I suppose I have never watched “Duck Dynasty” for the same reason I didn’t watch “Being Bobby Brown.” My precious spare time shall not be spent watching people play with or fulfill every horrible stereotype held against them. Besides, I don’t hunt, so the hijinx of a family of duck-call-making reality television stars holds no interest. But the backwater wisdom espoused by “DD’s” Phil Robertson in an interview with Drew Magary of GQ clinches my decision to stay away.
Robertson is a Bible thumper in the mold of that preacher who used my aunt’s funeral to rail against sin in general and gays in particular.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
This intolerant view is especially jarring when even the pope asks “who am I to judge” gay people and insists that the Catholic Church stop “obsessing” over social issues. And Robertson wasn’t content to keep his critique to the Bible. He had to go there — and vividly, in a Rob Ford kind of way.
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Robertson also has a whitewashed view of life in the South for African Americans. His pre-Civil-Rights-era memory is akin to that espoused by Haley Barbour, the highly regarded former governor and past chairman of the Republican National Committee from Mississippi who ducked (no pun intended) a 2012 presidential run rather than give an uncomfortable speech on race.
“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.”
This willful ignorance of the second-class citizenship of African Americans is beyond tiresome. This notion that blacks were just fine with inequality and racism of that era is offensive. Twitter follower @soroper raised a good point on my feed this morning. “The question: whether ‘tolerance’ should extend to echoes of past speech/thought that forced 2nd class status on oppressed groups,” he wrote. I say no, especially when past speech/thought informs present-day crippled thinking on the black experience in America.
But there was something even more troubling revealed parenthetically about Robertson’s son Willie in the GQ interview that most people probably didn’t even notice.
(He and his wife, Korie, adopted a biracial child named Will and are dedicated advocates of the practice.)
That Robertson’s son and his wife adopt children is a wonderful thing. Yet, I fear for that biracial child being raised in an environment where there is no understanding of this nation’s complicated racial history and that kid’s place in it. Whether Robertson’s young grandson is half African American or Asian or half Hispanic, he will have a lot to learn — and so much more to unlearn.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj