Everybody’s Racist!

by Belle Waring on August 8, 2013

I am back in Singapore, but my lovely husband came with me and the girls on our trip to Bluffton, South Carolina to see my dad, at my childhood home. We stayed just over the bridge in Savannah, about 30 minutes drive away. It makes me so happy to go and sit at the top of the bluff when the tide comes high in the evening (it moves an hour forward each day, 2 highs, 2 lows, 8 1/2 ft difference, so the current is extraordinarily swift). Everything at the top of the bluff is in shade already from the live oak trees (which are festooned with gray pennants of Spanish Moss just like you heard about) but the river is still in the sun, and the marsh grass becomes this neon, impossible green color against the darkening water. The only time I ever felt a twinge of human fellow-feeling towards Mitt Romney was when he went back to Michigan where he grew up and said “the trees are the right size.” That’s right, dammit! The huge old water oaks that meet over the road to Bluffton, making it a beautiful tunnel, are The Right Size. The view from the top of the Eugene Talmadge Bridge, where you see all the marshland spread out before you like a tablecloth someone has shaken out perfectly over a still pond, but which has not yet begun to sink, is The Right View. And the levees and bunds and old, old paddies you can still see cut into the marsh from when the whole area was used for wet rice cultivation and growing long-staple cotton are The Right Thing to see. They remind you that South Carolina used to be rich instead of poor, when it could produce Carolina Gold rice–the best in the world if I may say so, and I’ve eaten plenty–using slave labor, and more importantly cotton, cotton, cotton. Paddy cultivation is extremely labor-intensive, and even after the invention of the cotton gin, picking cotton is hard, evil work, second only to cutting sugarcane, I imagine. If you can make people work for free; if you can buy people from Africa who know how to grow cotton and rice (because you sure as hell don’t know); if you can use your human possessions to breed new slaves like you would breed cows or pigs; if you are brave enough to be the white minority in a majority-black state–even then you will be afraid, and hear stories about Jamaica, and you must be cruel enough to quell every glance towards rebellion with vicious force. If you do all that, you can be rich. Rich! You will probably also be as racist as the day is long.

John and I have this discussion a lot, actually. He says, “you can’t be an actual, plausible candidate for any office in the US and also be willing to say ‘I’m racist. I’m plain ol’ prejudiced against black people.'” I see his point. But I’m always inclined to say, “honey, you grew up in Eugene, Oregon and I think you may never have met a black person until you were old enough to remember your family having a guest whom you considered unusual.” I was born in Savannah, Georgia (though I also spent a lot of time living in D.C. and in NY. Well, and California, as an adult.). My family is a bunch of lefties. But a whole lot of the white people in Georgia and South Carolina are racist. Like, getting up onto all of them. They will say stuff that is so racist you are like, “did I even hear that?”

Do you know what your boat engine is if you fixed with the wrong part, and you know it’s only going to run long enough to get back to your dock, and you can fix it proper when you’re there? It’s nigger-rigged. What if you’re passing a joint around and somebody gets it too far in their mouth and it’s all slobbery? You could say, “why’d you nigger-lip that joint?” That wouldn’t even be said with any particular racial animus at all; that is the straight up, legit name for when somebody gets the joint too wet!! I don’t even know another name! Did y’all know that people still use the word ‘pickaninny’ to describe little black kids running around in front of their trailer? They sure do. All the time.

White people in the U.S. are racist, a lot, is where I’m going with this. I realize John is asking a narrow, interesting, political/sociological question: why did Lee Atwater know that you couldn’t say: “‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” Why did he need to “get abstract“? OK, yes, the reasons in John’s post are plausible. I asked my dad, who lived through the experience and he said: LBJ cramming the Civil Rights bill down everyone’s throat with his famous ‘I will cut you’ strategy of negotiating with Congress. Also, liberal Republicans from the North. Naturally (for a certain social class of natural) we had a black woman who worked as a housekeeper at my grandmother’s in Savannah. She was more important than a housekeeper though. She had taken care of my dad when he was young, and she took care of me and my brother too. I remember at her daughter had a picture on the wall of her house, a slightly raised bas-relief of faces in profile: MLK flanked by RFK in front and JFK behind. I assume that was a part of her opinion on how everybody in America became afraid to say they were racist [here you must imagine only the whites of my eyes showing, since they are rolled so far into the back of my head.]

When people in the South complain that they have black co-workers and neighbors and friends, while white Northerners talk the talk but keep black people all crammed together in city ghettoes and move as far away as they can to a “good”, i.e. re-segregated, school district, they are actually right! But this is sometimes for a sad reason, namely, there are a lot of broke-ass white people in the South living 10 people in a trailer, trying to keep their truck running so everyone with a job can get to work. Their black neighbors are just as poor. They are most likely good neighbors on the surface, polite to each other, let them use their jumper cables, all that. Share okra. (Okra did really well this year, but the peaches were all ruined by the rain.) They are neighbors in poverty. That Republicans can use racism to get those poor white people (and damn they are poor!) to vote against their own economic interests is a testimony to the continuing iron grip of racism. It may be all those people have. They’re poor, they’re on disability, their trailer is a wreck–but they’re not black. You can’t take that away from them.

Miscellanea: My stepfather went to the University of the South, Sewanee with Lee Atwater, and they were fast, life-long friends, and you will all be happy to know that he was a perv who hit on 13-year-olds. Seriously, like maybe 12-year-olds? Also he was a good guitarist and friends with lots of great black musicians. (?haz contain multitudes1!??). Also, Savannah is still a port, and they needed to replace the old Eugene Talmadge Bridge at some point and built a great big suspension bridge. The old one was…rickety green metal. The people of Georgia wanted to re-name it after the only president they have produced: Jimmy Carter. The good people of South Carolina couldn’t even tolerate having a bridge land on the other side of Hutchinson Island that was named after a Democrat. So they left the old name even though he was a terrible segregationist jerk. Finally, Paula Deen polls way better among Georgia Republicans than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Favorability/unfavorability: Paula Deen 73/11, Martin Luther King Jr. 59/28. And that’s just the people who are willing to say they don’t like MLK on the phone. How many of them do you think hate him more than that?

{ 117 comments }

1

Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 9:39 am

Awesome note from the Wikipedia article on the S.C. Low Country, re economic history: “Originally an area dependent on large-scale agricultural farming, 20th-century economic forces have created a more dynamic economy for the Lowcountry. Though agriculture remains an important component of the overall economy, other sectors have become as predominant and vital to the region’s economic portfolio.” Large-scale agricultural farming, yes, indeed. It is unknown now by what means this farming was carried out. Who can say? Lost in the mists of time.

2

Mao Cheng Ji 08.08.13 at 11:31 am

“They’re poor, they’re on disability, their trailer is a wreck—but they’re not black. You can’t take that away from them.”

I’ve never lived in the South, but judging by cultural artifacts: aren’t those guys in a sense below their equally impoverished black neighbors? ’cause, y’know, they don’t have the excuse; got no one to blame but themselves. And that’s in the eyes of both racists and anti-racists. One would expect to find some resentment there.

3

Squarely Rooted 08.08.13 at 11:50 am

Let me just get really incendiary here and say that, as a born-and-raised Yankee who’s never lived further south of Alexandria, VA, that okra is really, really delicious and that there are many places in the American South where you can get fried okra so good it even rivals the best fried potatos.

4

pedant 08.08.13 at 12:13 pm

“I remember at her daughter had a picture on the wall of her house”

Mere typo, representation of dialect, perhaps typo influenced by dialect?

And if dialect, then does “remember at” represent “remember ‘at”, where the apocopated syllable abbreviates “that”, or does it represent “remember at” where “at” is the normal preposition? (I was glancing at; I looked at; I remembered at; etc.)

5

pedant 08.08.13 at 12:30 pm

Oh, and on topic–yeah, folks I knew growing up in Virginia and North Carolina were deeply, died-in-the-wool racist, in the ways you are describing. But then again, I’m talking about a time before Atwater’s 1968 in any case.

What does it do to a region to have one language and set of values that they use among themselves, but know that they cannot speak and act that way explicitly on the national stage? It is probably somewhat alienating–it might lead them to make periodic gestures towards leaving the country altogether–as S.C. politicians routinely do. It must also enforce a kind of mental immaturity, as well, of the kind that small children suffer when they are constantly worried about being caught doing something naughty. A mixture of fear and resentment directed at authority as such–the big meanies won’t let us play our games.

6

The Modesto Kid 08.08.13 at 12:36 pm

I remember “nigger-lipping” having currency in the Modesto of my youth, persisting at a time when “nigger-” constructions were falling out of favor. And come to think of it also in the NYC of my early adulthood I’m pretty sure I was still hearing that.

Hey did you read (speaking of poor white trash in SC) Bastard out of Carolina? It is a fine book.

7

Seth Gordon 08.08.13 at 1:04 pm

@Mao: The impoverished whites can always blame their predicament on affirmative action.

8

Map Maker 08.08.13 at 1:06 pm

“That Republicans can use racism to get those poor white people (and damn they are poor!) to vote against their own economic interests is a testimony to the continuing iron grip of racism.”

Because we know how much rich northeast liberals are really, deeply concerned with southern/rural white poverty? Come on, most people at my university think “those” people are just ignorant hicks clinging to guns and religion. Y’all do too, but most of the time (only when you don’t know you’re on tape?) you won’t admit it in public …

9

Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 1:07 pm

pedant: I will leave the “at” now; it is indeed a typo based on accent. I had to fix four or five others. I get a Southern accent back when I go home, kind of? Not entirely, but to some degree. I’m pretty sure “getting up onto all of them” is ungrammatical, also, as well as “fix proper.”

And wait, liking okra is incendiary now? I don’t think so. Saying fried okra is good is like saying water’s wet, Squarely Rooted. Mmmm, fried okra made with cornmeal. They have tons here in Singapore, actually. It’s a pain to pick because the plants are fuzzy all over with spines like a nettle. In S.C. we also make “limping Susan”: you fry some onions in bacon fat, then add fresh tomatoes that you scalded and peeled and cut, plus okra you cut up, and let it cook for maybe 15 minutes before doctoring it with salt and just the tiniest amount of white sugar (don’t tell anybody! They’ll think we just got killer tomatoes this year!”). It’s good with red rice. It’s good by its own self.

10

FuzzyFace 08.08.13 at 1:08 pm

Interesting. I’d heard “jury-rigged”, but never “nigger-rigged” or “nigger-lipped.” I presume that is a regional thing.

“That Republicans can use racism to get those poor white people (and damn they are poor!) to vote against their own economic interests is a testimony to the continuing iron grip of racism.”

– how do you know that they are voting against their own interests? Maybe they don’t share your opinion of what is in their economic interests? I admit that being from the North, I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to what southerners tell each other, but I have heard the charge of people being duped into voting against their own economic interests, and I think it is often overblown. Just because you think that people would be better off if they voted your way doesn’t necesarily mean that everybody shares your opinion.

11

rea 08.08.13 at 1:11 pm

The only time I ever felt a twinge of human fellow-feeling towards Mitt Romney was when he went back to Michigan where he grew up and said “the trees are the right size.”

When I first moved to Michigan from New Mexico, I recognized that the trees seemed wrong somehow, but it took me a while to understand what I was seeing. In the late 19th/early 20th Century, Michigan’s old growth forest was clear cut. All the present trees are second-growth, dating from approximately the same time. As a result , Michigan’s forests consist of trees all the same height–very different from the forests out west. Romney’s remark represents Romney gloating over the results of a man-made environmental catastrophe.

12

Mandos 08.08.13 at 1:17 pm

And wait, liking okra is incendiary now? I don’t think so. Saying fried okra is good is like saying water’s wet, Squarely Rooted. Mmmm, fried okra made with cornmeal. They have tons here in Singapore, actually. It’s a pain to pick because the plants are fuzzy all over with spines like a nettle. In S.C. we also make “limping Susan”: you fry some onions in bacon fat, then add fresh tomatoes that you scalded and peeled and cut, plus okra you cut up, and let it cook for maybe 15 minutes before doctoring it with salt and just the tiniest amount of white sugar (don’t tell anybody! They’ll think we just got killer tomatoes this year!”). It’s good with red rice. It’s good by its own self.

Minus the bacon fat and sugar, and plus some turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chili powder, and this is a dish my South Asia-origin family has all the time. I never liked it because okra is slimey and gross, no matter how it’s cooked.

13

Rmj 08.08.13 at 1:18 pm

That Republicans can use racism to get those poor white people (and damn they are poor!) to vote against their own economic interests is a testimony to the continuing iron grip of racism. It may be all those people have. They’re poor, they’re on disability, their trailer is a wreck—but they’re not black. You can’t take that away from them.

Goes back so far into American culture it’s practically part of the soil. Before the Republicans did that, the Democrats did it, and did it both before and after the Civil War.

It made the plantation system work, and it still makes the economic system work now. “Your real problem ain’t with the boss or the factory owner or the corporation; it’s with them ni**ers!”

Nothin’ so effective as convincin’ people that at least they ain’t somethin’ worse than poor; and that their poverty ain’t because they’re exploited, but because the “others” take it from ’em (the reaction to ‘affirmative action’ wasn’t invented for affirmative action; it was there already).

14

Mandos 08.08.13 at 1:19 pm

Oh and, the same thing is excellent with frozen peas, which is how I usually demanded it be made, although my parents strongly prefer okra. But the pickiest eater sets the agenda.

15

Rmj 08.08.13 at 1:21 pm

I admit that being from the North, I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to what southerners tell each other, but I have heard the charge of people being duped into voting against their own economic interests, and I think it is often overblown.

Very briefly: I’m from the South, and no, it isn’t. It’s as old as the Southern plantation system itself, and as effective. As mentioned in the post, South Carolina was a majority-black state, but the minority whites ruled it. The minority of that minority were plantation owners. The rest worked for the plantation, or were poor whites. You only keep that system going by brutal control of the slaves, and by convincing the non-slaves non-owners that their best interests are served by the system that brutalizes them.

16

Mao Cheng Ji 08.08.13 at 1:23 pm

” The impoverished whites can always blame their predicament on affirmative action.”

My point exactly.

17

Frowner 08.08.13 at 1:32 pm

To digress a moment from this excellent essay: okra, onions and tomatoes with just a little sugar are a great cultural universal, like pot roast. Here in Minnesota, where you can get fried okra at the convenience store/grill place (at least in my part of town) and it’s sometimes pretty good for convenience store grill food, I got into my first ever protracted conversation with the Iraqi guy who runs the store because I was buying a bag of frozen okra which I intended to cook with tomatoes and onions and he had some recipes to share. (The whole point of okra is that it is slimy. You must cook it with things that either enhance or contrast with the sliminess. I have had some bad okra, though.)

If I were not vegan, I would write a cookbook that was all okra and pot roast recipes from around the world, and I would become a famous cookbook writer overnight, because many people like okra and everyone likes pot roast, even those of us for whom it has become a nostalgic meaty memory.

18

Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 1:43 pm

Mandos: we have a variety of chili-delivery systems to use on the table: the Doctor (Tabasco Sauce); pepper vinegar we make with our “bird’s-eye” chillis, and pepper sherry, sometimes with the “bird’s eye” peppers but sometimes longer chilis like those used in Asia (there are many fewer types of pepper in Asia vs America for obvious reasons). They call them chili padi in Singapore, the longer ones; it’s about all they have–OK two more. Bird’s eye peppers are hot as ten kinds of hell. In Savannah in the 1800s-early 1900s men would carry around their own stash in something like a snuffbox so that when dining with friends they could adjust the dishes to their liking. Wiping one all round inside a soup bowl and then discarding the pepper suffices to make the gumbo put in the bowl pretty damn hot. BUT this aggression against okra cannot stand! First of all, what about fried? Second of all, nuh huh okra’s not slimy; it just helps thicken up stews and such, so that your limping Susan isn’t just soup on the plate, but instead a nice mound nestled between the rice and the black-eyed peas.

19

Mandos 08.08.13 at 1:46 pm

Okra: the Bitter Snot Vegetable that entire nations have gone to great lengths to convince themselves they really like!

20

Mandos 08.08.13 at 1:54 pm

My mother has a continuous stash of the bird’s eye stuff which gets used up very quickly. Basically bought by the pound. Various forms of dried ones. However for proper Indo/Pak taste you really need the long thin Serrano peppers, which alas sometimes come up not as hot—I think this may be the same as the chili padi you’re talking about. Cayenne powder is used heavily because it is power-deliverable. Habaneros are hotter, but they’re very much the wrong flavour—still, they can be used in a tomato curry for variety.

We always had curries with either (Indian-storebought) flatbread or rice, and because my father is from South India, they were always quite thin. Never had fried okra, my parents are just not into fried food except the bhagar for the daal (which I also dislike passionately, total complete heresy for a scion of South India).

I now live in Europe, and people tell me all the time how Europeans are now so cosmopolitan and have invited the chili to their dinner table and how I shouldn’t underestimate them, and then they boggle with how much Tabasco sauce I add at the Mexican restaurant, which surprisingly exist and are often not bad.

And now I have brought about Full Culinary Derail!

21

pedant 08.08.13 at 1:55 pm

Yeah, no love for okra here, either. I tolerate it in some dishes, way in the background, but I would rather eat the same dish without the okra.

I think okra was introduced by Southern planters in order to keep the blacks and poor whites oppressed, and Belle is just suffering from false consciousness. Don’t do it, Belle! Don’t identify with the oppressor! Reject the snot!

22

Mandos 08.08.13 at 1:56 pm

OK, I feel guilty now, should try to get this back on topic. Everyone has their scapegoat race. One thing that surprised me moving to Europe is how popular it is to bash Roma. It’s truly shocking! People who won’t hear a negative word about, oh, Turks or Arabs let the most appalling thing drop out of their mouths. Discriminated-against Turkish communities drive the Roma out just as well as anyone else. Seeing this has really let me down about humanity.

23

Anderson 08.08.13 at 1:57 pm

Kenneth Stampp, writing about “white farmers and mechanics” in the South during Reconstruction:

They opposed the radical program for the same reason that they had supported slavery. As men of low status and low income they were keenly aware that the Negroes were potential social and economic competitors. For lower-class whites the most readily available means of achieving social prestige was a caste system designed to keep the Negro “in his place” and to give them a superior and privileged position as members of the white race. …

And particularly re: South Carolina, the Radical government actually gave many of those poor whites the vote for the first time, gave the voters the power to select the governor and the presidential electors, and tried to provide public schooling in a state where only 1 in 8 of poor *whites* had even attended school. And as soon as they could, the whites of South Carolina threw out that government and voted for the party that would keep the blacks down.

24

Mandos 08.08.13 at 2:01 pm

This aspect of American politics also affects things like health care. People don’t believe me when I tell them that there really is a broad streak in US politics in which people who don’t have health insurance would vote against their own health insurance so that “they” also don’t have health insurance.

25

Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 2:05 pm

Yeah, the chili padi are Serrano. If we were going to make something with frozen peas at my house we’d just make aloo mutter! We also serve up a little plate of chopped fresh bird’s eye chilis on the table, just in case the corn is not living up to its full potential. We also always had fresh bread on the table when I was a kid, either homemade bread or dinner rolls, or biscuits, or cornbread. Mmmm, fan-tan rolls.

Since we’re currently experiencing some thread-derailing turbulence, the author has put on the seatbelt sign, so we do ask that all of you start talking about racism, put your chair in the upright and locked position, and make sure America’s tortured baggage in dealing with the legacy of slavery is strapped low and tight across your lap. Infant seatbelts will be provided to trolls by the blog attendants. The race card can be found in the seat pocket in front of you.

26

Scott P. 08.08.13 at 2:17 pm

Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?

27

Scott P. 08.08.13 at 2:18 pm

Damn HTML. Trying again.

“One thing that surprised me moving to Europe is how popular it is to bash Roma. It’s truly shocking!”

Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?

28

Theophylact 08.08.13 at 2:21 pm

Julie Sahni has a recipe for 100% snot-free dry-fried okra. It’s delicious.

29

Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 2:36 pm

Scott P., I didn’t just casually make a bunch of derisive remarks like, “those redneck country boys don’t know shit from Shinola” or “ew, white people in the South, OMG! It’s like People of Walmart, but times a million! They are soooo fat, I swear I saw three guys on those scooters today.” If I had, that would have made me an ignorant jerk who is prejudiced against white Southerners. But a) I’m a white Southerner, more or less and b) this is truly an “I report, you decide” thing. I’m just telling you all that when white people get alone in the South, away from any black people, they will blow your mind with the racist remarks. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is the assumption that you’re fine with it because–hey, fellow white person, holla!

30

The Modesto Kid 08.08.13 at 2:37 pm

@Theophylact: Julie Sahni is my kitchen god(dess).

31

Rmj 08.08.13 at 2:43 pm

Even more disturbing, perhaps, is the assumption that you’re fine with it because–hey, fellow white person, holla!

Nothing has really changed since my Southern (East Texas) childhood, then. No surprise.

I can remember conversations among white people in the ’60’s and ’70’s, as they’d carefully figure out how far they could go in denouncing other races among the white people they were with. “Prejudice” was generally allowable (“they’re lazy and all want someone to buy ’em a color TV!”) but racism (“they’re all ni**ers!”) generally was not. You had to figure out what you could get away with; or, conversely, who to argue with, and why.

Arguing about it was as socially unacceptable as being all KKK about it.

32

Glenn 08.08.13 at 2:59 pm

Grew up in Savannah myself, and the first few sentences almost had me homesick. Luckily the rest of the post cured that.

33

politicalfootball 08.08.13 at 3:20 pm

okra is slimey and gross

Slimy and gross and awesome!

34

politicalfootball 08.08.13 at 3:34 pm

Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?

After Belle’s response in 28, the standard gambit is to say that well, yes, Southern whites are often racist, but not in any fashion that’s notably different from whites elsewhere. (Bonus points if you add that whites are just like blacks this way, and double bonus points if you’re able to discover that African Americans and Northern Whites are the real racists.)

And that’s where it’s helpful to link Professor Quiggin on Southern Whites as an ethnicity. There really is something different going on in the South.

(I grew up a white guy in an overtly racist Northern suburb, but have spent almost all of my adult life below the Mason-Dixon line.)

35

Mandos 08.08.13 at 3:46 pm

Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?

If it’s the case that Southerners qua Southerners are regularly denied public services and are considered completely unemployable even for menial labour by virtue of their birth in large swathes of the country, no, it’s no different.

36

mds 08.08.13 at 4:29 pm

Mandos @ 34:

no, it’s no different.

Indeed, imagine how unhinged many non-Southerners would become if we ever elected a Southern president.

37

VeeLow 08.08.13 at 4:38 pm

The racial dynamics in question here are certainly longest-entrenched in the South, but I wonder if the psychological component isn’t more widely applicable.

I sometimes call this the “Ten Shit Sandwich” theory of politics: you have a powerful understanding of American politics once you realize that an amazing percentage of non-wealthy white folks would agree to eat nine shit sandwiches weekly, given the condition that their non-white neighbors would be required to eat….

38

Malaclypse 08.08.13 at 4:40 pm

I’d heard “jury-rigged”, but never “nigger-rigged” or “nigger-lipped.” I presume that is a regional thing.

Growing up in the northeast suburbs of Rizzo-era Philadelphia, I assure you both of those terms were in widespread use.

39

Random Lurker 08.08.13 at 4:50 pm

Just to expand on Mandos about Roma, here in Italy people expect all Roma to be thieves or worse as a baseline.
Last year a young girl got pregnant and, since she didn’t know what to say to her parents, she made up a lie and said that she was raped by a Rom. A whole Roma community risked linching and was saved only by the police and by the fact that the girl realised what she made and retracted at the last minute.
Me, from my part I wouldn’t feel comfortable to drive through a Roma camp.

But, I think that it is true that there is a big cultural difference between them (the Roma) and us (most people in developed or developing countries), because many Roma are really attached to their nomadic culture, and have values that might be unacceptable to us.
For example, a relative of mine is a public doctor of the italian NHS and has a Rom camp in the area he covers .
From what he says, many of those Roma really dislike having representatives of the state like him or social workers poke in their lifes and force them to send their kids to school instead than sending them to beg on the streets.

And, I would never say this of Turks or Arabs, but then I expect Turks and Arabs to aspire to more or less the same kind of middle class life I aspire to, whereas for Roma, I wouldn’t take this for granted.

40

Main Street Muse 08.08.13 at 4:54 pm

I grew up in an affluent town north of Chicago, where a popular topic of conversation among the clubbies was which country club was more exclusive. [Caddy Shack was rumored to be written about one of these clubs.] None admitted blacks; several admitted Catholics, which gradually became more acceptable, particularly as they were the rich Catholics who joined; one or two clubs allowed Jews and Catholics into the inner sanctum, which brought down their desirability quite a bit.

We were not members of any club [my father a bit of a rebel], and after listening to these conversations, I was glad.

I, too have heard “jury-rigged” – which someone explained was a bastardization of “gerry-rigged” -i.e. remnant of anti-German bashing from WWI era. Not sure if that is true.

41

LizardBreath 08.08.13 at 5:04 pm

“Jury-rigged”, or improvisationally repaired, is originally nautical, and isn’t connected with “jerry-built”, which refers to something that was shoddy when new. I’ve heard that “jerry-built” is WWI-era German bashing, but I don’t know for sure.

42

Omega Centauri 08.08.13 at 5:07 pm

The interesting thing to me, was that my sister-in-law moved from Fargo to Savanna, to escape the cold. She ended up singing in an other than her all black choir, because she didn’t have anything in common with the white-churches. She’s now back in Minneapolis, -family and culture trump weather.

The trees are the right size. I remember moving from New Mexico to Wisconsin. By the end of the summer I felt sick of it being unremitting green everywhere. Not only the size of the vegetaion, but the amount of green, versus red/brown in the landscape can be offputting. So yes to people from an aird climate, mixed green with bare patches looks normal and healthy. To someone who grew up in a wet climate, even a tiny bare patch feels like a great sickness unto the land.

43

Ronan(rf) 08.08.13 at 5:09 pm

“Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?”

There’s also the history of disenfranchiment, culminating in attempted extermination during the holocaust. So considerably different

44

JW Mason 08.08.13 at 5:11 pm

While it’s certainly important to point how deep-rooted racism is in the white south, I think it’s also important to remember this is not just an unchanging fact of life, and that the racial ideology of slavery was not just handed over wholesale to the very different postwar society.

I’m far from any kind of historian of this stuff — would be nice if some would join in — but when you read someone like Foner, what’s striking is how much interracial politics there was after the Civil War, which persisted to some extent into the 1890s. The Republican and later the Populist parties were integrated at the local level, and a surprisingly large number of black officials were elected in majority-white areas. As long as it seemed possible to win concrete gains, poor whites don’t seem to have been especially unwilling to align politically with blacks. It was only once the dominance of the landowning elite was solidified at the end of the century that the racial hierarchy really got reestablished. It’s been years since I read Strange Career of Jim Crow but the big thing I recall from it is how much more prevalent racism was — both in law and in culture — in 1900 than in 1870 or 1880.

45

Ronan(rf) 08.08.13 at 5:16 pm

Would the large African American migrations to the North,and then after that (with the advent of air conditioning ?) the Northern migrations to the South/West have anything to do with it?

46

adam.smith 08.08.13 at 5:17 pm

@40 – according to OED, jerry-built dates back to the mid 19th century and has no relationship to the derogatory term for Germans. No one knows for sure, but might refer to a specific building originally.

47

Doctor Slack 08.08.13 at 5:30 pm

“Nigger-lipped” is pretty universal slang, I think. It’s still used (or was when I was growing up) on the Canadian Prairie.

Everything about this post is excellent.

48

freedom fried 08.08.13 at 6:07 pm

I’m from the south and I’m glad the north won.

Show me any racial group anywhere in the world that isn’t prejudiced.

The guy in Norway that managed to kill 77 is waaaaaaaaay more racist than your average billy bob.

Fag bashing in Russia

Japanese and chinese hate made bruce lee’s film career.

rwanda genocide

killing fields in Cambodia

the balkans etc. etc.

while we’re at it. what about the mexican gangs driving the blacks out in south central?

Hate is universal. It’s a good thing love is too.

btw. okra should be fried like every other good southern food. that or mix it with some tomatoes and onions so you don’t have to deal with the snot.

49

Main Street Muse 08.08.13 at 6:45 pm

Re: jerry-rigged – here’s one definition from Urban Dictionary:
“To fix an object (usually mechanical) to a working condition in a haphazard way. Also known as doing a MacGyver on it. This can apply to any non working thing, to fix it in a nonconventional way. This term was created during WW2, in reference to the Germans who were referred to as “Jerries” as slang. Allies often came across hastily repaired objects left by the Germans hence the term Jerry-Rig came to be.”
http://bit.ly/11Pqh63

But then another entry in the Urban dictionary disputes this – http://bit.ly/179wrxG

It’s apparently not even “jerry rig” – it’s “jury rig” and it’s a nautical term from the days when sailing the oceans was the thing to do – creating a temporary rig for a broken mast.

50

Cian 08.08.13 at 6:49 pm

A major reason for Detroit’s woes is racism. From what people tell me it’s pretty unsubtle in places. So I don’t know that it’s purely a Southern thing.

But as a Brit living in South Carolina what Bella said rings pretty true to me.

51

ben wolfson 08.08.13 at 7:09 pm

“I never liked it because okra is slimey and gross, no matter how it’s cooked.”

This is absolutely false. It is possibly to prepare okra sans slime if you cook it without watery things. If you have small okra units (what are they called, anyway?) just lop off the tops and the tips, and then cook them in oil with the cut sides down (since each has two cut sides, you’ll have to flip it). When you’ve cooked them, in oil, on the top and the tip sides, you can just knock them over and roll the rest around in the hot oil.

Result, slimeless okra. Pure vegetal flavor (unless you use, say, lamb fat! In which case the vegetal flavor will be somewhat lamby).

52

ben wolfson 08.08.13 at 7:10 pm

It just so happens that I am eating okra prepared in such a fashion for lunch RIGHT NOW. No slime.

53

Brock 08.08.13 at 7:49 pm

I had forgotten about that particular term for slobbering on a joint. The example I use to explain to people growing up in the rural South in the 70s is that n****r was such a common playground taunt that it had a stock reply, in the fashion of “I’m rubber, you’re glue”. It went, “If I’m a n****r, you’re a chigger, bite my butt and make it bigger.”

If you called someone “gay”, that was a serious offense, and you’d get in trouble. But calling another white kid “n****r” was nothing at all.

54

Mandos 08.08.13 at 8:36 pm

Ah, so you sear the disgusting slime away to make okra edible. I suppose that’s no worse than roasting pumpkin seeds or something—another de-sliming act.

“small okra units” – I think they’re called pods, but I like this term better. “Here, have an okra unit! At least a centiokra? A milliokra?”

55

Barry Whitstone 08.08.13 at 8:36 pm

There is nothing quite as effortlessly self-affirming as pointing out somebody else’s racism: the accusee comes across looking good and the only thing the accused can do to defend them self just underscores their racism all the more.

56

William Berry 08.08.13 at 9:27 pm

MSM@48: Also rudders, as in “jury rudder”, rudder damage being nearly as common as damage to masts, spars, etc.

Also, grew up in mid-south eating a shit-ton of boiled okra, slime intact. Tablespoon of cooking oil, salt, black pepper. Delicious.

57

William Berry 08.08.13 at 9:27 pm

MSM@48: Also rudders, as in “jury rudder”, rudder damage being nearly as common as damage to masts, spars, etc.

Also, grew up in mid-south eating a shit-ton of boiled okra, slime intact. Tablespoon of cooking oil, salt, black pepper. Delicious.

58

Mandos 08.08.13 at 9:45 pm

Random Lurker re Roma: yeah, you’re not the only person who has told me that. Thing is, it seems to be difficult for Roma to get *out* of that situation if they want to, in many places, so why wouldn’t they try to take a bit of pride from their station in life?

59

Random Lurker 08.08.13 at 10:33 pm

@Mandos 56

You are perfectly right, obviously those who want to change are rejected, or anyway end up very, very low on the social ladder. It is a vicious circle.

Still, I don’t see a solution.

60

PJW 08.08.13 at 10:37 pm

A few rambling thoughts: I recall the expression “nigger lipping” coming up now and again during my late misspent teen years, though “bogart” or “bogarting” was, thankfully, by far more commonly used. I’d like to say I cringed at the former, though I can’t really recall. I do now. “You don’t know shit from Shinola” I know as “You don’t know shit from apple butter.” I grew up in the Midwest, so that possibly explains some of the variations. An unapologetic racist person I used to know quite well back in the day would call a rundown, junk-strewn property a “nigger ranch.” He really hated black people, and probably still does if he’s alive. I lived with a black person in a dorm room at college for an entire school year and we had our share of ups and downs, some stemming from our completely different backgrounds since he came from inner-city Chicago, while I came from a small Midwestern town that was 100 percent white. I learned a lot from that experience, lessons I’ve carried with me for more than 30 years now.

61

David Ollier Weber 08.08.13 at 10:41 pm

Not clear from my reading, but would the word “nigger,” except in those jargony usages, ever escape your own lips? It would absolutely never, even in the special instances cited, have escaped my mother’s. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1911, debutante niece of a governor (who lost a Congressional race to later Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, who courted the KKK support my great uncle refused ), onetime date of Johnnie Mack Brown, coed at Sweetbrier, transplant to Cincinnati when the family frog & switch company opened an outpost there… she was as Southern as they come. And she drummed it into me and my sibs that no one should EVER use the word nigger. The proper term of respect was “colored people” — like Lily Mae, who came in once or twice a week to clean our house. If racist means “conscious of racial differences” then, of course, she was racist. But less so in her bones, I think, than my Cincinnati-born father. (Cincinnati was part Kentucky, part Indiana, part West Virginia and part greater Germany, and I used to pass the house in whose basement Henry Ward Beecher sheltered escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.) To say we’re all racists — never mind whether the unscientific term ought to be relegated to the scrapheap of history — is a ho-hum truism. What separates Paula Deen from my mother, besides a generation and a class, is a word whose presence or absence from one’s vocabulary signals what lurks in one’s mind and one’s bones.

62

Anarcissie 08.08.13 at 11:07 pm

I wonder if I might be so picky as to inquire whether people here, while speaking about racism, are referring to a political theory or ideology, or to mere bigotry, prejudice, and tribalism. The ideology is that there are identifiable races, that some are better than others, and that the better should have power over the others — explicit power. I used to hear genuinely racist rants quite often during my youth back in the Dark Ages and then they seemed to go away rather suddenly, whereas it is quite obvious that animosity about ‘races’, ethnic groups, religions, classes, and so on continues merrily along. Of course you can find racist rants on the Internet but you can find anything on the Internet. I’m thinking of more or less mainstream discourse, not just in the media, but among the people.

63

garymar 08.08.13 at 11:18 pm

Lenny Bruce taking a cigarette from Wilt Chamberlain, inspecting it, and exclaiming in mock disgust (5th paragraph in).

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Belle Waring 08.08.13 at 11:19 pm

“Is the Southern-bashing in this thread any different?” Do you see an interesting thing that you did there? You assumed all “Southerners” are white. Isn’t that kind of a funny thing to say about states with a really big socially and culturally influential minority of black people? I wouldn’t jump on your ass and call you racist by any means, but people do this all the time; they say “Southerners” this and “Southerners” that and they don’t intend any part of their statement to refer to the black people in the South. Are those people not “Southern” for some reason? They may be more properly and secretly “Southern and Eastern” due to the location of West Africa and their mixed heritage in our nation, but I really don’t think you had that in mind. Fun fact for those who do not know: the rather odious Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a native speaker of Gullah, the creole spoken on the sea islands and in the marshes off South Carolina and Georgia and Florida. That’s a little bit awesome of him.

Speaking about the migrations North, one of the things that was interesting/funny when I used to take the train down from NY to Savannah for the summer I was always accompanied by a bunch of sullen black teenagers (and younger kids with their parents) who were clearly being sent to stay down with their Aunt Ernestine so they wouldn’t get into any trouble in NYC over the summer. They would often get off at Yemassee, LOL. Wouldn’t get shot was maybe more like it, this being the early 90s and the peak of NYC’s horrible murder rate, 3 a day, every day.

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Mandos 08.08.13 at 11:31 pm

They may be more properly and secretly “Southern and Eastern” due to the location of West Africa and their mixed heritage in our nation, but I really don’t think you had that in mind.

Not to detract from or disagree with this, but I should point out that “whites” are also “Southern and Eastern”, due to the location of Europe and their mixed heritage in the USA…

If I’m understanding your excellent response correctly.

66

Priest 08.08.13 at 11:44 pm

The subtleties of culture/class distinctions as reflected in language: when I was in high school in Tallahassee in the late 70s/early 80s, the kids of white working class folks (“rednecks”, if you will) would be more likely to go with “nigger-rigged”, while the children of suburban/educated/middle-class parents would use in-group lingo. So for instance a beat up car patched with lots of Bondo might be talked about thusly – “Dude, that thing was ‘groid as shit!” Much more sophisticated.

67

Mandos 08.08.13 at 11:57 pm

RL: “Still, I don’t see a solution.”

I kinda sorta do, but it isn’t politically possible in most of Europe. When getting the kind of educational reforms needed for Turkish migrant workers’ children is already very politically difficult in a country like Germany, there’s probably no hope for the bulk of the Roma population, especially in “New”*cough* Europe.

68

Random Lurker 08.09.13 at 12:29 am

The problem IMHO is that the solution should be some sort of affermative action, plus probably some increased government influence in Roma private life.
But I don’t think that an affermative action is possible at a time when all governments are in “belt tightening” rethoric.

Since I think many american readers don’t grasp the level of the problem, many people in Italy today still believe that gipsyes kidnap kids.

69

Main Street Muse 08.09.13 at 12:56 am

Grew up in IL. Moved 2 yrs ago south of the mason-dixon line. LOVE the fried okra here… (though the BBQ and pizza are not up to snuff…)

70

Main Street Muse 08.09.13 at 1:01 am

“Wouldn’t get shot was maybe more like it, this being the early 90s and the peak of NYC’s horrible murder rate, 3 a day, every day.”

So we HAVE grown as a people – I guess. Emmett Till came down to the South back in 1955 from my home town of Chicago and never returned. Now they send the children down south so that they will be outside of the sightlines of those NY gun deaths. Growth as a society? Sad, though, regardless.

71

notsneaky 08.09.13 at 1:30 am

In my high school (Alabama) the poor racist white kids and the poor black kids fought often. But these were *their* fights. If you were a middle or middle upper class white kid, especially the your-parents-or-grand-parents-arrived-from-the-North (never mind Eastern Europe) kind of white kid and you tried to get in a middle of such a fight, even to break it up, the poor racist white kids and the poor black kids would join together and kick your ass in racial harmony.

No wonder either, they had known each other, for better or worse since kindergarten, grew up alongside each other, as Belle said “shared their okra together” (and I think I detect some annoyance from Belle from the fact that most readers of this blog *are* affluent, educated, white liberals, NTTAWWT) and, frankly, you had no business intervening in business that was none of yours.

Except for the son of the Grand-Something-or-Other of the Ku Klux Klan that went to my high school. That kid was fair game for anyone, white or black, rich or poor. Even the two Koreans in my high school, both girls, smacked him around. Because they could. I mean, who’s gonna stand up for the Son of the Grand-Something-or-Other of the Ku Klux Klan? Neither the Nerds, the Metal Heads, the Punks, the Preps, nor the plain ol’ “rednecks” would stick up for him. It didn’t help he was a scrawny timid guy with a twitch of some sort, dressed in obviously Goodwill clothes. He dropped out the day he turned 16.

When I turned 15 (I was a year younger than him) I got a job at Burger King. A month or two into that awesome job the son of the Grand-Something-or-Other of the Ku Klux Klan came in along with the actual Grand-Something-or-Other of the Ku Klux Klan himself. An obviously drunk dirty bearded man who, while I was busy getting them their fries, proceeded to smack around that poor kid, including kicking him a time or two after having knocked him down onto the Burger King floor.

Hey, everyone regrets all kinds of things they done in high school, mostly stuff like listening to some really corny music. But the one thing that has kept biting the back of my conscience ever since that Burger King day is the fact that I too, smacked that poor kid around in high school. Because I could. But hey, he was the son of a KKK guy, so he was “bad” (and yes, he, the son, was racist too – but there were plenty of those around) and like I said, everybody else picked on him.

72

js. 08.09.13 at 1:57 am

I wonder if I might be so picky as to inquire whether people here, while speaking about racism, are referring to a political theory or ideology, or to mere bigotry, prejudice, and tribalism.

I’m increasingly skeptical that there’s a hard and fast distinction here. Not saying there’s _no_ distinction, but more and more I think the two bleed into each other more often than not. Importantly, bigotry and prejudice are themselves generally going to be underpinned by an ideology—perhaps not a clearly articulated/consciously thought through one—but nevertheless a kind of ideology or worldview or whatever that, were it to be spelled out, would look a hell of a lot like the explicit racist ideology you’re talking about. And this is hardly surprising, given that the “prejudice” and the “ideology” share the same historical source.

73

Doctor Slack 08.09.13 at 2:04 am

I’m increasingly skeptical that there’s a hard and fast distinction here.

I’m convinced that there isn’t, for the most part. To the extent that theory and ideology have been a part of racism, there’s a reason that (speaking very broadly) they’ve had a kind of protean, sloppy, self-contradicting and pseudo-scientific structure: it’s because the “theory” was mostly an attempt to rationalize what was coming from the gut, it wasn’t anything people were actually being reasoned into. Today it functions just as readily as an excuse: to take Islamophobia as an example, it’s easier to get away with repackaging one’s racial animus as hard-hitting religious than to come out and publicly identify oneself with older slurs like raghead or sand-nigger.

74

js. 08.09.13 at 2:04 am

Yikes. Totally messed up formatting there—first para is quoting Anarcissie @59.

Also, the really important stuff:

…bhagar for the daal (which I also dislike passionately, total complete heresy for a scion of South India)

Ok, that’s just some crazy shit right there! I kinda get the okra thing—hated it myself as a kid, and though I now think fried okra is excellent, curry-like preparations common in my family I still find to be awful. But hating bhagar is just flat-out wrong. I say this as someone who hails from similar parts of course.

75

Peter T 08.09.13 at 2:39 am

Excellent post. Anarcisse at 79 makes a good point. My impression is that while it was generally known that all groups would think themselves superior (and then assumed that everyone other than one’s own group was mistaken), race as a better/worse distinction is pretty much a C19 thing, with roots in US slavery and European imperialism. It was, for instance, quite common for European expatriates to marry indigenes in the C18, and any concerns were mostly about class rather than race.

It occurred to me that the emphasis on individualism might be part of the answer. As in ideologically de-emphasising the assignment of persons to a group. Overt expressions of class superiority are pretty much taboo too (as in formal distinctions of dress, address, legal privilege and so on).

76

TexTrialLawyer 08.09.13 at 2:52 am

A couple of thoughts. First, what the hell is wrong with you people who don’t like okra. So what if it can be slimy, depending on how it’s prepared. Even if it is, it tastes great. My granny used to boil it, then server it with butter, salt and pepper. Sort of “maximum slime okra!” Of course, she fried after rolling it in a bit of corn meal, too. Also stewed it up with good ripe homegrown tomatoes, onions, and celery. And she’s add a few kernels of corn if a fresh ear or two was handy. Or butter beans, for that matter. It’s pretty much an all purpose summer vegetable.

On the broader issue, the author’s original commentary hits the nail on the head on so many fronts. Sounds like talk in S. Carolina wasn’t all that different from that in northeast Texas back in the day. (And no, I don’t know another term for slobbering too much on a joint, either. To bogart a joint, in contrast, it to use it for too long a period and fail to pass it along to the next person, at least where I grew up, and clearly distinct from “nigger-lippin'” a joint.)

Like David Ollier Weber, I was a rare one who was taught to NEVER use the word “nigger” because it caused great offense. I was also told that because other cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. used it was no excuse for me to use it. It was like “ain’t” in that only uneducated people used it, and that in addition to offending black folks, you would be labeled as a bumpkin or ignorant is you used it.

But I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the friends and neighbors that I had through out all my days here in the same county where I was born that haven’t used at least one of those words or phases in my presence more than once. And our courthouse still has a prominent monument to the fallen sons of the county who died in defense of the confederacy. No similar monument honors those that fell in any other war, before or sense. Like the author, you would be shocked how many white people still talk. My “favorite” — really “most shocking” would be the right word — is the use of the phrase “good nigger” to denote a black person who doesn’t rock the boat on matters of civil rights or issues of race. You’d like to think that times have changed. But at least in my little corner of the world, very little has changed. Regrettably.

77

Meredith 08.09.13 at 3:34 am

Belle, I started to read the comments, dutiful as I am (classicist me), but I stopped quickly, wanting to respond to your post, not the comments. Very true and honest and insightful and beautiful what you say here, and I will think on it much more. (I would add to your list of n-expressions Brazil nuts as n-toes. I learned that from my NYC/VA torn mother, who reported it to very little me with great disapproval but a certain glint in her eye that I still remember with the greatest alarm.)

78

LFC 08.09.13 at 3:49 am

Peter T
race as a better/worse distinction is pretty much a C19 thing… It was, for instance, quite common for European expatriates to marry indigenes in the C18, and any concerns were mostly about class rather than race.

OTOH, I think one can find evidence in C18 texts to indicate that extant “primitives” were, shall one say, stereotyped. From Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality:

His [i.e., ‘savage’ man in the state of nature] soul…is wholly given over to the sentiment of its present existence, with no idea of the future, however near it may be…. Such is the Carib’s degree of foresight even today; he sells his cotton bed in the morning and comes weeping to buy it back in the evening, having failed to foresee that he would need it for the next night.

79

Bill Gardner 08.09.13 at 4:39 am

“…the continuing iron grip of racism. It may be all those people have.”

They also have guns.

Americans imagine that by being lethal they command respect. And since respect is how we recognize each other’s dignity, the idea is that if I (imagine that) I command respect, I thereby have dignity. This is the honour code which kills so many southerners.

80

Belle Waring 08.09.13 at 4:45 am

Hol’ up, hold up, somebody says they moved from Illi-fucking-nois, away down South to Dixie, and the BBQ isn’t up to snuff? Where the hell did you move, brother? I mean…Alexandria, VA? Otherwise I really don’t… I mean, naturally I believe that pulled pork shoulder smoked with pecan wood and served with mustard-based sauce (optionally with some coleslaw) on a hamburger bun is The Unquestionably Best BBQ in the South and that trifling East Texans, for example, with their beef ribs and whatnot don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. (And there should be Brunswick Stew. Damn, I didn’t eat even a mouthful of Brunswick stew just now and suddenly I realize I would slit somebody’s throat for a bowl. Hm.) And, as an aside, East Texas has a raaaaacism problem. Really though.

Mandos: yes, you could say the same given the location of Europe. Every, every, everybody in my family tree on my dad’s side was…now I’m not sure they were rich, exactly, but enough that the one aunt who was interested in genealogy could track everyone down and we have tintypes of them and so forth, Victorian watch fob holders made of the braided hair of beloved dead people, stuff like that. Wait, that’s stupid, my great-grandfather was president of a railroad company and had a private car so they could travel more easily between Savannah, NYC, and Darien. There’s no way that doesn’t count as rich. All those different houses in Savannah, and all those plantations. Fine, they were rich in the day on that side except when you get to my dad’s paternal grandfather, who was from West Virginia and was allegedly “part Cherokee.” We don’t know anything else about him, really. Many of the lighter-skinned mixed-race people who were “passing” out of blackness claimed Native American ancestry to account for those last brown-black eyes, that stubborn black hair that wouldn’t lay flat, that skin that was just the barest shade too dark. I’m pretty sure that was the case here, though I’ve never had the DNA test done, it would be interesting. Plenty of white Southerners would get a surprise if they did that, I bet.

81

Meredith 08.09.13 at 4:45 am

Trees are right size. Meant to mention that I understood Romney on this, as you did. What was weird to me was how this most understandable and sympathetic of his comments was so held against him.

82

Belle Waring 08.09.13 at 4:55 am

Bill Gardner: the other thing that I think Northerners don’t really understand is how honor-based Southern culture is, still. If you go drinking with somebody, and another person makes a personal remark that insults him, your drunk friend might insist you take it outside and show that fucker up. And you’ll be like, dude, it’s not worth it, let’s get out of here, etc. No! “Did you hear what he fucking said to me? Nobody can talk like that to me and expect to get out of there without a fight. Fuck all y’all if you won’t back me up, I’ll take him on my own self.” Drunk friend! Chill out, please! Also, please don’t be carrying a gun! They are sometimes, after all. Or the other guy is. Or you go get the car and drive by with it. In Savannah there are both Marines who have just finished boot camp at Parris Island and Army Rangers from the camp outside town. Sweet lord.

83

ed 08.09.13 at 7:59 am

“- how do you know that they are voting against their own interests?”

If only Lee Atwater were around. I bet he would know.

Weird how Mr. Atwater seems to have been airbrushed away. Pretty much any Republican on a Serious Sunday Show would disavow him for reasons that Atwater would certainly understand. Be nice if alleged journalists would call them out on that. Ah well.

84

ajay 08.09.13 at 10:08 am

It’s apparently not even “jerry rig” – it’s “jury rig” and it’s a nautical term from the days when sailing the oceans was the thing to do – creating a temporary rig for a broken mast.

“Jury rig” certainly pre-dates the second world war. I can imagine that Jerry-rig is a kind of later punning variant of this. “It’s not just jury-rigged, it’s Jerry-rigged!” Dictionaries give various possible derivations:
– from “jour”, as in, a temporary repair that was only meant to last a day
– from “ajouire”, meaning help or relief
– from “injury”

85

jazzbumpa 08.09.13 at 8:03 pm

I’d heard “jury-rigged”, but never “nigger-rigged” or “nigger-lipped.” I presume that is a regional thing.

I grew up in Toledo, Ohio in the 50’s.

These were quite common there, even into at least the early 60’s, possibly later.

86

casino implosion 08.09.13 at 8:44 pm

Those crazy southerners.

I work in construction in New York City and I hear a co-worker say “nigger” at least once a day. “Nigger-rigged” is common, although if they’re being ironic they’ll call it “African-American ingenuity”.

87

politicalfootball 08.10.13 at 3:13 am

85: Cleveland suburbs in the ’60s. Quite common.

88

Main Street Muse 08.10.13 at 3:52 am

“Hol’ up, hold up, somebody says they moved from Illi-fucking-nois, away down South to Dixie, and the BBQ isn’t up to snuff? Where the hell did you move, brother? I mean…Alexandria, VA?”

Oh Belle! I moved from a large metropolitan area in the midwest – an area that loves it bbq – has ribfests all over (the one in Naperville IL even invited Lynyrd Skynyrd this summer!) to a little southern town that has only the weakest offerings. Not a fan of NC vinegar bbq! And not saying southern bbq is bad – just the one bbq joint in my little town, with its weak and rather greasy meat – though their okra is awesome…

89

Dr. Hilarius 08.10.13 at 4:23 am

Belle, I think Dick Gregory, in his early standup days, summed up the difference between Northern and Southern racism very well: “In the South, they don’t care how close I get as long as I don’t get too big. In the North, they don’t care how big I get as long as I don’t get too close.”

90

Hector_St_Clare 08.10.13 at 4:59 am

Re: I am back in Singapore, but my lovely husband came with me and the girls on our trip to Bluffton, South Carolina to see my dad, at my childhood home.

I suppose it never occurred to Ms. Waring to wonder how racist Singaporeans (or for that matter other East Asians) might be, compared to Americans.

She might be surprised. (Or not, I guess: some people are expert at not seeing what they don’t want to see).

91

godoggo 08.10.13 at 5:34 am

OK, I gotta chime it here: WHAT????? EAST ASIANS ARE RACIST??? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for this shocking insight. And for the sarcasm!

92

David 08.10.13 at 11:48 am

Something that has been touched on here, in a few comments, is another aspect of (white) southern culture; that is the emphasis on respect, being polite, and honor. I am not sure if it is tied up in racism but I think so.
I grew up in a small town in the south, before we moved to the big city – Columbia SC – where I went to high school. I don’t know how to word it, but I will try to explain.
People did not speak directly to one another. Anything negative was couched in euphemisms or white lies. If you saw your nemesis at a garden party, rather than avoid them you walked right up to them and put on a bright smile as if you were so glad to see them; you said that you heard their grandmother was ill and you hoped she was better.
People were capable of the stinging insult, but it was used strategically. It was reserved for times when it would cause maximum humiliation- usually in private, but sometimes in public if the situation were right.
Of course people everywhere say things they don’t mean, to be polite. Like “This was so much fun, we simply must get together again sometime” Everyone knows this doesn’t actually mean anything. But in SC, such vaguely worded niceties were not enough. You would get detailed invitations to next months BBQ, with directions to the house and protestations that you come until you sincerely accepted. It was expected that you would figure out whether it was an actual invitation from the context. Would the most popular debutante in the school be inviting you, if not for the accident of class seating? Well, no. So you aren’t actually expected to come.
This is not even getting into “southern honor” or the pervasive insistence that you call everyone older than you “Ma’am” or “Sir” (do they still do that? I have not been back to SC since I graduated HS in 1978).
Anyway, my thought is that all this is the result of cognitive dissonance, that was produced by slavery. The justifications that were constructed for the “peculiar institution” were absurd, of course. It set a precedent for a cultural style of papering over mean, ugly reality with pretty sounding words. Pretensions to being part of a sort of aristocracy may have contributed as well. People got used to saying lies, every day, to everyone and everywhere.

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Hector_St_Clare 08.10.13 at 9:59 pm

Re: OK, I gotta chime it here: WHAT????? EAST ASIANS ARE RACIST??? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’d prefer to hear this from Belle Waring, since she is the one who was nattering on about Singapore. (I can point her to a few choice remarks by Mr. Lee Kwan Yew in the early 1990s regarding race problems in America). Somehow, though, I suspect I’m going to be waiting a long time.

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Jeremy 08.10.13 at 10:28 pm

By “nattering on about,” you’re referring to the first five words of her post?

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Sancho 08.10.13 at 11:56 pm

My wife, and hence in-laws, are Singaporean, and yes: racist as all get-out, just as the Chinese, Thais and Indians are. (As Russell Peters noted, Indians reserve their worst prejudice for other Indians)

There’s a bit of a generational change happening, but for the most part the Asians I’ve spoken to about race are simply baffled that the successful west undermines itself by empowering untermenschen not as a tool to disrupt competitor nations, but domestically.

An annoying progressive conceit is that, because Caucasians have been ruthlessly successful over the past few centuries, all of the races and cultures we’ve kicked in the face during that time are united in one happy, co-operative global community that would thrive in peace and positivity if only white imperialists would allow it, when in fact they’re appalingly conservative and openly bigoted.

So, criticising the racism of whites while residing in Singapore probably isn’t hypocritical, but it’s at least ironic and conspicuously misdirected. Sort of like writing about the American civil war from a Syrian hotel.

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Belle Waring 08.11.13 at 1:55 am

D00dz. I just went back to visit my family in the states for the first time in 2 years so I was inclined to think on’t. That is not what this post is about. But are SE Asian people racist? Jesus Christ they are! To speak to the main point, lots of SE Asian people of all ethnicities will express extraordinarily racist things against African people to me (or more properly people of African heritage living elsewhere like African-Americans), and I’m always like, you don’t even have any African people here to hate? What the hell is this? Why are you adopting this animosity from 4,000 miles away, what’s your damage? But are the ethnically Chinese people in SE Asia often really prejudiced against their ethically Malay, or South Indian neighbors? Daaaamn. They will get off remarks about lazy, shiftless, no-account people laying on the porch waiting for a banana to fall in their laps that would shame a Georgia planter in 1855. Do people from the Phillipines think that Chinese people have never had fun even a single time in their life and so don’t even understand what anyone else wants when they want a day off? Yeeee-ayaus. Holy hell, Javanese people think people from Lombok are trifling loafers that never worked a full day in their lives. Clearly some of this enters national or tribal prejudice but some is just regular old racist. Here in my adoptive home I had a close friend who is ethnically Indian and quite dark-skinned. She sounds British almost, accent-wise–well-educated Singaporeans vary quite a lot between sounding sort of like educated Americans and sort of like educated British people as far as accents go. (They never seem to come back Australian even when they study there, LOL) She was looking for a new place to rent and had three separate places agree to rent to her based on a phone discussion and negotiated deposit, rent, etc., but then tell her point blank to fuck off when she arrived in person saying they would never rent to an Indian person. OMG! SE Asia is not a race-blind utopia! Also, I am not a shining goddess of awesome who never said or thought prejudiced or racist bullshit ever in my life! I needed to think about things harder as a real grown-up, and listen to what people had to say. And I’m still not perfect, shit, call off the thread, y’all!

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matt 08.11.13 at 3:41 am

Is the South really less segregated than the North? That’s sort of my impression in some Southern cities, but then again I look at census maps and New Orleans is just as bad as Boston. The term “ghetto” usually means Northern/Midwestern, but the South has plenty of racially homogenous, 40% poor, high-crime tracts.

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dr ngo 08.11.13 at 4:48 am

Belle is right (as usual), and I can corroborate from nearly 20 years living in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. But implying that in order to comment on white racism in the USA you must not only be free of that taint yourself, but also *situated* in some society that is pure, is silly if well-intentioned, sinister if not.

One very interesting thing to me about Asian racism is that – at least in China – the sense of superiority to other ethnicities has always been there, but it wasn’t really “racial” until we (the West) taught them “scientific racism” in the 19th century. (See Frank Dikotter, THE DISCOURSE OF RACE IN MODERN CHINA – brilliant!) (And other writings

Up until then, the Chinese had simply thought they were culturally better than the “barbarians” that surrounded them, but that it was theoretically possible for such barbarians to become “civilized” – to become Chinese, in effect – by learning how to behave properly. In fact it can be argued that all of China south of the Yangtze and west of, say, Sian is populated by “Chinese” whose ancestors were in fact barbarians (yueh), but who were so totally Sinicized that they now refuse to believe they were ever anything else. (There was some kerfluffle when the school of dentistry at the University of Hong Kong pointed out that most locals are “Sundadonts” – like the Southeast Asians they look down on – rather than “Sinodonts” like the Han from the Yellow River heartland.) The original antagonism between the Chinese and the Vietnamese – from Viet (= Yueh) Nam, “southern barbarians” – seems to have centered on the fact that despite having more than a thousand years of Chinese tutelage (occupation) the bloody Viets refused to be civilized and Sinicized. They wouldn’t stop chewing betelnut; their women insisted on wearing skirts (rather than trousers, like proper Chinese women); etc.

Then (eventually) we came along gave them “race” not just as a shorthand for differences, but as a way of tying these directly to genetics. And now the Chinese believe in the reality of “race” almost more firmly than anyone else, even if they have to go through extraordinary contortions to explain how the several official Chinese “races” are really related to each other and not to the inferior peoples who surround them.

None of which excuses any of what Belle describes in South Carolina. (Until recently I, as a resident of North Carolina, could look down on her/them/it. Now, not so much.)

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Hector_St_Clare 08.11.13 at 6:41 am

Dr. Ngo,

That’s very interesting. I would add though that in contrast to your point about China, Indian culture didn’t need to import scientific racism from the West to convert cultural hierarchies into racial hierarchies. They already had an entirely homegrown theory of racial distinctions, in the caste system (which was a sort of ‘theological racism’, developed independently of scientific racism in the West). The ideology of caste was mostly about descent and only rarely about culture: it really did boil down to your genetics, though of course they lacked the modern concept of genetics. and as recent genetic testing has shown, castes are really racially distinct, and lower caste status generally (though there is a confounding effect of region) have more Ancient South Indian admixture than higher status castes.

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Walt 08.11.13 at 10:06 am

I think Hector St. Clare embodies why the internet sucks. It’s not just that he was making a stupid point, it’s that he was making a stupid point in a patronizing tone, i.e. like 90% of the Internet. Do people who make stupid points in a patronizing tone get special subsidized internet access, or something?

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Belle Waring 08.11.13 at 11:27 am

matt: I don’t know about your fancy book learnin’ and your census tracts [N.B.: joking], but the South seems more integrated overall, while it at the same time contains areas of extreme segregation (like Hotlanta, GA). I would put Washington D.C in the South for this anymore. The big difference in my personal experience is poor rural whites and poor rural blacks living side by side. If you go out into the countryside in Illinois, I don’t think you drive through a bunch of little hamlets that are of necessity integrated because the town only has 1000 people. Followed by some nowheresville land with people living pretty mixed up, and then maybe a decent size town where you will start to see some re-segregation. Southern cities also always have areas that are majority black but rich (like DC has always had). I truly haven’t lived in anywhere further North than NY, aside from periodic trips to Martha’s Vineyard, like how you do (which has a similar, historical area where well-off african-americans have been vacationing since I think at least the 1930s!). There are a lot of “Christian” private schools that are just a way to get white kids out of black school districts, but the HS on Hilton Head near my dad’s was…just barely majority white last time I ever saw it or talked to my god-father about it (but it was before so many Mexican families moved to the area, so I don’t know what’s up there.) HS sports are a big deal–that means the senior who’s the quarterback who all the girls have crushes on might well be a black guy.

Walt: yeah, after I responded I was irritated, because I got trolled. But at the same time, the things I said were true! WTFever. Apparently I need to move to Antarctica with a group of people chosen by a huge random number generator which assigns numbers even to stateless people or those too poor/outside their society of have birth certs, and then I can just give Hector St. Clare endless rations of shit, all day long. And that day’s going to be long, I’m telling you.

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Hector_St_Clare 08.11.13 at 1:30 pm

Well, I confess, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Belle Waring recognizes that Asian cultures are racist. Perhaps she’s neither as intellectually or morally vacuous as the typical Santa Monica feminist idiot, though that’s a pretty low bar.

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Main Street Muse 08.11.13 at 1:36 pm

Dr. Ngo @98 ” (Until recently I, as a resident of North Carolina, could look down on her/them/it. Now, not so much.)”

I moved recently to NC. What the he$$ is going on in NC? I thought Chicago was bad!!!! Seems I’ve moved from one political extreme to another. State religion balloon floated, thankfully popped, female nipple exposure now illegal (because it was such an issue?!), trashing of an NC jewel – their education system, moving voting rights back to the old days – restricting access, etc. It’s the poster child for the Tea Party (apparently the bellwether for the nation.) It’s really awful.

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Ronan(rf) 08.11.13 at 2:05 pm

Has Hector had an epiphany?

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Walt 08.11.13 at 2:30 pm

Oh, I don’t blame you for getting trolled. I fall for self-righteous pomposity approximately all the time. But it really is the kind of stuff that makes the internet suck.

106

Walt 08.11.13 at 2:32 pm

Woah, the “Santa Monica feminist idiot” comment made it clear that we are simply props in Hector’s mysterious inner monologue. Santa Monica feminist idiots may actually be at the actual bottom of the list of the world’s villains. “Santa Monica feminist idiot” doesn’t even make a good band name.

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Random Lurker 08.11.13 at 3:11 pm

@Walt 100
“Do people who make stupid points in a patronizing tone get special subsidized internet access, or something?”

Yes, we do, and this is the reason we are for Big Government.
Now you know.

108

dr ngo 08.11.13 at 4:03 pm

MSM@98: I moved to North Carolina nine years ago, and it was among the most progressive of southern states. And generally had been for some time. Even before the Civil War (the “late unpleasantness”) the old joke was that the state was a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit (Virginia and South Carolina). But particularly over the last few decades wise leaders of both parties had generally managed to paper over their differences and produce outcomes that were good for the people, particularly in the realm of education. Not to say there wasn’t a lot of rank racism just under the surface (Jesse Helms, anyone?), but leaders like Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt and William Friday made it function decently, to the point where we – among many many others – found it a good place to retire. (We were coming from overseas and literally could have chosen anywhere in the USA – or abroad.)

Then a combination of big outside money and gerrymandering led to the lunatics taking over the asylum, beginning in 2010 and culminating last year, when the Tea-Party-led GOP took the governorship and both houses. The majority of voters are still Democrats, but the gerrymandering means that GOP has substantial majorities in both houses (as well as our Congressional delegation). And the governor, who appeared during the campaign to be a Republican moderate, part of the bipartisan coalition that has (as I understand it) kept the state going for the last half century, now seems to go along with almost anything the rightwing legislature pushes through. I don’ t know if it’s because he was secretly a wingnut all along or (likelier) that he’s just politically gutless, but he’s a real disappointment.

So you though you were moving to NC as it was – really was – ca. 2009, and wound up here “after the fall.” Sorry about that.

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Bernard 08.11.13 at 4:18 pm

never heard of jury rigged until much later in my life. keeping us white folks one step above the poor black folks we lived next door to was done this way. not that we disliked our black neighbors, we were just raised not to cotton to these kind. be respectful to those of “color” and older people, just as a matter of living. don’t give too much thought to those that curse too much, though. Chivalry is not dead, just has different gradients here.

being raised in New Orleans, our neigbhorhoods were very integrated, outside of the Rich White Uptown part. our neighborhoods were more integrated/black the further you got from the main street or big boulevard.

everyone was taught their “place/pecking order” in our white controlled society. just being white opened up so many doors, just never knew it. this was just the way “Southern Culture” was/is. as seen by the respect for those wonderful Icons we saw on the monuments in our major boulevards, also had to have French sounding street names to be “cultured”. growing up seeing so many statues of Lost Cause/Southern Heroes like Robert E. Lee and PGT Beaureguard to remind us of how we wronged back in that War of Northern Aggression. Status was afforded race, even in the black part of society. lighter skinned blacks were at the top of the heap. light skinned blacks “Passed” for white, which really pissed off the whites who got taken. lol. that was perhaps the greatest “fun” for me. seeing how these “white folks” couldn’t tell. lol what white would say in white company, god forbid, you might be “gay, too.” The lines were fixed. those that fit in did well, others who didn’t fit, not so well

Johnson’s War on Poverty killed the Southern cities. all the White Flight to the White Redneck Suburbs, took all the White taxpayers to safety, before they joined the Republican Party to defund America. See Detroit. The Riots helped to heighten White Fear of the “Angry Black Man.” also, no possibility of mass transit. Keeping those “kind” out, unless you are rich enought to buy a car, keep out! lol. cause how dare you spend white money on them “lazy ass shiftless N…’s.”. After the Civil Rights Acts, the racism and fear came out directly. then as Lee Atwater found, You could say the same thing in a more indirect way and still get over/in protection from those “Black” folks, or Coloreds. the way the War on how to keep those “kind” down. cause you know us white folks, even though we are poor white folks and don’t own shit from shinola, we are still “white” and those kind found AMERICA. you know, we are “better than” those who have less than us, and we white folks have thousands of years of education, and those blacks were still living in huts. and so forth. no the racism didn’t go away. just polite white folks never said those things out loud. we have our pride, you know. If you can’t trust other white folks, well what kind of society is this, anyway?! and Johnson was a trator! Texas to the forefront,shades of Perry, Bush, Cruz, lol.

one thing Southerners still had through all the desperation and depravity of the Reconstruction and afterwards was our pride in the WAY we got through all the bad times. keep those Statues to Robert E. Lee, Beaureguard, et al., and Streets named after “our” proud and cultured Southerners, like Henry Clay. that always astounded me. i often wondered how Blacks saw this “remembrance” of Southern “Heroes”on major thoroughfares growing up. Slave owners/Confederate Heroes on our main streets and avenues. lol.

there was no real desire to integrate under these kinds of “thinking.” And politicians found out these weren’t “negative things, the dumb poor whites could be “persuaded” to see those “coloreds/blacsk/N*****S as a way to buy votes, via using the “diversion” of using White’s taxes for “reparations” for slavery. Couch words just so. it works and has worked on the Southern white mind for such a long long time . White Fear of the Black man in so many ways, the Republicans know their “market.” as been said before, “the past is never passed, it is still present.” Lost of folks here called Judge Skelly Wright of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals here in New Orleans, “Smelly “Wright, for not overturning school integration aka the Civil Rights enforcement here. lol. and physically protested, when that was legal/protesting, i mean/ back when black kids were “introduced” to public education. i often wondered what kind of education, if any, did blacks have before “integration” destroyed the public school system and America society as well. Thanks to the Republicans for initially working to divide us, that is. and a side helping, of course, to Democrats after they learned how to sell us out as well. Those bad ole Civil Rights Acts, just like Republican have now claimed to be outdated and unnecessary in our “Post Racial America.” lol

well that’s the Southern Way, as Lee Atwater/Republicans, have been selling it to poor whites since Johnson opened the door to this back door fear. It Works!!!!

But most importantly, how can anyone not like fried okra? gosh that is so wonderful. our food is so good. i guess if we figured we knew how to eat, we knew how to live, lol. well, at least we knew/know how to eat, that part turned out to be true. lol or pickled okra, okra gumbo, lol.

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Type B 08.11.13 at 7:18 pm

sugar in okra? really?
what no good yankee taught you that disgusting habit?
bet you put sugar and flour in cornbread, too.

and your post is dead on. particularly about how beautiful the coast is here.
i’m east of savannah and the beauty is as striking as the racism.

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Belle Waring 08.12.13 at 1:33 am

110: Sugar and flour in my cornbread? Them’s fighting words, son. I make cornbread the way god intended, and I melt the fat for it in a cast-iron pan that gets really hot so that when you push the batter in and put it to bake you will have a delicious crust on the bottom that will stand up to anything and you can eat one last piece for dessert with extra butter and cane syrup. The late Mrs. Grace Holloway of Metter, GA taught me to put a pinch (bigger than salt) of white sugar in Limping Susan (and plenty of acidic vegetables –it just makes it seem like the tomatoes were really ripe and good.) Go thou forth and do likewise.

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Main Street Muse 08.12.13 at 1:59 am

Dr ngo @108 – thanks for the NC update. I have children in the NC elementary school system – we have loved our teachers – but now I am APPALLED by the NCGOP’s bragging on how they’ve given teachers a raise (1.2% in five yrs) and how they love education and how this is the biggest ed budget since 2010 (which was less than the planned budget for 2009, but then the precipitous crash of the global economy got in the way.) Some of the biggest liars on the planet work in the NC general assembly. It’s really appalling.

Am missing the Illinois political crazies big time. (And yes, I realize how insane IL politics really are.) Not sure NC is an enduring home for me. I love a great deal of NC – just not the politics, which are even more bizarre than Illinois politics. Living in a Tea Party test tube is quite terrifying.

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Hector_St_Clare 08.12.13 at 2:43 pm

Re: I fall for self-righteous pomposity approximately all the time.

What you call self-righteous pomposity, I call not suffering fools gladly. Some of us see that as a virtue.

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Walt 08.12.13 at 3:05 pm

And what if you yourself are the fool? Would you know? Would you be able to diagnose this about yourself?

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Type B 08.12.13 at 7:41 pm

@111 “Go thou forth and do likewise”

never. sugar in okra is an abomination unto the southern kitchen.
and i find it difficult to believe that anyone from metter would stoop that low without having ogden doremus drag them in front of a judge as a carpetbagger.

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Hector_St_Clare 08.13.13 at 1:26 pm

Re: Has Hector had an epiphany?

No, Ronan. I said that Belle Waring was less witless than the average Santa Monica feminidiot, but that’s an exceptionally low bar.

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Western Dave 08.13.13 at 4:22 pm

In NYC suburbs of the 1970s, some of my neighbors called bottle rockets that were shot off horizontally rather than vertically “nigger chasers”. I was probably about 12 and since I lacked the normal social skills, I was immediately like “wtf” and they were all “that’s what it’s called.” It was no surprise when I was over at their house and an older brother was all “don’t Jew me” to another sib who wouldn’t lend him money – all the while looking at little old Hebraic me. Mom was all apologetic but in a “not in front of the company way”. But what did you expect from people who called a boy “Oy-Oy” because that was the sound he made when he ran down the street after somebody walloped him.

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