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Father’s racism…

Via Digby:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “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. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

– Lee Atwater, as quoted in “The Two-Party South”, 1981

That was my dad. He treated blacks well (and wouldn’t consider doing otherwise), he’d slap you if you said the n-word, he would howl if you ever called him a racist, but even to the child that I was, the subtext was obvious – it was “those blacks” that were the problem. No, he didn’t say “those blacks”, it was just the things he yelled at on the television that said it all.

While I don’t think my dad actually meant to be racist, sadly as the quote shows there was a cynical effort to manipulate people like my dad. We’re still paying for it today.


This deserves another quote, which is a sad reflection on both Republicans and the South. After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson was to have said:

“We have lost the South for a generation”

and he was not wrong, nor would the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, take the high road and ignore the opportunity. Thus began the “Southern Strategy“.

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