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Op-Ed: Duck Dynasty star gets bad rap on alleged 'racist' remarks

By Ralph Lopez     Dec 23, 2013 in World
Look, I'm a reporter, so I have to say something. I don't watch Duck Dynasty, I don't care who Phil Robertson is or what his opinions on gays are. I just don't watch TV.
But when I see something that is reportorially inaccurate, incorrect, I have to say something. Although I really could not care less what a television show personality's opinions are about anything. I look for opinion in people who have PhDs, medical degrees, lifetimes of first-hand experience in a field, practice, or discipline. Not from someone who makes duck whistles. Or whatever.
But when the media reports that Robertson made "racist" remarks in saying that Blacks were better off before Civil Rights, well, sorry, he just didn't say that.
One article even slams him for standing up for Jim Crow laws. Geez, they're practically making it sound like the guy's got a slave in the basement.
The text of Robertson's remark to GQ, in the original interview, is contained in a sidebar to the main article, and goes thus in its entirety:
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-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.”
Now let's look at that, because this is important, if you are going to accuse someone of racism. Like I said, I don't know what he said about gays and I could give a hoot. He doesn't make policy, he is not elected, and so...well, so what about what he said? Don't watch the show, or boycott the station, or whatever they are doing. I have many gay friends, and they are perfectly capable of fighting their own fights.
But the guy said nothing racist, that I can see.
He never said that " the pre-civil rights era was not bad for black people," as Huffington Post reports. He said, that with his own "eyes," never saw the mistreatment of Black people. That's quite a difference. It is beyond doubt that some counties, areas, sections of the South were more harmonious in their race relations than others, and that some places were frightening Lyncherdoms, to use Mark Twain's word.
Another media outlet piles on in a headline: "Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson Thinks Black People Were Happy Before the Civil Rights Movement."
I didn't see Robertson say all Black people were happy before Civil Rights. He is limiting his observations to what he himself saw, where he was, and he never once mentions or relates this to "Civil Rights." To say "Black People" without qualification is to say he meant this to be taken in a much broader and more sweeping manner than the comment justifies.
This is a textbook example of how the media shreds reputations based on nothing. I hope this guy sues, because if they can do it to him, they can do it to anyone. That's why this is important.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once." - is what Robertson said. There is certainly no tone of superiority in his remark, because he follows on immediately by identifying his family as "white trash."
He never once uses the words "civil rights" or Jim Crow, or articulates his feelings about these. Look at the quote. Do you see these words anywhere?
Here the character assassins confuse two different things: Civil Rights laws, and social entitlements. Robertson says:
"Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Um, AFDC and food stamps are not part of the Civil Rights laws. They are not Civil Rights. Civil Rights are laws against discrimination in places like restaurants, the workplace. Did these reporters go to college?
I'm not saying I like the guy or I don't. I never met him. I don't watch his show, and I probably never will. But "racist" is a pretty hard word, and critical thinking skills are important when even Obama is jumping into the fray and getting us all riled up against each other. The conclusion that Robertson is a "racist" will now be repeated by people who never read the original quote, based on words that never left his mouth, and strenuous assertions of implied meaning.
And as a reporter, I do care about that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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