When a reality Cops-styled tv show trailed a Special Response Team in Detroit three years ago into a home raid, it both helped to inspire and record a most horrific crime. Anybody who watches Cops and similar so-called reality shows understands the extra swagger that US police officers have when they are being recorded as heroes taking down would-be criminals. As if the danger of the job itself, the authority that the badge declares, and the element of carrying around highly-lethal instruments doesn’t bear enough hyper-testosterone. It’s a job that leaves little margin for error and adding glorifying cameras to the mix erases some of the margin. So the murder of a black seven year old girl in one of the runs was almost inevitable.
The way reality television is framed and produced is partly responsible for the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody familiar with the kind of behavior that reality television endorses, moving from documentary style to sensationalized, staged backstabbing ordeals. Donald Trump can make a fake run for the presidency and open up as a complete racist bigot, demanding that the nation’s first black president prove that he is US-born and pledging that he has many of “the blacks” as friends. But yet this show – run by a man who belittles black and poor people in public as being intrinsic liars or lazy failures – is still running strong on NBC – the same network that filed Martin Bashir for suggesting one person is full of crap.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, despite the vocal anger and frustration arising from Phil Robertson’s unedited remarks about GLBTQ, Black, and non-Christian people, he and the rest of the Duck Dynasty crew are being reinstated by A&E.
This is where A&E shows where its loyalty lies. It is not with the oppressed. A&E cares little for black people’s rights or the lives of non-straight people (or women, for that matter) if they are fine with not only airing this family but now legitimizing its form of bigotry.
This isn’t about free speech. I hasten to add this isn’t about the Market Place of Ideas – nor is it about opinions. What Phil Robertson expressed are not “opinions” that are “up for debate”. Nor do we need to “dialog” with those that disagree about the basic humanity of people. What Robertson is messing with is the inherent humanity of people that are not white, not straight, not wealthy, not male, and not Christian.*
It’s intensely sad that the vileness of his comments and how they reinforce bigotry throughout the US merely got a blip in the mainstream media. Yet these same comments and Robertson’s right-to-speak-them-unopposed were defended by millions of conservative Christians and Tea Party politicians – former and current governors and presidential runners, at that – Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee as well as celebs like Kid Rock (curious that he can steal from black culture and yet defend a man who calls black people “entitled” and lazy?) and all of the conservative pundits.
Despite what these trolls say, this issue isn’t about Oppression Against Christian Thought (as a Christian, I’m rather offended that my thoughts are supposed to be homophobic and racist). No, the issue is about further justifying and legitimizing brutal attacks and antagonism against LGBTQ people – like this attack and the follow-up by anti-gay residents and police in Tennessee. The issue is about Robertson’s romanticism of an era when the rights of African-Americans to vote and have economic or political say was specifically denied during a time when these very rights are once again being targeted by the Supreme Court, several states, and pro-business lobbying groups like ALEC. Even in attacking homosexuals, he reduced women to their vaginas (and the fact that they’re so much more fun than booties, I guess).**
These are not just opinions. These have implications for the same people Phil Robertson said were happy and content during Jim Crow. Whom he declares lazy and entitled now. Robertson didn’t spread opinions; he spread vicious lies that hurt real people. And White conservative Christians and A&E are okay with that.
As Cocky McSwagsalot, or @MoreAndMore, puts it:
Which means, Black ppl and LGBTQ ppl would probably be wise not to watch any shows on A&E. They’ve made their bed. We’re not their audience.
A&E has made its alliances. It’s heard all the “sides” and decided to side with those who will watch Duck Dynasty over the people hurt by the very hate-spewed platform A&E is giving the Robertson family. White conservative Christians who have been defending Phil Robertson have also shown where their loyalty lies this whole time. They’ve insisted that he is right on homosexuality and that equating homosexuality to bestiality and therefore homosexuals to beasts is biblical (though I’m pretty sure I’ve read that bearing false witness is anti-biblical and not loving of our neighbors).
When confronted with other troubling statements that Robertson has made, these conservatives declare that he may or may not be right about them, but it’s his right to say them (As if anyone is threatening to lock him up in a dungeon like we do our whistle blowers). They say such things because their rights and lives are not on the line. Here, White conservative Christians show where their heart lay – and it’s with their own white and hetero- privilege rather than with those Jesus said to side with.
*Yes, there is much Class Warfare in Robertson and his clan. Recall his argument about health insurance not being necessary and the fact that Robertson is rich enough to pay medical expenses out of pocket if and when he needs to. He also blamed his racism on the fact that he was poor too.
**Thanks to my FBF Linda for reminding me of this horribleness… Except that I’m reminded of this horribleness.