By Arturo R. García
By now you’ve no doubt heard that reality “star” Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty “fame” was suspended from the show — or, in snake-oil TV-speak, placed on “indefinite hiatus” — after glibly engaging in some concern-trolling homophobia in a GQ interview while painting his show and his family’s public embrace of its Christian faith as some sort of antidote for whatever it believes ails America.
But what hasn’t been reported nearly as widely is the amount of outright racially prejudiced statements Robertson also lets fly in the piece, which points to a bigger problem for A&E. The network has been all too happy to trade on Robertson and his family’s “good ol’ boy” brand. Now it has to deal with the consequences.
Here are the statements that, rightly, got Robertson in trouble during an exchange with reporter Drew Magary:
Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”
What, in your mind, is sinful?
“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.”
That statement came on the heels of this bit of social philosophy:
“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.”
As the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation pointed out, 56 percent of residents in Louisiana, where the Robertson family lives, supports some sort of legal sanctioning for LGBT couplings. So his definition of “logical” isn’t exactly Vulcan in its precision.
But tucked away thus far has been his description of life in Jim Crow-era 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. 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.”
Presumably, Robertson didn’t get a chance to pursue that many in-depth discussions with any of “the blacks” who were affected by the state’s segregation laws, or to examine the implications of the Supreme Court’s upholding Jim Crow in Plessy v. Ferguson. It’s also unlikely that he lived near that many of his Black colleagues, since state law also banned white landlords from taking on Black tennants.
Robertson also cites “Communists, Islamists” and “Shintos” alongside Nazis as examples of societies that have produced mass murderers because they lack the proper respect for his (at a guess) White Jesus. Perhaps no one told him that the Ku Klux Klan has historically made a big show out of its interpretation of the Christian faith, as have members of the “sovereign citizen” movement, which has also been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
As a bonus, Robertson also shows us his approach to politics, as he explains his rationale for voting for Mitt Romney:
If I’m lost at three o’clock in a major metropolitan area…I ask myself: Where would I rather be trying to walk with my wife and children? One of the guys who’s running for president is out of Chicago, Illinois, and the other one is from Salt Lake City, Utah. [Editor’s note: Romney is from Boston, not Salt Lake City.] Where would I rather be turned around at three o’clock in the morning? I opted for Salt Lake City. I think it would be safer.
Let’s be clear: These outbursts aren’t inexcusable because Robertson is from Louisiana, or because he likes to hunt, or because he’s a Christian. This final statement, in particular, is at once moronic and malicious because he thinks it’s funny or somehow insightful to play the Deepest, Darkest Chicago card as his methodology for exercising a right that’s never been challenged for anyone with his complexion in his place of residence.
A&E, of course, came through with the requisite statement about being “disappointed” in Robertson and assuring everyone that it’s an ally, yadda yadda. But while it might not be fair to get into “how many” Louisianians share his abhorrent beliefs, it sounds outright disingenuous for A&E to behave as if this was the first time comments like those escaped Robertson’s gob. I’m willing to wonder, if you examined footage from the Dynasty cutting room floor, how many examples you’d find of him singing the praises of the Birmingham Campaign to the camera crew. And if Robertson and his family were social progressives, it’s highly doubtful A&E would be happy to offer them up as the latest outlet for “mainstream” America’s need to find an Other.
And now the network also has to deal with being the “bad guy” in the next manufactured outrage on the part of “real fans” like the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage and Sarah Palin. A&E had to know a moment like this would come. You hitch your wagon to ‘Murica, don’t be surprised if you get snake-bit along the way. And for people to side-eye you if you come looking for sympathy.