The recent statements by Phil Robertson, star of the A&E show, Duck Dynasty, expressing his views on same sex marriage and race relations have ignited a firestorm in the media. Several people, including the executives at A&E, have expressed "outrage" about Robertson and the views he expressed in an interview published in the January issue of GQ magazine.
We have said repeatedly that the issue of race and race relations in America is one of the most hypocritically discussed issues in our country. People either ignore or deny its existence -- or distort the reality of its pervasive presence in our lives.
Listening and watching comments from "left" and the "right" reminded us of that classic scene in the World War II movie Casablanca featuring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, with Claude Raines. Raines, in the role of Captain Renault, says to Bogart, owner of the club Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment." Immediately before his comment, the club's croupier had given him a wad of dollar bills, saying. "Your winnings, sir!"
It boggles our mind to believe that most of those people indicating surprise and criticism over Robertson's remarks are really, really shocked and surprised. His comments in the magazine interview reflect views held by a substantial number of white people today, especially in the South. Are people holding such opinions "evil" and "bad" people? We don't think so.
Is a good person defined as only being one who agrees, as we do, that a person who loves another, of the same sex, is entitled to all of those rights and privileges that heterosexual people enjoy, without qualification or reservation except as those that would equally apply to "straight" people? Until recently, we believed that OUR beliefs made US a "better person"; WE were better than "those bigots" like Robertson and his supporters BECAUSE we support same sex marriage.
On reflection, we don't think so.
Up until only a few years ago, less than five years in fact, a majority of people in the United States did not support same such marriage. Moreover, there were and are many state laws that not support the current rights of LGBT persons under federal law.
Phil Robertson and presumably many his followers strongly believe in what in what they quote as written in their Christian Bible.
In our opinion, the views they profess, and quotations of scripture from the Bible, as stand alone scriptural validation, are inconsistent with the core principle underlying ALL biblical scripture: The centrality and pervasiveness of love; love for your family, your neighbor, and a stranger, irrespective of whether such person is gay or straight: irrespective of whether they believe and support same sex marriage.
Conversely, such a core principle equally applies to Robertson's critics.
Love of thy "neighbor" (not the actual person next door or in same town or village), indeed, our "enemies," comprise the touchstone of Biblical teachings.
During the same magazine interview Robertson also expressed his views on race while growing up in the Louisiana backwoods. He said, in the pre-civil rights era, the South was not bad for black people.
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person...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... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
Shocked by what Roberson said? We're not. It may surprise people comprising the December 2013 media cognoscenti, but there are a still a significant number of white people in the South and other places in our nation who think and believe exactly like Phil Robertson.
Having a widely watched reality TV show on the A&E cable network does not guarantee him any "constitutional rights" to continue to present Duck Dynasty on television. What rights Robertson has are proscribed by the terms of the production and licensing agreement he has with A&E.
In previous blogs we indicated that we teach a 15-week course, "From Slavery to Obama," at the College of Arts & Sciences, University of San Francisco. Some of the required readings in our course readily remind us of the origins of those views about Blacks still held by Robertson and lots of other white people today.
Among those books, students in our course are required to read are The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in The Ante-Bellum South, Freedom Road, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, The New Jim Crow-Mass Incarnation In the Age of Colorblindness, and many others. These are assigned to enable students to understand the historical consequences of the institution of slavery and the doctrine of white supremacy has had upon our current 21st century generation.
The real challenge to our nation is not so much what Robertson believes or said. The real challenge is whether those who disagree with him have the political, moral, integrity and capacity to love, to embrace Robertson, and those millions of white people who share his views.
Yes, you read this right. Robertson and those who share his views are still our brothers. As such, do WE have the capacity, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and after President Lincoln's 272 words at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, to say to those who hold his views on race today, we still love you? And, yes, as part of that love, we want to share with you another point of view, contrary to the beliefs that you hold and express.
WE have been historically conditioned by the legacy of love and commitment to non-violence expressed by Dr. King. Accordingly, to us, Robertson is still a "work in progress." "The Lord's not finished with him yet" and those who currently hold his beliefs on same-sex marriage and race relations in America today, and before the Civil Rights era.
We suggest this because we have come too far, together, in this great nation for us now, in this 21st century, to remain continually handicapped and weighted down by the issue of race issue of race in our country.
We lost 600,000 of our forefathers, white and black, in a terrible Civil War. Isn't it finally time to say, enough is enough of the racial hatred, racial division and "gotcha" media politics? If not now, when? If not us, who?