I don’t watch A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Frankly, I avoid most, if not all, “reality” shows. When I heard that Duck Commander Company founder Phil Robertson made disparaging comments against the LGBT community an interview with GQ magazine, I shook my head at his uninformed outspokenness. But when he said that African-Americans were happy before the Civil Rights era, I took offense and felt that I had to take Robertson to task.
“The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them,” Robertson told GQ. “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.”
The A&E cable network suspended Phil Robertson “indefinitely.” While he is on suspension, I suggest that Mr. Robertson take some time to research the effects of Jim Crow laws on African-Americans and the United States as a whole.
Mr. Robertson can start by reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. The book chronicles the Great Migration of blacks from southern to northern and western states. Most African-Americans living in the oppressive Jim Crow South left to find better jobs and build new lives. Even during the period from 1915 to 1970, they found covert, institutionalized racism in jobs and housing.
If reading is too time-consuming or even difficult for Mr. Robertson, then I suggest talking to people who lived through the Jim Crow era. My 88-year-old father, for example, fled his boyhood home of Gould, Arkansas, in his late teens to escape the mental and physical oppression of the Deep South. He traveled to California, served in the Navy during World War II, and worked in Northern California for most of his life, retiring in his late 80s. He can share his experiences, as can his younger brother, whom I’ll call “Uncle G.” Uncle G, a retired real estate agent, saw his best friend lynched by a white mob when they were boys. He shared this story with me as part of a family history project. He was clearly traumatized by the memory.
So, I ask that Mr. Robertson take the time to educate himself before spewing uninformed comments from his mouth and shooting A&E’s cash cow “Duck Dynasty” in the foot.