Sunday, May 20, 2007

Republicans, Rednecks and Racism

The Republican Party has mutated into a party of America's Deep South. That's where the core of its support is to be found and that accounts for why slime like Tom Delay, Trent Lott and George W. Bush ascend to become its leaders.

The Republican Party isn't an overtly white supremacist organization but, these days, that sort of thing really isn't necessary. There are plenty of ways to reach the same objectives and smile at the cameras at the same time.

Now the Deep South and racism are about as well linked as fried chicken and hot oil. If you don't understand the connection you might as well get straight back to whatever planet you just came from. The Deep South has evolved similar bonds to Christian fundamentalism and to the Republican Party.

The history of Christian fundamentalism and racism (at least if you think slavery is a form of racism) goes way back. In his book, American Fascists, author Chris Hedges records how the anti-slavery fundamentalist movement utterly reversed itself when it saw an opportunity to flourish in the pre-Civil War era south. In his early years even the late Uber-Kristian, Jerry Falwell, refused to perform mixed marriages and until only recently Bob Jones University forbad mixed race dating. We're talking real Kristian Krackers here folks.

The Republicans knew a good thing when they saw it - and they saw it when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson enacted civil rights legislation that cut off southern discrimination loopholes. Republicans, Rednecks, Racists and Radical Christians - how far off can the Rapture really be?

Now Bob Jones University got caught red-handed and ran for cover but, c'mon folks, does anyone really believe this Southern Redneck/Fundamentalist/Republican racism problem has gone away? And no, don't go asking a bunch of Southern redneck fundamentalist Republicans, no fair.

If you really have any doubts, try to swing by the courthouse in Jena, Louisiana this week. If you yearn for the "good old days", tomorrow marks the start of a race trial that, as reported in The Guardian, really fits the bill:

"Jena is gaining national notoriety as an example of the new 'stealth' racism, showing how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America's Deep South, even in the year that a black man, Barak Obama, is a serious candidate for the White House.

"It began in Jena's high school last August when Kenneth Purvis asked the headteacher if black students could break with a long-held tradition and join the whites who sit under the tree in the school courtyard during breaks. The boy was told that he and his friends could sit where they liked.

"The following morning white students had hung three nooses there. 'Bad taste, silly, but just a prank,' was the response of most of Jena's whites.

"'To us those nooses meant the KKK [Ku Klux Klan], they meant, "Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,"' says Caseptla Bailey, a black community leader and mother of one of the accused. The three white perpetrators of what was seen as a race hate crime were given 'in-school' suspensions (sent to another school for a few days before returning).
"Jena's major industry is growing and marketing junk pine. Walk down the usually deserted main street and you will not find many black employees. Bailey, 56, is a former air force officer and holder of a business management degree. 'I couldn't even get a job in Jena as a bank teller,' she said. 'Look at the banks and the best white-collar jobs and you'll see only white and red necks in those collars.'

"Billy Doughty, the local barber, has never cut black men's hair. 'They just don't come here,' he mumbled. 'Anyway, their hair is different and difficult to cut.'

"The majority of blacks live in an area known as Ward 10. Many homes are trailers, or wooden shacks. Rubbish lies in the streets. On 'Snob Hill', where the whites live, the spacious gardens and lawns are trimmed, the gravelled drives boast SUVs and nice new saloons. Only two black families live there. A teacher from Jena High had enough money to buy his way in. But when he arrived local estate agents refused to show him a 'white' property even though several were advertised in the local paper ('they're all under contract,' the agents lied). The teacher eventually went to see one white owner and offered him cash. 'The guy preferred green [dollars] to black, so I got the property,' laughed the teacher, 'but since we moved in three years ago we haven't been invited by a single neighbour.'

"On 30 November, someone tried to burn Jena High to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. That same weekend race fights between teenagers broke out downtown, and on 4 December racial tension boiled over once more in the school. A white student, Justin Barker, was attacked, allegedly by six black students.

"The expected charges of assault and battery were not laid, and the six were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. They now face a lifetime in jail.

"Barker spent the evening of the assault at the local Baptist church, where he was seen by friends to be 'his usual smiling self'.

"Nine days later, with the case technically sub judice, the District Attorney made the following public statement to the local paper: 'I will not tolerate this type of behaviour. To those who act in this manner I tell you that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and with the harshest crimes that the facts justify. When you are convicted I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law. I will see to it that you never again menace the students at any school in this parish.'

"Bail for the impoverished students was set absurdly high, and most have been held in custody. The town's mind seems to be made up."

Hurricane Katrina tore the roof off the illusion of Southern equality and the trial of the Jena Six proclaims that the vilest forms of Southern racism are alive and well. Their hatred and intolerance are the powerful fuel of the emerging political right.


healtheland said...

"The history of Christian fundamentalism and racism (at least if you think slavery is a form of racism) goes way back." The truth is that the Bible forbids slavery as it was practiced in America, as well as segregation of any sort. Thus, racism and slavery cannot be blamed on fundamentalist Christianity (as there are actually more black, Asian, and Hispanic fundamentalist Christians these days than whites ... something that media types like Chris Hedges strives to make sure that you will never know), but on people that chose to practice a false version of it. What Hedges also almost certainly refused to point out was that liberal Christians were also overwhelmingly in favor of slavery, and those that were not could hardly be called anti - racist. Bes t example: Abraham Lincoln, who wanted to end slavery only because he wanted to FORCIBLY repatriate blacks to Africa, because he felt that the inferior black race would never be able to compete with whites intellectually, economically, socially, etc. and would also be an unending source of social discord and strife. The very notion of equality between blacks and whites, or that there be integration or intermarriage between the two races was extremely offensive to Lincoln, and he spent a great bit of his time telling people so. Realize this: Lincoln actually did start his repatriation program on a voluntary basis. That is how we came to have the African nation of Liberia. But Lincoln was assassinated before it became wide scale and involuntary.

If you want to oppose political conservatism in America and elsewhere, that is your business: I am not a political conservative either. But to claim that fundamentalist Christianity promotes racism and slavery - or that any other segment of the American population was any less supporting of slavery and racism - is simply unsupported by both theology and history. It is true that the winners get to write the history books, which is why a person who himself renounced Christianity is permitted to lie about the faith that he left (and American history as well) and still retain his position at the New York Times, but that does not make it true or right.

The Mound of Sound said...

Let me guess, are you writing from that bastion of evangelical, racial harmony, Bob Jones University? You can't cover this stuff up forever. But you can try.

The Mound of Sound said...

By the way, as a biblical scholar can you refer me to where to find the scriptural injunction against slavery? I thought there was a passage in the OT specifically prescribing a man's right to kill his slave. Or was I just making that up?
Your focus is in an argument as to what happened in the 19th Century. Mine is primarily with what is still happening in the 21st and right in the backyard of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lyndon Johnson's civil rights initiative sent white southerners flocking to the arms of the Republicans. What do you make of that? Or is that something contrived?

The Mound of Sound said...

To anyone interested in this discussion I'd invite you to go to the commentator's website: These are a gang of religious extremists. By the way, quit your yoga classes or you're heading straight to hell. They believe that, they really do.