Black people were mostly an abstraction

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

Rod Dreher recently found out that his father was in the Ku Klux Klan, back in the 1960s, in Louisiana:

Specifically, as much as I hated to admit it, my dad, who had grown up in rural Louisiana, and who had spent his career as the chief public health officer for our parish, knew more about actual existing black people and their culture than I did — because he had lived among them all his life! For me, black people were mostly an abstraction. I had allowed the living, breathing human beings to be assimilated into an idea of Blackness — specifically, of black people as the eternal victims of white people. When I first discovered Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Enduring Chill” (PDF version here) (I hear that link doesn’t work; listen to Stephen Colbert read it aloud here), I was poleaxed, because O’Connor had seen right through me. It’s a story about Asbury, an intellectual son of rural Southerners, who goes off to college and comes home full of intellectual pride about how much smarter he is than his mother. Back on the farm, Asbury sought out the company of black farmhands, not because he wanted to know them as people, but because they were totems of his anger at his backwards mother, and of his pride that he was not a sinner like her.

I’ve carried Asbury in my heart all these years, as a rebuke to myself. When I read that short story in college, I knew Asbury was me. In the story, O’Connor doesn’t justify the prejudice of Asbury’s mother, but she does use it to reveal that Asbury, in imagining himself free from sin, was guilty of a different sin. I also knew from reading that story that my dad understood things about black folks — at least in the rural South — that I did not, despite the fact that he was blinded by his own unconscious prejudice. The point is that I too was blind, but my blindness carried with it the taint of moral superiority. O’Connor showed me that both my father and I were guilty of making abstractions of black people to suit our own conflicting senses of moral order. She also showed me that this is the way it is with us human creatures. We are all at risk of assimilating our fellow creatures into ideas.

In the years that followed, I puzzled over how it was that my dad, with all his race prejudice, could more easily talk to black people than I could. He had a small farm before I was born. I puzzled over how he would cry telling the story of the love he and his old farmhand, Calvin McKnight, had for each other. I would hear about how he would go to town to bail black farmhands of his out when they had landed in jail for public drunkenness, and wonder: how does a white racist do that? At his retirement from the public health officer job decades ago, I couldn’t avoid reflecting on the fact that the racist white man who was my father had done more practical good to bring water and sewerage to the homes of poor black people in our parish than nice race liberals like me ever would, despite holding all the correct liberal views of race.
How to explain that? The thing is, if I had brought it up with my dad, he would not have been able to understand my point. He wouldn’t have been able to see a contradiction.


Plus, black people and white people really were very different in terms of culture. What a shock it was to me to go to a rare evening assembly at school, when I was 13 and was then moved to the same building as high schoolers, and to see girls only a year or two older than me, whom I would see daily in the hallways at school, carrying their babies while their mothers doted on them. This was how local black culture was. It was also very, very strange to me, as a kid, to learn from black classmates in elementary schools that they had no fathers in the home. I eventually began to wonder to what extent the white taboo against “race mixing” was merely out of pure race hatred, and to what extent it was a form of protection against the sexual code that was destroying the black family.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Single women with children from multiple fathers seems to be the norm throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil… wherever large numbers of blacks live together.

    Richard Lynn would explain this as a consequence of African climate and ecology. Women could support herself and her children by scratch gardening, without the assistance of a man. In Eurasia, climate and ecology drove single women to extinction. Women and men needed to bond monogamously in order to survive and raise children.

    Under that theory, white charity and the welfare state have allowed blacks to revert to the African norm.

    Affirmative action has allowed high-IQ blacks, like Obama, to enter the White middle and upper classes, and in that environs, blacks conform to the White norms.

  2. Jim says:

    In this revealing essay, Rod Dreher, hicklib-son, accurately assesses why white racists must be eliminated.

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    Generally speaking, people of one race or class, who wish to separate themselves from people of another race or class, almost always have what they consider to be good reasons for this, based on behavior. These reasons may or may not actually be valid, but they are very seldom conjured out of the void. “Hate” as conceived of by liberals, plays almost no role in race or class prejudice, and is a creation of the Left used to avoid discussing certain behaviors of favored groups which they do not want to discuss.

  4. VXXC says:

    Rod works for TAC, which of course is in the same DC building as CNAS and so many other liberal and conservative think tanks. Rod sings for his supper but never out of tune with the chorus.

    Let me translate this intelligentsia-speak and summarize:

    Blacks are being tossed under the bus, by noticing what has been in view all along.

    Coming soon: Rod discovers the black homicide rate.

    I don’t have a solution, but Rod’s master’s do: the white working classes fortunes shall rise with reshoring and reindustrialization of America, yes this is a real thing. That and Hispanics are becoming the New Italians VERY fast, this requires strategic realignment …and you see Hispanics have no time for blacks.

    Frankly neither do I as far as the being black part and I don’t mean skin. Neither did Obama so I guess I’m very progressive after all.

    So now Rod notices things.

    HNY, things are looking up for 2023.

  5. Jim says:

    VXXC, you are quite right about Rod Dreher, Hicklib-Son’s perfect pitch and about throwing blacks under the bus you make a very humbling point.

    And it stands to reason that the conservative clown car charade would turn against the blacks, considering how strongly the blacks, led by Ye and world-famous performance artist and extemporaneous speaker extraordinaire, Nicholas J. Fuentes, are turning against the Jews.

    This demands serious soul-searching. Will I have to become an Afrophile? (Not a joke.)

  6. W2 says:

    Culture is a racial construct. Each race makes a culture that works for it, and different races make very different cultures, even under similar conditions.

  7. VXXC says:

    In truth I think from the 18th century forward race hasn’t been working for Americans. I said it hasn’t been working, not it doesn’t exist.

    All the European groups were already so mixed in, with plenty of Creole and Cajun and other mixed blood assimilation by the 18th century that it stopped being noticed *UNLESS* it was forced. Prior to the 20th century the force was coming from some Whites, invariably Democratic Party.

    Since 1965 when Jim Crow was replaced by Jim Snow it’s also only existing when enforced -on whites- and claimed for gain by Blacks and of course other races. It would be very wise to allow race to fade away, but it would have to stop being so rewarding, and the entire racial journey with all the suffering is at the feet of the Democratic Party.

    More to suggest that race doesn’t work in America is the dismal results it has given blacks in all areas except for affirmative action hires and promotions. Is working the system worth where we’re going, another Civil War with race in the mix?

    Yes, oh Black Chappies at terrible cost to your own and all but mainly your own some of you have made it to the middle class. This brings up that guy Simon Legree being the evil white guy…see, ah…about him being white…

    Having said all that I’m a man, I’m fed up.
    Have at thee, Pell Mell to Hell.
    Not like you’ll have it any other way.

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