How Sons of Anarchy Got Racism Right

Juice Ortiz

Television is really comfortable with showing unrepentant racists in the roles of villians; and playing racism for laughs or shockvalue. But what we don’t normally see in pop culture is the urge toward showing full characters. Including the racist bits.

I’ve been following Sons of Anarchy since the beginning of Season 3, and I was initally going to write about how the show treats whiteness. The world of Sons is almost an unauthorized form of whiteness that is rarely depicted without derision – defiantly lower class, quasi-ethnic, and trapped in the same kinds of systems that count as pathology in communities of color, but get the “trash” label when the conversation shifts to whites in the same situation.

However, that piece was put on hold because the subplot on this season is around a character named Juice Ortiz – and the problems that arise between his identity and the rules of the club.

[SPOILERS for the entire Juice story arc as well as other parts of the series ahead. This is your one and only warning.]

Now, the Sons seemed fairly unconcerned with racism. They went to war with a white supremacist crew, and have made alliances with local black and Latino bike gangs, though with mixed results. The older members are a bit more inclined toward racism, the younger ones a bit less so, but it really depends on the individual. In an early meeting with the new Sheriff, Juice’s mixed race background and black father are put on the table as bargaining chips: If Juice doesn’t cooperate, the Sheriff informs the club – which just so happens has a bylaw banning black members. Panicked, Juice is coerced by the Sheriff to steal a sample of the cocaine, attempts to do so, but falls asleep and doesn’t return the sample before counting. Things get hectic, and Juice ends up killing another member of the club to keep his secret. Increasingly weighed down by the increasing demands, his actions, and the secret, Juice attempts to commit suicide, leading fellow member Chibs to start looking after him. At one point, he tentatively asks about the “no blacks rule” to Chibs, another member of the club, who explains that while he didn’t personally agree, the rules were the rules, and if they stopped following the rules, everything would fall apart.

This part, I loved, because it makes the point about racism that we’ve been making all along – that it isn’t just hooded white supremacists that practice racism. Chibs, by failing to challenge an older racist rule, assisted in shaking Juice’s faith in his club, and isolated him even further, driving him deeper into the devious machinations of Lincoln Potter. In his moment of need, Juice doesn’t hear support. But neither Chibs does actively defend racism. Instead, he does so passively – he essentially slides neutral, and as Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” For some people, Chibs’ position may have been unclear – how can he allow racism to continue, but still care about Juice? But that’s easy. Much of racism exists in the abstract – those people over there, not these good people you know, who are the exception. So, of course Chibs could uphold the club’s racist rules – it didn’t affect him. And of course he could then tell Juice not to worry – he’s not one of those abstract people. But notice, Chibs is careful with the language. After Juice’s confession, he assures him things will be alright – not because that rule was wrong and it was racist, or that he had faith that the rest of the Sons are so far removed from racism that they won’t mind, but because Juice’s birth certificate says “Latino.”

The anti-black rule still stands, unchallenged. And while Chibs may think it’s what’s in your heart that counts (as long as you aren’t black on your birth certificate), that doesn’t mean the rest of the club will agree.

Over at Kurt Sutter’s blog, he explains the seed for the story line:

There seems to be some confusion about Juice’s discomfort and fear regarding the discovery of his black father. This is a racial reality in outlaw motorcycle clubs. We’ve touched on the issue lightly over the first three seasons of SOA. The fact is that most of the bigger MC’s do not have African American members. There are black clubs and there are white (Caucasian, Latino, Asian) clubs. Most live in harmony. HA and the East Bay Dragons have been friends for decades. That relationship inspired the Grim Bastards in season 3. We delve into the delicate why’s and how’s of this racial bi-law later in the season, but it was one of those odd, historical barriers that I’ve wanted to explore. It’s a throwback to a different era that is still in practice today. I can honestly say that none of the guys I know in the life are racist, yet they function within a structure that is built upon a form of segregation. To me, that’s fascinating and fertile story turf. The depth and weight of this rule varies from club to club and this season we see how it’s handled by the Sons of Anarchy.

And Sutter does this, beautifully. Perhaps this is the freedom provided to creators who put antiheroes at the forefront of their work. Freed from the idea their characters need to be upstanding citizens to be likeable, they are able to explore more of the contradictions and complexities of human nature. It amazed me to see all the people on Sutter’s post saying that the Sons couldn’t be racist. Why not? Have you been paying attention for the last few seasons? The Sons are thieves, drug runners, murders, philanderers, wife-beaters, and backstabbers. A few episodes ago, Jax led a woman on to get her alone, face slammed her into a table, choked her, and spit in her face while calling her a whore. Did she fuck with the wrong people? Yes. Was it still really horrible to watch sexualized violence? Yes! Can my feminist brain hate that scene, but my fan brain simultaneously root for Jax protecting his club and family? Yes!

So why can’t viewers accept a character that is supposed to be seen as sympathetic that is racist or holds racist views?

For far too long, writers have been using racism a way to practice lazy characterization. It perpetuates the lie that all racists are horrible and hateful people – and not folks who happen to harbor irrational biases toward people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. However, by using racism as a lazy way to make someone evil, writers have painted themselves into a corner. Audiences have been conditioned to see characters who hold or express racial biases as inexplicably evil. So allowing a character in a work to express or defend racist views is to automatically mark that character as irredeemable. Interestingly, sexism in a character doesn’t quite work the same way – people will excuse that behavior as being true to the character. But a racist is too much for people to try to identify with, so writers normally push that messy aspect of people’s characters to the side. (This has been my ongoing beef with Mad Men. Especially now that a series that takes place during the height of Jim Crow, and a series that focuses on a predominantly white motorcycle club in Northern California made it work.) So while racism is a part of daily life, the idea that we have racism without actual racists has permeated our screens in the same way it has permeated society.

But here’s the thing. Characters are not required to be perfect.

The Sons don’t have to be anti-racist to be awesome characters. Over the last few weeks, personal relationships are frayed to the hilt. Everyone is struggling with the ideas of love, fealty, and protection. Gemma is lying to everyone, trying to protect everyone a little differently. Jax committed himself to a plan he didn’t believe in, in hopes of trading it for a future he would never see. And let’s not even get started on Opie. Everyone is being manipulated, lied to, fighting on a playing field that has irrevocably changed. This is beautifully written drama, because everyone is committing little betrayals for reasons they feel are right. So I wouldn’t be surprised, after this week’s non-resolution, that we shift away from the racism plot to wrap up one of the other dozen plot lines tightening around the Sons. But, as we’ve learned from the past few seasons that nothing is ever really laid to bed. Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds from the first season were just revealed (Edited: See ETA) to Opie in the last episode, so I think that Juice’s parentage may come up yet again.

If anyone survives to the fifth season, that is.

ETA: Welcome, SOA fans. As I mentioned at the very beginning of the post, I’ve been watching from Season 3. Many people have written in to correct the timing – Opie was made aware of Clay’s treachery and Tig’s murder of Donna back in Season 2, it was just revisited after Clay murders Piney. Part of the reason I am holding off on writing the other two pieces on Gender in Sons and on Whiteness in Sons, is because I haven’t been able to catch up on the first two seasons.

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  • NSC

    Well written article, thoroughly enjoyed the read. Perhaps my criticism (if I may have one) is that by only watching the last two seasons an individual can not possibly read deep enough into the storyline and make assertions on issues such as gender and racism. Imagine two seasons of plot development, so many things happened in S01 and S02 that have driven characters to their current dispositions. I highly recommend starting from the beginning and watching all four seasons. But again, thankyou for the article Latoya

  • Vikingwitchy

    Netflix has seasons 1-3 :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ronald-Binion-Jr/1165674203 Ronald Binion Jr

    Truth be told all the characters on SOA are flawed in some regard. We are just used to seeing the “good guys” as being cut from a different cloth and the “bad guys” easy to hate. Instead the writers choose to be truer to the actual characters. A biker gang that overtly ignored race lacks a certain authenticy.  This isn’t a biker gang from Utopia that is morally superior to the other gangs. They peddle guns, they deal drugs, they beat women, they lie, they cheat. You cannot choose to expose those faults yet remain true to the characters without showing that they are not immune racism. Even if they were not racist, if a brother had been locked down with them in prison he would not be able to “run” with them.  Not one of these characters is without sin.  Kudos for the writers to portraying the issue and not trying to “play it down”.  As a Negro in America today I’ve had friends of other races I have known for years that I thought “got it” only to have to pause, go “REALLY?” and educate them. Racial division was probably the nature of the game when the charter was written, and its lends authenticy that it was included in the story. This is not a story of a holier than thou MC; it’s a story of flawed characters. The key word is STORY. Thanks to the writers for bringing us all to the table to discuss this subject which no other show has done. 

  • bigscreenkid

    And yet as a minority, am I not capable of unintentional racism and sexism? Like wingsandfins, I would like the benefit of the doubt not to be forever labeled a racist or a sexist. And no, that’s not me expecting other people to educate me. That’s my personal wish for people to feel comfortable to question my ideas, so I can self-evaluate and educate myself on my own time. While you make an excellent point, it’s kind of misdirected and jumping the gun (assuming that this is first time you’ve commented on something that poster wrote). Based on the comment alone, it’s kind of presumptuous to conclude that wingsandfins is a) not a POC and b) asking to be taught.

  • http://druaddams.tumblr.com/ Dru

    This article is amazing; you were able to explain some things that I see no one really understanding. It shocks me how you understood even after not watching the first two seasons, and how some people that have watched the show from the start simple don’t get it. Also, I find kind of funny how people can be OK with murder, dealing with drugs, beating up women and selling guns, but they end up shocked with racism and can’t accept it.
    I’m 100% sure this is the best show on TV right now. You’re right when you say it’s a “beautifully written drama, because everyone is committing little betrayals for reasons they feel are right”. Kurt Sutter is a genius, no doubt, I love how he makes me love AND hate every single character, and I just love the way he keeps us on our toes every single episode.
    Once again, I loved the article, and I’ll be waiting for the others (:

  • Vishun4u_91

    WOW , this topic will get thick next week judging from the previews for next weeks show. All I can say is just WOW.

  • Vishun4u_91

    WOW , this topic will get thick next week judging from the previews for next weeks show. All I can say is just WOW.

  • Anonymous

    I havent watched in two weeks but Opie doesnt know that Tig killed Donna. I will have to watch last week’s 1 1/2 episode to catch up.

  • http://frumpfactor.wordpress.com/ Anne @ The Frump Factor

    Beautifully complex analysis of a beautifully complex show.  Why does this have to be so rare??????

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  • Anonymous

    I’d say that your grandfather and the other racist grandfathers mentioned in this thread are the precursor to the most common and most dangerous form of racist that exists today.
    It is the deniability that is evident throughout your post that makes these racists the most virulent and the hardest to eliminate.  Do you see how the first paragraph of your post would make most black people uncomfortable knowing your grandfather (if he was still alive)no matter how polite or “nice” he was to us? I love my grandparents and they also lived through the nastiest parts of the Jim Crow South.  But please understand that their ability to turn the other cheek and to see the “goodness” in a man like your grandfather was a matter of conditioning and/or survival.  Being an uppity Negro, which could be as simple as looking a white person in the eye, could get you killed.  When my parents (just a year shy of being true Baby Boomers) were children and teenagers, white people could abuse them or order them about in any way possible.  My dad told me a story about a lady quizzing a little girl with some basic questions (what is your name?  how old are you?) and she slapped the little girl hard across the face the FIRST time her answer didn’t end with “Ma’am” as a way of “training” her to the harsh realities of the day.  My mom recalls a white man who wanted to buy a cow from her own grandmother (whose own father was a white man) who was not interested in selling it.  The man later come back with a friend and a shotgun and took the cow for free.  And you know, I could see my own grandfather being like the man at your grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather came to my high school reunion…at my private school that was founded before the Civil War, also in the South, and where I was the only black student in my class for 13 years.  And my grandfather went home “gushing” at how nice all of the white people were to him.  Do you know what they did to be so nice?  They helped him to his chair.  They called him sir.  They made sure he was comfortable.  I call that normal Southern hospitality but do you understand why that was a momentous occasion in the life of a black man born during WWI?  So he too would have been able to come and thank you for your grandfather in a way that I know that I NEVER could.  There is a capacity for  forgiveness, compassion and humility that exists in blacks from that era that I actually don’t ever want to have.  So can you understand how when the bar is set SO low that a man who uses the “N-word” could be viewed kindly by a Black man of that generation.  Sorry, but that doesn’t make your grandfather some Morris Dees figure that I should look up to.  He just lived in a time where “nice” was not hitting people, making them wait on you for free, or otherwise treating them like animals just because you could.  But yes, back to my original point.  Racists like your grandfather and the ones who “harmlessly” spread or believe racial stereotypes and who defend non-violent racist actions are precisely the reason why racism is not going anywhere anytime soon.We are in an era where many white people only believe in the caricatures of racism that exist in movies(e.g. the backwoods redneck or the sinister Nazi), and therefore wrongly believe themselves to be innocent.  We are in an era where many people will insist that because they were not alive during slavery, they should not be “punished” for the sins of their forbears (but clearly that rule doesn’t help out the Palestinians, but that is a topic for another day).  And we are in an era where none of this is likely to change b/c it is all too easy for people whose lives are not impacted by racism on a daily basis to declare that problem solved and to actually complain that they are in fact the ones who are being oppressed, injured, and denied access to what is rightfully theirs.I never lived through Jim Crow and have so much that was denied to my grandparents (and even my parents) yet I dislike the attempt to gaslight me and other minorities regarding the many harmful forms that racism takes that makes our lives harder than yours, no matter what else we manage to achieve.
    It might not be 0 or 1 but you cannot convince me that your definition of 1 encompasses as much as mine does, and I sense that your tolerance for .5 would be much higher than mine.  If you are on the receiving in, even a .2 is too much.  Your life in terms of racism will likely stay at 0.  Mine will not.    Please don’t try to tell me how much I should be okay absorbing from you or anyone else.  

    • guest

      please make a blog, I agree completely and would love to read other thoughts by you! :) 

  • Anonymous

    Great Latoya! I love this show and have watched every season. I know someone mentioned this already, but the fact that Juice confided to Chibs – whom, despite being divorced from his Black / Irish wife, clearly  still loved her – I think that they were separated by force because of the IRA character that Chibs killed on the last episode of Season 3 – that guy was jealous of Chibs and somehow he blackmailed Chibs into leaving Ireland – well he tried to kill him…anyhoo, I thought that it was telling, and very sad that Chibs basically told him to ignore his Blackness. Okay, if he had to him to be honest, Jusie would have been turfed out of the club or killed. Also, there was a backstory between Gemma and Chibs ex-wife that was hinted at in Season 2……Gemma was afraid of her. 

     But for Juice – this was made apparent in Season One – that he was a Vet of the Iraq war, and SOA was his da facto family – he was emotionally tied to them, as they were the only ones who took him in after he left the army. It is all about survival, right or wrong. BTW, the actor who plays Chibs is totally hot……..

  • FrenchAssName

    Great article. However, one major issue I had was the appropriation of the song “Strange Fruit”; Liz Sagal covered it in the episode where Juice attempts to hang himself. Given the historical context of that song and what it has continued to represent for a lot of folks, it just felt wrong somehow to have a white person sing it, despite the lyricist apparently being white himself.

    I’m very interested to see how this race issue will be resolved. Overall, I think the Sons writers are some of the best working today. 

    • Anonymous

      That might have been a licensing issue.  It was probably cheaper to have her sing the song rather than paying to license the rights to Billie Holliday’s performance and the rights to the lyrics.  I thought it was an appropriate song choice for its dramatic effect.  It started playing while Juice was messing around in the woods and all of a sudden he’s hanging himself. Black bodies…and all that.

  • Teddkenn

    Great article, I started watching from the beginning of season 1 when a friend turned me onto it. Look forward to reading more pieces fron you.

  • USClawmom

    Oh my God.  What you wrote, and how you wrote it, was brilliant.  You are an amazing writer and amazing thinker!  I am passing this article on to friends, because it says so much, even if you don’t watch the show—it resonates.  But I am still just awestruck at your writing style.  

  • Justin

    I think the whole issue with the nords spurred from them pushing meth, not them breing white supremacists. Back when the focus was still on the sons being “protectors of the community”. That, and them raping gemma didn’t help any either.

  • Justin

    I think the whole issue with the nords spurred from them pushing meth, not them breing white supremacists. Back when the focus was still on the sons being “protectors of the community”. That, and them raping gemma didn’t help any either.

  • Vishun4u_91

    REALLY love this article , thanks for the Twitter link Kurt ! As a black man who grew up in the days of Blacks and Mexicans actually being one I find the way racism is portrayed on SOA as on point. It IS how it works , there is no candy coating. Some blacks and Mexicans are still friends to this day but under certain conditions now. Until people understand these conditions they will always miss the point. Racism exists in us ALL in some form or another , don’t be fooled. Once you come to that understanding you come to understand why it will never go away and it will always have a place in a persons character.

  • Alwayztru1

    Bylaws in clubs is not necessarily racist. I’m Black and I know several white bikers from a prominent club. We’ve rode together, partied together, but their club has no Black riders. Just because a person is proud to be white, doesn’t make him a racist. My club has no whites for no other reason, I believe, other than location. Most clubs are somewhat regional in the fact that we ride where we live. Just a thought…

  • Alwayztru1

    Nice piece. Very well said. Hope you get a chance to catch up on the first two seasons!

  • FDWagner

    I understand all of the things you have written about and agree. The fact is the MC world is racist on both sides. I am in a club in Detroit. My club is only white and hispanic,by the same token there are three large ALL black MCs I could never join here in Detroit. We all got to parties together and hang at bars together,but there clubhouse I cannot enter because of my skin color and one in paticular, their president, was my locker partner in high school but the rules are the rules. Do I think its stupid yea I do but to change a by-law takes a 100% yes vote 1 no and it doesnt pass. I dont know what it would take to get any club to change.

    CHEF
    RAMC,DETROIT

  • Erika1976

    Awesome Article - 

  • Erika1976

    Awesome Article - 

  • Erika1976

    Awesome Article - 

  • Erika1976

    Awesome Article - 

  • Erika1976

    Awesome Article - 

  • Jake

    I don’t know anything about Sons of Anarchy. But this was the most insightful piece I’ve read about racism in a long, long time. It suggests a new way forward to me. 

  • Jake

    I don’t know anything about Sons of Anarchy. But this was the most insightful piece I’ve read about racism in a long, long time. It suggests a new way forward to me. 

  • Jake

    I don’t know anything about Sons of Anarchy. But this was the most insightful piece I’ve read about racism in a long, long time. It suggests a new way forward to me. 

  • Kim Visan

    Finally SOA gets it’s props for tackling racism (and any other topic) in a truthful, direct manner!

  • Rob

    You really ought to watch the first two seasons, they are fantastic (the third season was pretty overall).

  • Kim Visan

    I’m happy to see a ballsy show like SOA, which fearlessly tackles racism, misogyny and any other topic that’s un-PC, finally get it’s props!  Kudos to Kurt Sutter and Co.!!!! 

  • Scotw1t

    I think you are absolutely right.  We have been conditioned to think that racism in a character means that the character is evil.

    It took me a bit of time to stop being surprised by racism from members of the Sons.  In the beginning, I often thought, “Wait…what? Why is he being racist? He can’t be racist, I love this guy!”  I was definitely conditioned. 

    Now I appreciate the depth of character that I have been shown from the Sons.

  • Robinleasmith

    Impressive and well-conveyed thoughts! Spot-on!

  • Anonymous

    If you are defining racism simply as exchanging racial slurs, that is too simplistic. The whole point of exploring Juice’s story arc, in Sutter’s own words, is to explore the structures.

  • Anonymous

    Because we are following Juice’s plot arc, and he is a member of the Sons. We have no idea how the other biker gangs would act if they had a member like Juice.

    • Anonymous

      If you watched Seasons 1 and 2, you will also notice how the SOA tried to distance themselves from the white supremacist gang.  Which you could arguably say is odd given their charter rules about black people.  Also one of the Sons has a biracial daughter (whatever season they were in Ireland).  All the gangs (black, Latino, white) are morally reprehensible.  They murder, run guns, sell drugs, treat women horribly…But they are such rich fodder for the show.  I don’t think anyone could say only the white characters are “racist” in the show.  All biases seem to be exposed,  but the focus of the show is the Sons.  It is clear that all the characters are human.

    • Anonymous

      If you watched Seasons 1 and 2, you will also notice how the SOA tried to distance themselves from the white supremacist gang.  Which you could arguably say is odd given their charter rules about black people.  Also one of the Sons has a biracial daughter (whatever season they were in Ireland).  All the gangs (black, Latino, white) are morally reprehensible.  They murder, run guns, sell drugs, treat women horribly…But they are such rich fodder for the show.  I don’t think anyone could say only the white characters are “racist” in the show.  All biases seem to be exposed,  but the focus of the show is the Sons.  It is clear that all the characters are human.

    • Anonymous

      If you watched Seasons 1 and 2, you will also notice how the SOA tried to distance themselves from the white supremacist gang.  Which you could arguably say is odd given their charter rules about black people.  Also one of the Sons has a biracial daughter (whatever season they were in Ireland).  All the gangs (black, Latino, white) are morally reprehensible.  They murder, run guns, sell drugs, treat women horribly…But they are such rich fodder for the show.  I don’t think anyone could say only the white characters are “racist” in the show.  All biases seem to be exposed,  but the focus of the show is the Sons.  It is clear that all the characters are human.

    • Anonymous

      If you watched Seasons 1 and 2, you will also notice how the SOA tried to distance themselves from the white supremacist gang.  Which you could arguably say is odd given their charter rules about black people.  Also one of the Sons has a biracial daughter (whatever season they were in Ireland).  All the gangs (black, Latino, white) are morally reprehensible.  They murder, run guns, sell drugs, treat women horribly…But they are such rich fodder for the show.  I don’t think anyone could say only the white characters are “racist” in the show.  All biases seem to be exposed,  but the focus of the show is the Sons.  It is clear that all the characters are human.

      • Anonymous

        Chibs is the one with a mixed daughter.  His ex-wife is actually Black-Irish, which makes it all that more interesting.  To me, it made it that much more heart stabbing-ly painful when Chibs didn’t stand up for Juice:  the one person who actually has openly shown dedication and love to black people doesn’t have their back.  That’s why Chibs said something along the lines of how Fiona was only an old lady.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t watch the show, but the description here of the Chibs character is very real to what happens in real life(not an allegory but I guess just a good parallel to the world in general), not just with biker gangs but with (white) people who don’t challenge racism or who don’t recognize it unless it’s the most obvious, violent kind.
          So we see how often we get explanations and defenses from white people about how black face isn’t wrong, about how they have Black/Asian friends/lovers, etc. 
          People convince themselves (and are assisted by the media) into thinking that there is just one, obvious way to be a racism.
          But it’s the subtle racism that is practice today, everyday that is impossible to root out b/c of the constant denials from people who think they are not racists, or who even believe themselves to be anti-racists, or who think that having a Black president means that the bad times are behind us.  
          I’ll point out however they either ignore or quickly forget the obvious, virulent racism in the legal system or those ugly diatribes that media figures put out (mocking Black or Asian speech or spreading hateful stereotypes). 

    • Anonymous

      If you watched Seasons 1 and 2, you will also notice how the SOA tried to distance themselves from the white supremacist gang.  Which you could arguably say is odd given their charter rules about black people.  Also one of the Sons has a biracial daughter (whatever season they were in Ireland).  All the gangs (black, Latino, white) are morally reprehensible.  They murder, run guns, sell drugs, treat women horribly…But they are such rich fodder for the show.  I don’t think anyone could say only the white characters are “racist” in the show.  All biases seem to be exposed,  but the focus of the show is the Sons.  It is clear that all the characters are human.

  • EWilliams

    Your piece was really interesting, Thanks.  I am a fan of SOA, it reminds me of the actual interactions of races among convict prison yard politics.  It also does pretty good at shining a little light on how outlaw bikers can and have gotten away with severe crimes without major intervention amongst law enforcement.  Just replace those individuals with a black or latino gang…and most would be in prison before the first season could end.  This is not to say either violation of the law is correct…but, just a thought in the contrasting perspectives.

  • Nikkic

    if you know anything about biker crews…..they are racist!!

  • Eleanor

    This is an amazing article. I appreciate it immensely. There is, however, one problem I see. Opie found out about Clay and Tig in the second season. Unser was just reminding him of what they did to Donna, he already knew. He just found out about Clay killing Piney; Tig didn’t have anything to do with that. 

  • Eleanor

    This is an amazing article. I appreciate it immensely. There is, however, one problem I see. Opie found out about Clay and Tig in the second season. Unser was just reminding him of what they did to Donna, he already knew. He just found out about Clay killing Piney; Tig didn’t have anything to do with that. 

  • Eleanor

    This is an amazing article. I appreciate it immensely. There is, however, one problem I see. Opie found out about Clay and Tig in the second season. Unser was just reminding him of what they did to Donna, he already knew. He just found out about Clay killing Piney; Tig didn’t have anything to do with that. 

  • Eleanor

    This is an amazing article. I appreciate it immensely. There is, however, one problem I see. Opie found out about Clay and Tig in the second season. Unser was just reminding him of what they did to Donna, he already knew. He just found out about Clay killing Piney; Tig didn’t have anything to do with that. 

  • Elizaterry52

    Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds were revealed to Opie a looonnngggg time ago. U should buy the dvd sets.

  • Elizaterry52

    Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds were revealed to Opie a looonnngggg time ago. U should buy the dvd sets.

  • Elizaterry52

    Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds were revealed to Opie a looonnngggg time ago. U should buy the dvd sets.

  • Elizaterry52

    Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds were revealed to Opie a looonnngggg time ago. U should buy the dvd sets.

  • Sam

    Great article, but I wanted to point out one very minor error:  “Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds from the first season were just revealed to Opie in the last episode…”  Actually, Tig confesses to Opie in Season 2.  Piney takes a shot at Clay (literally), and Opie agrees to stay with the club and to let the truth about Clay & Tig’s involvement in Donna’s murder die in exchange for Clay letting Piney live and stay in SAMCRO.  Jax and Unser resurrect the pain of Donna’s murder for Opie this season though, in what’s sure to send him running at Clay like a bearded cruise missile.

  • Sam

    Great article, but I wanted to point out one very minor error:  “Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds from the first season were just revealed to Opie in the last episode…”  Actually, Tig confesses to Opie in Season 2.  Piney takes a shot at Clay (literally), and Opie agrees to stay with the club and to let the truth about Clay & Tig’s involvement in Donna’s murder die in exchange for Clay letting Piney live and stay in SAMCRO.  Jax and Unser resurrect the pain of Donna’s murder for Opie this season though, in what’s sure to send him running at Clay like a bearded cruise missile.

  • Sam

    Great article, but I wanted to point out one very minor error:  “Clay and Tig’s dirty deeds from the first season were just revealed to Opie in the last episode…”  Actually, Tig confesses to Opie in Season 2.  Piney takes a shot at Clay (literally), and Opie agrees to stay with the club and to let the truth about Clay & Tig’s involvement in Donna’s murder die in exchange for Clay letting Piney live and stay in SAMCRO.  Jax and Unser resurrect the pain of Donna’s murder for Opie this season though, in what’s sure to send him running at Clay like a bearded cruise missile.

  • http://fearlessblogger.com faryl

    Wonderful post!  Glad Kurt shared it on facebook :)

  • http://fearlessblogger.com faryl

    Wonderful post!  Glad Kurt shared it on facebook :)

  • http://fearlessblogger.com faryl

    Wonderful post!  Glad Kurt shared it on facebook :)

  • Blarlie_chellmore

    Clay and Tig’s “dirty deed” was revealed to Opie two seasons ago, Tig told him out in the parking lot of the club and Opie flipped and then Clay admitted it as well.

  • Blarlie_chellmore

    Clay and Tig’s “dirty deed” was revealed to Opie two seasons ago, Tig told him out in the parking lot of the club and Opie flipped and then Clay admitted it as well.

  • Mayfairangel

    Tig told Opie about how he killed his wife before…I love love this show and one of biggest reasons is Kurt makes u think! The only show, I laugh, cry, cheer, get angry!! I also continue to think and discuss this show all week, while waiting for the next one!! GREAT

  • Mayfairangel

    Tig told Opie about how he killed his wife before…I love love this show and one of biggest reasons is Kurt makes u think! The only show, I laugh, cry, cheer, get angry!! I also continue to think and discuss this show all week, while waiting for the next one!! GREAT

  • Ralynn531

    Opie knew abt tig killing donna. He found out at the end of season 2. I think unser was telling him to remind him what clay is capable of.

  • Ralynn531

    Opie knew abt tig killing donna. He found out at the end of season 2. I think unser was telling him to remind him what clay is capable of.

  • Karima_nahhal_acting

    Hello Latoya

    Thank you for such a beautiful and clever analysis. I completly agree with everything you say and I think that this degree of detail is not tkaen in consideration by many people as most see the SOA just as Bad Gang adventures tale. But the subtility behind is to me what matters most in that show. And you right, Sutter is doing a great job and I wish that all programmes where that subtile and deep.

    Please keep posting, I love it.

    Regards

    Karima

  • Bernadette

    I have been fascinated by Juice’s storyline for all the reasons that Latoya has given voice to. I was conflicted about feeling sympathy or caring about characters who would reject Juice–though, all the while, accepting of their misogynistic and somewhat murderous tendencies. I have been so used to accepting a presentation of racism in entertainment that is reduced and sanitized, though it is so different from the more complex and subtle racism I experience every day. I think what makes the SOA storyline so powerful is my complicated reaction to the club’s racism mimics an experience that is more true to life than most mainstream shows I have seen. I am eager to watch how this storyline is carried out. Thanks for creating space for this discussion!

  • JB

    This was great. I just wanted to let you know about Opie finding out the truth about Donna, which I’m assuming is what you were referring to in your second-to-last sentence. It didn’t just happen in the last episode, he actually found out in Season 2. Tig confessed, Opie beat him up (Tig didn’t even fight back), and then he went after Stahl.

  • ch555x

    I don’t know why, but this reminds me of GTAIV’s Lost and the Damned game (similar premise w/ bikers).  Race (for the most part) wasn’t in the storyline, though it and other issues were touched upon (working with black bikers, Latino drug pushers, Chinese gangs, and so on).  The main character is always teased for being Jewish (religion issues).

  • Avi

    I gave up on SOA after season 3 (just felt like the characters weren’t moving forward at all in three seasons) but I enjoyed this article none the less. You make excellent points about the necessity of active resistance to racism and the necessity of accepting that racism, while awful, is only a component and not the sum total of a person’s overall character. Indeed, how could we hope to function at all in a racist society like America without accepting that point?

    • http://jerzygirl45.wordpress.com/ kimmie

      You should really come back to the show and investigate season 4

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been a fan of SOA since the beginning.  Everyone on the show is flawed, so you are right there is a lot more freedom to explore issues like racism and sexism in the microcosm that is Charming.  The Sons regularly use racial slurs, while they form alliances with Latino and black gangs.  They are a study in contradiction even with regard to their own rules.  This is what makes the show and storytelling so compelling.

  • Eva

    I have to disagree, I think racists are horrible, hateful and weak people.  Period, end of story.  If you’re a decent person, you wouldn’t be racist. 

    • Anonymous

      So how does that work with someone who believes their grandfather is a good person with racist beliefs? In our experience, it means they start minimizing the impact of racism. And how does that work with sexist heroes (like the Men on Mad Men, that we are suppose to empathize with?)

      • http://twitter.com/CoryJWKamermans Cory Kamermans

        my grandfather was racist beccause it was the way to be in the time when he was raised and it may be different these days but we all once in a while think rascist thoughts when we see something stereotypical and then are like well that was totally white of them or hispanic of them of black of them no not really stupidity comes un all colours but because we have been in history and alot of us still are rascist be it a little or alot have a tendancy to go back to blaming stupidity and hate on colour and if you say you have never thought anything rascist even for a millasecond well then that just makes you a liar too i have met lenty of people who would never say anything about a black person but rip orientals and latino’s which yes i know is wrong but to them in their minds they see nothing wrong with it at all.

      • http://twitter.com/CoryJWKamermans Cory Kamermans

        my grandfather was racist beccause it was the way to be in the time when he was raised and it may be different these days but we all once in a while think rascist thoughts when we see something stereotypical and then are like well that was totally white of them or hispanic of them of black of them no not really stupidity comes un all colours but because we have been in history and alot of us still are rascist be it a little or alot have a tendancy to go back to blaming stupidity and hate on colour and if you say you have never thought anything rascist even for a millasecond well then that just makes you a liar too i have met lenty of people who would never say anything about a black person but rip orientals and latino’s which yes i know is wrong but to them in their minds they see nothing wrong with it at all.

      • Eva

        A person might believe their grandfather was a nice person, but the truth is that if they held racist beliefs, they probably weren’t very nice.

      • Eva

        A person might believe their grandfather was a nice person, but the truth is that if they held racist beliefs, they probably weren’t very nice.

      • Eva

        A person might believe their grandfather was a nice person, but the truth is that if they held racist beliefs, they probably weren’t very nice.

      • Eva

        A person might believe their grandfather was a nice person, but the truth is that if they held racist beliefs, they probably weren’t very nice.

      • Eva

        A person might believe their grandfather was a nice person, but the truth is that if they held racist beliefs, they probably weren’t very nice.

      • Mary Mcatee

        My Grandfather was a definately racist but he also did things I admire. He also did decent thing for individuals of color to the point that when he died at 99 several elderly black farmers came to his funeral at an all white Baptist church where they would normally never think or going or even be welcomed. It was like the unwritten rules were suspended for his funerals. My parents were consistent in their message to me that his attitudes about race were wrong and antiquated. I think the exposure to both sides for me helped cement for me how pervasive racism really is. Years later living in the urbane liberal gay community in NY and Ma I saw racisim that I considered even more insidious because people were in such denial about it. Just my opinion. Love SOA and never miss it.

      • Anonymous

        One of things that really made me want to vote for Obama was the way that he dealt with the Revereand Wright fiasco.  When he was asked to distance himself from the reverand because the reverand had made comments that some viewed as racist and radical, Obama said he would not cut his ties with him because he accepts that he is from a different generation and has different views, but that Obama loves him just the same.  he then made reference to his white grandmother and the fact that she had made racially insensitive comments, and that it bothered him, but it would never change the fact that he views her as a good woman and that he loved her.  It was the most honest discussion on race that a public figure had made since the Kennedys.  Being racially insensitive is different than being a rabid racist KKK member.  Unfortunately, the effect on the person experiencing the racism is nearly the same.  Such a complex issue here in Amaerica, and unfortunately, no race has figured out how to effectively discuss the issue without it turning ugly.

    • Anonymous

      The problem I have with asserting that racists are bad people, end of story, is that it makes it impossible for me to own up when I’ve done something wrong.  It’s not that I don’t think I should be punished when I’m — most often unintentionally! — racist, but I think I should be allowed to apologize and learn from it, not be tarred a racist forever.

      • Neurochick

        That is an interesting point.  Everybody messes up with something at some time.  The difference is that a decent person will own up and learn from it.  Someone who doesn’t care, won’t. 

      • Neurochick

        That is an interesting point.  Everybody messes up with something at some time.  The difference is that a decent person will own up and learn from it.  Someone who doesn’t care, won’t. 

      • Neurochick

        That is an interesting point.  Everybody messes up with something at some time.  The difference is that a decent person will own up and learn from it.  Someone who doesn’t care, won’t. 

      • Neurochick

        That is an interesting point.  Everybody messes up with something at some time.  The difference is that a decent person will own up and learn from it.  Someone who doesn’t care, won’t. 

      • Neurochick

        That is an interesting point.  Everybody messes up with something at some time.  The difference is that a decent person will own up and learn from it.  Someone who doesn’t care, won’t. 

    • Anonymous

      The problem I have with asserting that racists are bad people, end of story, is that it makes it impossible for me to own up when I’ve done something wrong.  It’s not that I don’t think I should be punished when I’m — most often unintentionally! — racist, but I think I should be allowed to apologize and learn from it, not be tarred a racist forever.

    • Brandon

      Then I don’t know any decent people, period.  And I bet that you probably don’t, either.

      I suggest learning more about subconscious and unconscious racism.

    • Anonymous

      Check out Jay Smooth’s recent Ted talk.  It’s a good eyeopener about talking about race and what we perceive as racism.  There’s no clear line.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

    • Matt Pizzuti

      In support of all frustration and hurt people of color feel regularly because of racism, it seems you are referring to “white supremacists” or “segregationists” rather than “racists,” a word I wish was less stigmatized and more freely used.

      In my experience, it is mostly white people who think of “racism” as just being a cuss word without contextualized meaning. 

      If a PoC tells a white person – say even a good friend – that the white person’s attitude in a specific situation, or particular unfair and hurtful statement statement is “racist,” the white person feels as if s/he has just been cussed out or told they aren’t friends anymore. The white person usually gives some unthoughtful reply akin to “I know you are but what am I?” and blames the victim for bringing up the topic. 

      The problem is that the PoC sees racism as being a real and definable issue while the white person only sees an insult. White people need to get over this and be able to learn from criticism!

      • Anonymous

        Great insight Matt.  People think of racists as being obvious…hood wearing Klan members, neo-Nazis, etc. but they miss out on the ways that they assist or perpetuate racism everyday b/c they don’t interpret their actions as being those as a racist and make attempts at honest discussions about their feelings rather than their racist actions.  
        You know, the “How dare you hurt my feelings by rightfully calling me out for being a racist.  You are mean and this is all about me!”