I am proud to say the Solomon Northrup’s story begins in the late 1830s as a respected, free man in a town near where I live. It is where I spend a good deal of my summers. It is only when Solomon is transported to the south that he is treated inhumanely.
And this started me thinking. Almost every story of slavery in the south shows not just the injustice of free labor. No, there is always the dominant white people (men and women) engaging in torture - rape, whippings, hanging, and often placing slaves in intolerable conditions. And this by people who would quote the Bible as their justification.
I openly acknowledge my own personal bias against the south. When Daphne and I were attacked it was by men with southern accents. They were quite vocal about how our lesbian relationship was an abomination and sinful, while Daphne’s black skin gave them license to torture her. Lesbians and blacks were sinful according to them, but apparently rape and sadistic torture were not.
I know of very few people, driving through the south with New York license plates, who have not been stopped and hassled for some bogus reason. A friend’s son spent one semester at Wake Forest before returning home because he couldn’t/wouldn’t tolerate the open racism by his dorm mates there. Any person I know who has gone south to work, has always come back. They are shocked by the open bigotry against blacks and gays. And while we have often taken winter vacations to the warm southern climate, it has always been gay friendly tourist places, filled with other “snowbirds” from the north. There is safety in numbers.
I am not saying that all racists and homophobes live in the south nor am I saying that every southern person is a racist or homophobe. I am painfully aware that there are people everywhere who, for whatever reason, sadistically hurt people and/or animals and hate crimes occur everywhere. I’m sure you can pick up a newspaper anywhere and find these stories. But when these incidents happen, the horrified community usually comes together and punishes the wrongdoer. There is some response and dangerous and sick people are removed from society. Not necessarily so in the south.
Fast forward from the Civil War, 100 years to the civil rights movement. Again, horrific southern behavior toward blacks. I remember watching The Butler and the scene where young black people sat at a lunch counter and white Southerners came and taunted them, spit on them and finally began physical violence. Cruel behavior against blacks was acceptable. And was encouraged. How did an entire region not only turn a blind eye but accept such behavior? How could anybody find this acceptable? I find it very scary. Like Nazi Germany scary. Yet unlike the Holocaust, Southern racism has lasted generation after generation after generation. Oh yes, you've got to be carefully taught.
For a while I corresponded with woman from the south. She considered herself quite the liberal, progressive person. Yet most of her views and opinions that she thought were so very progressive are the viewpoints of the average person where I live. And even with her self given label “socialist for Jesus”, gay/black/poor micro aggressions always leaked out of her. She was white, straight, educated and religious and she never failed to let me know how superior she was. I don’t think she ever realized it. It was just her way of being in this world.
Last year I drove through North Carolina and wrote a blog post about the bumper stickers I saw. Incredibly racist and homophobic sentiments were openly displayed.
Gay rights? Gays have the right to die. (with bible verse I couldn’t read)
If I had known this I would have picked my own cotton (along with a picture of the Confederate flag)
I learned everything I need to know about evolution from the Holocaust
and on one truck -
The Bro and his Ho have got to go
Don’t Re-Nig in 2012
I don’t know - where I come from those bumper stickers, and possibly those vehicles, would have been removed. My daughter recently came back from Florida, very upset with the number of confederate flags openly displayed. “Aren't people upset by that?” she asked. I ask myself the same question but have no answers. I find it hard to believe that the majority of southerners still carry such bias, yet where is the outrage? Where is the push back?
12 years a Slave has gotten under my skin. I can't comprehend how anyone thought the mistreatment of slaves was an appropriate practice. I cannot even stomach watching the recreated images on a screen. I can't imagine witnessing it in person. I do not understand how a human could treat another living being the way these slaves were systematically treated. Or watch it happen. And with same mistreatment, and acceptance of such mistreatment continuing long into the 1960s and into today. That so many southerners seem to accept the racism and confederate flags and racist/homophobic bumper stickers, just totally escapes me. Perhaps they are so close to it they don’t even see it? Is it a cultural thing I'm missing? I simply don’t understand how an entire region, and a highly religious region at that, could continue to condone and encourage these attitudes.
Hank Aaron was recently quoted as saying “ The difference is that back then they wore hoods. Now they wear neckties and starched shirts.”
I find this very scary.
I am proud to say the Solomon Northrup’s story begins as a respected, free man in a town near where I live. I wouldn't want to live, or raise my children, in a place where it was any other way.