“Not once. 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!… – Phil Robertson
I will begin by saying I never have and definitely never will watch Duck Dynasty, just not my type of entertainment, but I feel incline to set the record straight when a racist bigot distorts history. Phil Robertson, in a recent GQ interview, first made disparaging remarks concerning gay Americans which ultimately led to his suspension from his popular A&E show, Duck Dynasty. As if those comments were not bad enough Robertson went on to make offensive comments about African Americans.
“Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues,” GQ quotes Robertson as saying.
The portrayal of African Americans during times of Slavery, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement as happy and jovial is not only historically inaccurate, but it’s highly offensive. Robertson was raised during the Civil Rights Movement at a time when the Universal Rights of African Americans were being recognized throughout the country. For him to make these remarks shows the height of his ignorance.
Before the civil rights movement of the 1950s, Jim Crow laws enforced a system of subjugating African-Americans in the South by upholding racial barriers for years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The cultural climate in the Southern states was one of “disenfranchisement, segregation and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence,” History.com notes.
Patterns of Jim Crow segregation against African Americans still ruled in Louisiana in the 1960s. Because of the Great Migration of blacks to the north and west, and growth of other groups in the state, by 1960 the proportion of African Americans in Louisiana had dropped to 32%. The 1,039,207 black citizens were adversely affected by segregation and efforts at disfranchisement. African Americans continued to suffer disproportionate discriminatory application of the state’s voter registration rules. Because of better opportunities elsewhere, from 1965 to 1970, blacks continued to migrate from Louisiana, for a net loss of more than 37,000 people. During the latter period, some people began to migrate to cities of the New South for opportunities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Louisiana#The_battle_for_civil_rights_.281950.E2.80.931970.29).
The Human Rights Campaign and the NAACP wrote a joint letter to the president of A&E, expressing deep concern over Robertson’s remarks:
We want to be clear why Phil Robertson’s remarks are not just dangerous but also inaccurate. Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street. And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it’s important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] — it’s not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous.
Louisiana, historically, has a terrible record when it comes to Civil Rights. The Supreme Court case (Plessy vs. Ferguson) that established “separate but equal” and launched Jim Crow as we know it originated from Louisiana. So while the Duck Dynasty star may have thought African Americans were happier while we were being lynched and denied basic human rights, I think I’ll be happier when bigots like this don’t have a platform to express their ignorant beliefs.