While the whole world is in an uproar over Phil Robertson’s suspension by A&E, and apparently — to the thinking of most — this is an unjust reprisal for a simple expression of his faith regarding homosexuality. Apparently everyone, media included, is all too happy to ignore his racial comments:
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.
Someone please explain to me how suggesting that a black man or woman was better off during a period where blacks were so oppressed and dehumanized that a white child could not even use a book if it had previously been touched by a black student, a time when blacks were beaten, killed, burned, raped, hung – and for no other crime than that they were born black, or maybe accused of looking at or touching something that was considered white property – explain to me how this is an expression of one’s biblically grounded faith.
Sure, it could be just a case of grotesque ignorance, but when it comes from a wealthy, white, redneck businessman and high-profile star from the deep south, I can almost guarantee that ignorance is not the first thing that comes to a minority viewer’s mind.
As Jonathan Merritt of The Atlantic suggests, maybe Phil hasn’t heard all the stories. Maybe he hasn’t heard the story of…
Mary Turner, an African-American woman who was hanged in 1918 in Valdosta, Georgia, alongside her husband, and of Dorothy Malcolm, a seven-month-pregnant black woman murdered alongside three others by a lynch mob in Monroe, Georgia*. No one was charged in either case, since blacks had no legal recourse at the time.
Maybe he didn’t hear the story of…
Dr. J.L. Cockrell, an African-American dentist in Houston who was castrated by KKK members on March 3, 1921 for rumors of associating with white women.
Maybe he didn’t hear the countless thousands of other stories just like this – grotesque and brutal atrocities justified on the grounds of biblical principle and under the pretentious umbrella of the Christian faith.
Am I surprised to hear either of the comments Phil made in the GQ interview? No – and I don’t think many other people are either. But look, this isn’t an issue of censorship or an attack on the Christian faith.
Yes, this is a free country and freedom of speech guarantees protection from criminal penalty for expressing your opinion. It does not, however, protect you from losing your job, losing customers, or being ostracized by your community. If you are going to speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may, you’d better own the pulpit.
If I’m the pastor of a church, whatever free speech I exercise in the pulpit or in public forums had better coincide with the positions of the church, or I will be out of a job before the lights are turned out.
But please — can I find just one Christian somewhere to stand up and say how shameful it is to pretend the atrocities of segregation and the pre-civil rights south didn’t happen? We read books, go to movies, and talk openly and scornfully about the horrors of the Holocaust, and yet pretend that the equally atrocious racial crimes that occurred in our own back yard, did not in fact occur.
Part of repentance, if I read my Bible correctly, is admitting our sin, admitting its horror and shamefulness, renouncing it, and moving in the opposite direction. It does not include sweeping it under the rug, keeping the skeletons in a white washed closet, or pretending that we never sinned.
As a Christian, I am outraged by Phil’s racial comments. I’m outraged even further than he is trying to use the Bible to justify them. I assure you that Jesus loves my black brothers and sisters every bit as much as he loves me. We are all one — one race, one family — in Christ. And to those who might be reading my post, I apologize for the actions of others who share my race who have caused you and your families so much insult and suffering. It is inexcusable and inhumane.
And to my fellow believers, if we as Christians ever want or hope to gain the respect of the general public again, we’ve got to quit playing the hypocrite on the national stage. So can we stop pretending our hatred is righteousness? We are fooling no one but ourselves. Trust me, the rest of the world see it for what it is.