Monday, December 23, 2013

Duck and Cover - ctd

In reaction to the controversy over the comments of the Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson, in a GQ interview, I said I was reading Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns." That book is getting better and better the farther I read. Wilkerson spells out plenty of reasons why blacks in the Jim Crow South would not say "Those doggone white people" to a white person, reasons different from the conclusion of Phil Robertson that blacks were happy with Jim Crow.

Blacks living in the Jim Crow South had good reason to distrust *all* whites -- a single careless comment to the wrong person at the wrong time and their livelihoods, their homes, even their lives could be lost. I'm surprised that this is a controversial statement today for anyone, but it seems to be, given some of the reader reaction I've received to my original post. Apparently, the mythology that blacks were happy with racial discrimination persists to this day.

After the jump, another passage from Wilkerson that provides another example of this.

This passage describes the moment, after the cotton harvest one year, that one black sharecropper decided to leave the South:

George could have left after settlement without saying a word. It was a risk to say too much. The planter could rescind the settlement, say he misfigured, turn a credit into a debit, take back the money, evict the family or whip the sharecropper on the spot, or worse. Some sharecroppers, knowing they might not get paid anyway, fled from the field, right in midhoe, on the first thing going north. The planters could not conceive of why their sharecroppers would want to leave. The dance of the compliant sharecropper conceding to the big planter year in and year out made it seem as if the ritual actually made sense, that the sharecropper, having been given no choice, actually saw the tilted scales as fair. The sharecropper's forced silence was part of the collusion that fed the mythology. And so it came as a shock to many planters when their trusted sharecroppers expressed a desire to leave.

So, Wilkerson explains why planters years ago might have been shocked to learn that their black sharecroppers didn't tell them what they really thought about Jim Crow. It doesn't explain why Phil Robertson (and others), even today, still willingly believes the mythology.

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