Library of Congress
OLD TIMES THERE: Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson remembers a happier time in Louisiana than this photograph recalls.
The GQ interview
by Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson
has set off a tempest. His homophobic remarks — comparing being gay with bestiality — got him suspended by A&E
, which airs the weirdly popular show. But let's bend way over backward and give his religious views, however perverse, some explanation for intolerance of gay people.
A reader called this additional remark to my attention and it's smack-your-forehead stuff.
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“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.”
There aren't enough megabytes to detail how wrong-headed this is. You could put it down to ignorance only if you believe Robertson never read a newspaper or watched TV news. Particularly when you know that Phil Robertson grew up in Caddo Parish, outside Shreveport, and now lives in West Monroe, which is in Ouachita Parish. Northern Louisiana isn't known for its racial harmony. The Louisiana Encyclopedia
mentions after talking about Louisiana as the land where Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal) was born and where rigid segregation statutes soon followed:
Not coincidentally, lynchings increased dramatically after 1900, primarily in the northern parishes of Caddo, Ouachita and Morehouse. Between 1900 and 1931, more than half the lynchings in the state occurred north of Alexandria. The numbers of African Americans lynched are in the thousands though detailed statistics are skewed because police officers in the northern parishes rarely considered lynchings as homicides.
Of course, Robertson wasn't born until 1946. And by then, maybe all the darkies were just a-singin' and a-whistlin' — at least they were if they knew what was good for them.
The catalogue of racial horrors in my home state is too brutal and deep to fully recount. But the images are stark: Plaquemines dictator Leander Perez's
threat to exile civil rights activists to a barge in the mosquito-infested wetlands; vicious mothers shouting curses at little Ruby Bridges
as she tried to enroll in a white elementary school in New Orleans; the violent racist backlash when black people stood up in hate-driven Bogalusa where the vow was
, "Niggers Ain't Gonna Run this Town."
If Phil Robertson went to school with black children in rural Caddo Parish before his 1964 high school graduation it would be surprising. My own Southwest Louisiana school district, led by somebody then considered a remarkably liberal school superintendent, acceded without lawsuit to integration in 1965-66, but only at first by a bare handful of some of the finest of local black high school students. In fact, a Shreveport Times article
says the first two black students to enter a white school anywhere in Caddo Parish occurred in 1965. It doesn't say if it was out between Vivian and Hosston, where Robertson lived, but I'd bet against it.
Still, maybe Phil was right. Maybe his fellow cotton pickers were happy with their lot then and singing the blues now about their present state. You think?
PS — The Family Research Council
stands with the Duck boys. Which is about all you need to know. Surely there will shortly be a call to buy some Chick-fil-A to show where you stand.