The whole episode with Trent Lott has me angry. Very angry.
I have been a Southern boy all my life. The first time I ever traveled north of the Mason-Dixon line was in 2000, when I went to New York City to see my first Broadway show. I love this region of the country, and I hope that at the end of a long, long life, I will be buried here.
However, when I hear statements like the one Trent Lott made at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party last week, I want to hide under a rock somewhere. I've heard pundits making excuses for Sen. Lott, saying that he got "carried away" in paying tribute to a "great American" who has "changed his views" on race and civil rights.
I don't buy it. I've seen and heard evidence that shows me that Trent Lott had a pretty damn good idea of what he was saying. I'm not entirely convinced that Sen. Thurmond ever changed his views, either.
It's a funny thing about Southerners. There are many of us who seem to put on a paper bag when it comes to race relations. There are many who say "oh, the civil rights era was back in the 60s; what do we have to worry about now?" Plenty.
Sure, there are no more signs that say "whites only" or "colored only", but the ugly scars of racism remain etched on the southern heart. I have relatives who still sit around and tell incredibly racist jokes. I usually have to leave the room, because there are only so many times I can hear the word "nigger" used in an evening's conversation.
I encountered racism in college, too. I had a friend who would sing a borderline tasteless song called "Christ! Here Come the Negroes" whenever he got drunk. One of those occasions, he asked me point blank "Clint lemme ask you, would you ever fuck a nigger?"
I stared at him for a few seconds, unable to say anything. What kind of stupid-ass question is that, I wondered. Finally after weighing my options, I looked at him and said,
"If I loved her and she loved me, it wouldn't matter to me what color she was."
He kind of shrugged, and said something about cultural mixing, and soon the conversation drifted to "Caddyshack" quotes. Still, when I think of this guy, the pleasant memories I have of him are tainted a little by this incident.
Much as I abhor this kind of talk, I can almost excuse it coming from someone in their own house or in a private setting. However, when you're a public figure, particularly a political leader, and you say something like Trent Lott did in a public forum, you'd better be ready to ride the storm that follows. In my opinion, Trent Lott is either a totally clueless moron or a lying racist for making almost identical statements in 1980 and 2002 and for addressing the Conservative Citizens' Council (with high praise) several times during the 90s.
That's all I got for now. Sorry if this is too political, but I had to get it out.