The Conversation

Phony Outrage: The Phil Robertson Witch-Hunt

If Phil Robertson thinks he’s seen the worst parts of media hysteria over his gay remarks, he’s got another thing coming because there are few media reactions more absurd than those fueled by black victimhood.

A Huffington Post headline reads, “'Duck Dynasty' Star Phil Robertson Claims Black People Were 'Happy' Pre-Civil Rights.”

In the much-discussed GQ interview, Robertson said of the black people he knew in pre-civil rights 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.

No racism so far. Robertson continues: 

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!

Robertson’s race remarks conclude with:

Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues. 

Here is where Phil Robertson committed a Cardinal Sin. By stating that the black people he knew and worked alongside with were not openly resentful of their lot in life, but were in fact, “happy,” Robertson was disrupting the commonly accepted orthodoxy that says blacks living in the Jim Crow south were being exploited and had every right to show resentment.

“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,” wrote the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Capehart, who is black and gay, represents that reflexively indignant cohort of commentators who possess a very narrow-minded and regressively victim-centered view of history.  

CNN anchor Don Lemon, who is also black and openly gay said, “Listen, I always air on the side of free speech. Just because I’m offended, as I said, people can say whatever they want. I don’t think [Phil Robertson] should be fired.”

Apparently, Don Lemon didn’t get the memo.

Indeed, you can see the media trying to string together a narrative that says just like the conservatives rushing to his defense, Phil Robertson must have been okay with the racism all around him growing up in the south. 

The Chicago Tribune ran a story titled "Conservatives defend Phil Robertson." And Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The Atlantic describes the lynching-filled pre-Jim Crow America that Phil Robertson grew up in but Coates fails to mention that it was the KKK and the Democratic Party who were terrorizing white people and lynching blacks in the south.

Even Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chimed in saying in a statementPhil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.”

What’s more?

The fact that Phil Robertson has a mixed-race adopted grandson is also rarely reported. Does having a mixed-race grandson mean that Phil Robertson isn’t a racist? No. But with no evidence to the contrary, the existence of racial animus should not be automatically assumed.

If your claim is that Phil Robertson is a racist homophobe, then the burden of proof is on you.

But until that evidence presents itself, can we please stop the witch-hunts?


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