is a scene straight from the cutting room floor of that idiotic show, Basketball Wives.

Pre-Civil Rights, though, black communities were closer-knit. Blacks had to depend on one another more for day-to-day survival and the black church was the cornerstone of many black communities. Black children were raised, not just allowed to grow up, and getting an education for the betterment of one's self and one's community was important. So, on the one hand, blacks were suffering under Jim Crow, segregation, and overt discrimination. Riding on the back of the bus and having to give up our seats to white people did not make us happy and, believe me, plenty of stuff was being said about both whites and the state of affairs at the time, just not to white people. Lest one be lynched for speaking out, it was just safer to put feelings into song and commiserate with one another in lyrical harmony. On the other hand, within the confines of our communities, we gave more of a damn about one another and we could get past our plantation-infused differences long enough to come together for a just cause or to help feed a needy family or to help rebuild a family's burned-down house or to set someone's wayward kid on the right path or to... I could go on and on, but I don't feel like it right now. You get the point, though.

Fast forward to today and the black community is, in many ways, a hot mess. Civil Rights notwithstanding, I think that the quest to prove that we're just as good as whites by, among other things, aspiring to look like them; the misguided notion that slathering brand names on ourselves from head to toe makes one somehow "valuable" as a person; the blatant rage that our children exhibit as a result of going out into the world believing that the playing field is level; neglecting to teach our children about their rich cultural history; and, along with a slew of other issues, the complacency that we have settled into as a people, have really screwed us up. I believe the divisions in our communities either began or were strengthened after Civil Rights. We wanted to be "friends" with whites so badly that we stopped having each other's backs and started stabbing each other in the backs.

Don't get me wrong, the Phil Robertsons of the world are welcome to kiss my ass, but, if for nothing else, you have to respect the man for saying - aloud - what he feels. I don't watch Duck Dynasty, never have and probably never will because, frankly, it's beneath me. I don't care if Mr. Robertson is ever allowed to film again or not, which, by the way, I'm hearing that he will come January 2014. Who cares what he says about black people, gays, or any other group? I don't.

Blacks have a tendency to get all up in arms when a non-black points out issues within the black community, whether the issues are spot on or not. All I'm saying is, let's not shoot the messenger here. Instead, how about we pay attention to the underlying message?


Toni Bates said...

So true, I've never watched either. I don't get all these ignorant shows with people who does not have anything positive to give to the world, just chaos and craziness. Smh

Terra Little said...

Thanks for commenting, Toni Bates. I feel the same way about a lot of these reality TV shows today.