Male Pattern Sensitivity

Who is more sensitive?

Bill Smith in response to Thabiti Anyabwile on crazy Confederate uncles?

I should not have to say these things, but I will, though I know some, perhaps including Brother Anyabwile, will take it as the equivalent of “I have black friends”: (1) I have no sympathy for the League of the South. I have never been to Monroe, Louisiana, or attended a Confederate Ball. While I am eligible for membership, I have not joined the Sons of the Confederacy because I do not want anything to do with the racism of some of its members. (2) In seminary in the early 1970s I spent two summers working as an assistant to a black Presbyterian pastor in Jackson, MS. (3) I was run off as a RUM campus minister, with a wife and five babies, in part because of my racial views and practice. Ours was the only integrated RUF in Mississippi, and we integrated the statewide conferences. I stood by an interracial dating couple which included my sitting in an office hearing one of them described as a “white N-word” by a person threatening my job. (4) I have a love-hate relationship with the South, and particularly with Mississippi. Mississippi is a place where place (both geography and status) and people (your family and social group) make a great deal of difference. I hate indirection and insincerity in relationships. But the South is like my family. I can point out theie faults, but if you go to talking bad about my people, I’ll bow my neck and clench my fists. (5) I read B.B. Warfield and listen to B.B. King.

But, nevertheless I am one of those crazy Confederates I suppose because I am (1) white (so far as I know, though there are questions) , (2) Reformed (in my case defined by the 39 Articles); (3) western (in civilization – the “dead white guys”); (4) Southern (by heritage and affection).

Like all paranoid schizophrenics, I feel I have been persecuted.

Or Jemar Tisby on Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson?

So, Blacks were happier during the Jim Crow era? Does he assume that all Blacks now are on welfare?

I’ve actually heard similar reasoning quite often. Usually these comments come from older Whites who grew up in the South and remember it fondly. I understand their point. They look back on their experience of a historical moment that was mostly positive, and they want to remember it that way. The problem in a segregated society, then and now, is that our perceptions tend only to reflect our particular realities. We have little exposure to the realities of others, including an awareness of their hardships.

What Phil Robertson and others get wrong is how they diagnose the state of race relations in America. They use external cues like the frequency of a smile, and their personal exposure to overt instances of racism to judge the climate of a culture. But what some people fail to understand is that there are unwritten rules of conduct when Blacks interact with Whites. . . .

It’s possible that Phil Robertson knew Blacks who were genuinely happy. It’s possible that in his community there truly were exceptionally positive relationships between Blacks and Whites. It’s possible, but not likely. What’s probably closer to reality is that he saw Black people who knew the rules. They knew what they could say and do around Whites who held the power. Even if those Whites were lower-income or “white trash” as Mr. Robertson describes it. There was still a cultural curtain separating the races.

I am merely asking, since it seems that everyone is sensitive and that everyone also expects others to moderate their sensitivity for the sake of getting along, though Joe Carter may differ.

I do believe that Tisby is correct to conclude that:

We all need to examine our tools of discernment. What are we using as evidence for a hypothesis about a people? Are we employing superficial and anecdotal proofs for our theories? Or are we engaging in meaningful dialogue with those who are different from us?

I am not sure that Anyabwile or Smith’s posts meet Tisby’s guidelines, nor do I think either man is without a point. The issue may be whether each man can acknowledge the other’s grievance, or whether one grievance trumps the other and lowers Tisby’s threshold for “meaningful dialogue.” That’s why Ross Douthat’s point (in the context of “12 Years A Slave”) is worth repeating:

A fruitful conversation about race in America, then, would require both sides to somehow pick a different starting point. To get a fair hearing from liberals — and, more importantly, from black Americans — the right would need to begin from a place of greater empathy for the black experience, and greater respect for the historical reasons that voter ID laws and Rush Limbaugh soliloquies can raise so many hackles. To get a fair hearing from conservatives, liberals would need to begin by imputing racism less frequently, attacking racially-entangled policies that aren’t remotely like Jim Crow on the merits rather than just calling them Jim Crow, Round Two, and recognizing that (as with Hitler analogies) the sooner you link your interlocutors to slaveowners, the faster they will tune you out.

Obama-era conservatism has often gone backward, not forward, where this potential conversation is concerned. But a liberalism that expects conservatives to see their present-day positions and rhetoric illuminated and condemned by a cinematic portrait of the evils of slavery in 1840s Louisiana — or that declares them unreachable when they don’t — is a liberalism that’s as unready for dialogue as any insensitive right-wing talk show host.

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  1. mark mcculley
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Andrew
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    So in asking whether it’s a) or b), can I answer, “c) Slick Willie, because the pic associated with this post says it all.”

    But seriously, I can’t add to this, and I know my literacy when it comes to movies is pathetic. Know I’ll see this one right after I’m done watching kitties and puppies (sorry).

    But actually seriously, you read interesting people, Darryl, and you keep introducing us, your chumps, to good stuff. Don’t stop what you are doing, now, bro (like you ever would). Think of the children..


  3. mikelmann
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    John Lomax visited bluesman Willie McTell in Georgia in 1940. Jas Obrecht describes the interview he conducted:
    One of the more telling exchanges between the folklorist and the bluesman occurred when Lomax asked McTell if he knew “any songs about colored people havin’ hard times here in the South . . . Complainin’ about the hard times and sometimes mistreatment of the whites. Have you got any songs that talk about that?” “No, sir,” McTell responded. “I haven’t, not at the present time, because the whites is mighty good to the Southern people, as far as I know.” Lomax pressed on: “‘Ain’t It Hard to Be a Nigger, Nigger’ – do you know that one?” “No,” McTell answered. “That’s not our time.” A moment later Lomax observed, “You keep movin’ around like you’re uncomfortable. What’s the matter, Willie?” McTell quickly shifted to another topic: “Well, I was in an automobile accident last night, little shook up. No one got hurt, but it was all jostled up mighty bad. Shake up – still sore from it, but no one got hurt.”

    So Blind Willie said whites were good to blacks in the South. But of course he was a black blind man who had to live in Georgia after the interview.

  4. Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    New site for the Old Life Retreat: My boss just furnished a house that sleeps 16. I have the bill for the mattresses. I call a top bunk.

  5. Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Having just finished “The Wire” I would have to say that it is one of the most refreshing things I have ever seen on race relations. It’s both earnest and cynical at all the right points.

  6. Muddy Gravel
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    That’s a great place Erik. I slept behind it on time. I mean one time. I try to be on time but things usually don’t work out.

  7. sean
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Soyers, Sowers. Dudes hanging out

  8. Les
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I think the question Thabiti and Tony are asking is whether ‘being Reformed’ is synonymous with believing in Southern slavery/the Confederate South even if you are South African.

  9. Posted December 21, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Les, Jemar works at RTS Jackson. You think he doesn’t know the answer to that question?

  10. Posted December 21, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink


    That was the Baylyblog/Iron Ink retreat.

    I also found the Called to Communion Retreat:

    Lots of magical thinking going on there.

  11. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Cross looked good in the headband.

  12. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Erik, FAIL! This is the CTC retreat:

  13. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Cross couldn’t handle the rhythmic part so he’s the one carrying the banner. Smart move, wouldn’t you say?

  14. Andrew
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Erik, I may only back you up here, righteous brother, if you can place well in your fantasy football league. I think Chuckles scored a touchdown here.

    The Crossian retreat should be a YouTube link away i just don’t what it is. You opened a can of worms, my friend..

  15. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    CTC in space: “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do”

  16. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    My bad. We were both off, though.

  17. Andrew
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    This place is intense…(emoticon).

    Erik, once I realized BC is a propagandist of many years of training, I was over my angst about the whole thing. We must continue on as we always have out here, but h doesn’t get to me. It’s them trying to convert us, not the other way around. Hence we get to tease at a whim. The MO is get him talking Vat2, because it’s a non starter for him. Anyway, I’m with Sean re: YouTube link. Were just dudes having some morning mimosas. Muddy’s got my back here, methinks.


  18. Posted December 21, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Andrew, please. Mixed drinks are for girls. Breakfast stout or Scotch, thank you.

  19. Andrew
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    NPD afflicts even such as me, so sometimes I take what I can get. That being said, why I would drink anything other than a stout is a question I am unable to answer in my present (or any other, at any other time, for that matter) state. So of course I gladly defer to the wisdom of my elders here. Anything to get a reaction..

    Peace out!

  20. sean
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Erik, I love ya and all, but there’s no way to shoehorn Murray, Candy , Ramis, and Larroquete into Baylyblog or IronInk. That’s just way too clever by ten for anything the BB’s or the Rabbi could produce. Plus, it makes Darryl the big toe

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