9.28.2007

and we wonder why the country is such a mess

We're home. It was lovely - altogether beautiful and relaxing. And now back to reality, which isn't so bad either. I have a bunch of odds and ends I've been waiting to post, so here we go.

Loyal wmtc reader and news source James sent me two random notes from the Can You Believe Anyone Is So Stupid Department. Both are related to race relations in TGNOTFOTE.

First, from Oliver Willis (yet another terrific blog completely despoiled with advertising), quoting a chat in The Washington Post, about the situation in Jena, Louisiana:
When did nooses become racist symbols? When I was a kid we'd always make nooses in scout camp in Virginia to "string up the rustlers." It was a Western symbol with roots in all the Western movies we grew up with -- something dangerous that knot-tiers could make, but always about the Old West. Later in high school depressed friends would make them for what you'd now call "Goth" culture, but back then it was more Alice Cooper. About five years ago an African American friend said that nooses are "always about lynching." I never thought that my entire life and it's totally news to me. Is this a symbol with strong meaning in the South?

What can you say? Really. What can you say. Note this person presumably grew up in Virginia. And he wonders when nooses became racist symbols.

Perhaps it was when black Americans were living in a constant state of terrorism, when tens of thousands of Americans of African descent were murdered by their countrymen, while their white neighbours attended their executions in a picnic atmosphere, buying souvenir postcards, while their own government turned a blind eye and did nothing to protect them? Perhaps then?

It's tempting to chalk this up to one exceptional idiot, but I think it's an illustration of the quality of the US education system.

We turn from the quality of US education to the quality of the media in that great country.

From the good folks at Media Matters:
Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia's, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." O'Reilly added: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'"

James sent me the quote with commentary from The Plank, a New Republic blog:
Other surprises from Bill O'Reilly's trip to Sylvia's:

* Chairs and tables were sturdy and four-legged.

* Napkins already on the table, leaving no need for them to be special-ordered.

* Menu actually printed on paper, suggesting widespread literacy of clientele, rather than selections being sung to him by kindly old black man playing the banjo as he'd expected.

* Meal served by waitstaff in a customary appetizer-entree-dessert order, and not out of a trough.

* Meatloaf made of ground beef, not ground welfare checks.

* No need to pay with food stamps--credit cards and U.S currency accepted.

* Money was collected through traditional handing over of a bill, rather than mugging.

* Widespread use of knives, forks, spoons.

It's easy to laugh at Bill O'Reilly, since he's a clown. But he's also a principal news source for millions of Americans. More from Media Matters on Bill O'Reilly's enlightened views on his fellow Americans.

8 comments:

Scott M. said...

Growing up in Ontario I'd have to say that a noose has no particular symbolism in the communities I grew up in - certainly no racist connotation. The only racist symbolism I'm familiar with are those propogated through the popular media in TV shows and historic accounts -- mostly white hoods and burning crosses.

I think if a noose was shown to people I grew up with the discussion would immediately fall to one of capital punishment and all the controversy that entails. As an aside, it's hard to believe that capital punishment is still an issue after so many years but people still bring it up. The abortion issue seems to have passed in the general population, but capital punishment still rages on. But I digress...

Glad you had fun in the Kawarthas! Did you get a chance to explore Peterborough much? A walk through the Trent University campus would be spectacular at this time of year.

L-girl said...

Growing up in Ontario I'd have to say that a noose has no particular symbolism in the communities I grew up in - certainly no racist connotation.

Of course not, as Canada has no history of large-scale lynching, as far as I know.

The person who said this is American, and from Virginia (at least he went to scout camp in that state).

L-girl said...

Glad you had fun in the Kawarthas! Did you get a chance to explore Peterborough much?

We didn't go into Peterborough at all. I'm not even sure where it is in relation to the cottage! The only town we saw was the tiny Lakefield, for groceries and the LCBO. :)

It was a very short trip, and not meant for sightseeing of any kind. The petroglyphs were an unexpected nearby bonus.

impudent strumpet said...

Even if you didn't know the history of lynching, it's a noose! It's a tool of execution! If someone set up a guillotine or an electric chair or something, people wouldn't be going "What? How can someone possibly find that threatening?"

'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'

My new goal is to smoothly incorporate this line into conversation.

L-girl said...

Even if you didn't know the history of lynching, it's a noose! It's a tool of execution! If someone set up a guillotine or an electric chair or something, people wouldn't be going "What? How can someone possibly find that threatening?"

You're absolutely right. I didn't even think in those terms! I guess being so familiar with the specific connotations, I didn't think about the more general implications.

'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'

My new goal is to smoothly incorporate this line into conversation.


Please let us know how it goes!

redsock said...

'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'

My new goal is to smoothly incorporate this line into conversation.


That is exactly what I thought when Laura told me about this idiocy.

M@ said...

In another age, jerks like O'Reilly would have described their experience at Sylvia's as the black folk getting uppity. So O'Reilly really is a beacon of progress, isn't he? It's always great to see a new layer of veneer on racism, warms the heart.

(Note: in that other age, the hypothetical O'Reilly would not have used the term "black folk".)

Sarah Gates said...

Much as I hate to defend an obvious idiot, I grew up in Virginia as well, and in the area I came from, while we would react to a burning cross or a white hood as an overtly racist symbol, a noose would have been interpreted as a generally threatening item, not specifically racial in nature by my friends, black and white.

That said, my cousins, who grew up in a more rural and more "Southern" area of the Commonwealth, do see the noose as an explicitly racist threat, and I think their experience is much more relevant to the situation.