What Would Grandma Do?
Years ago, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson stirred up a bit of a media firestorm with some comments he made about how black people were happier in the old days. Here are Robertson's words as reported in The Atlantic:
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field .... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
The article launches into a boring and predictable screed about how Robertson is glossing over the brutality of racism in the Jim Crow South. Viewing the world only through the limited lens of modern racial politics, they cannot understand any other paradigm. Modernists view old-time Southerners like Robertson as something odd and repulsive, and in their dismissiveness, they miss the point he is trying to make. Thinking whites are inherently privileged, they cannot conceive that poor whites, or "white trash," were about as poverty-stricken and low status as the black folks they worked beside. They have no awareness of the cordial and often warm relationships that existed throughout the South between black and white people, regardless of status. And they have no means of comprehending the profound truth of the phrase "They were godly; they were happy" - that people in far worse objective circumstances in the past were often far more content than those in modern times because they found peace and strength in their faith.
A phrase that was common in Robertson's generation and those prior, which is seldom heard these days, is "ain't no use complaining." This may sound to some like a statement of despair and helplessness, but it was not - it was quite the opposite.
"Ain't no use complaining" was a statement of determination made by someone who viewed the world with clear-eyed realism and a sense of duty.
"Ain't no use complaining" was an acknowledgement that life is inevitably tough and unfair, and one could only play the cards they had been dealt.
"Ain't no use complaining" was a statement made by someone who was lacing up their boots, putting on their hat, and heading out the door to face the challenges of the day.
"Ain't no use complaining" was an affirmation of an intention to do something proactive, rather than passively wallow in self-pity.
My grandmother was a girl during the Great Depression. Due to hardship, she and her siblings were separated. Most were sent to live with relatives in different states, but the two oldest were placed in an orphanage. When I heard this story and reacted with shock, she replied matter-of-factly, and without a trace of bitterness, "It had to be done."
"It had to be done." There's another phrase you don't hear anymore. People once accepted that hard decisions had to be made, and that despite these difficulties, one must continue to persevere.
Today, complaining is favorite national pastime for most, and a career for some. Misfortunes are not something to be overcome, but are cherished opportunities to gain attention and, if you're lucky, to leverage for the greatly prized "victim" status. Think of the things that evoke histrionics in the media these days: incidents of rudeness or tactlessness, even some barely perceptible ones that have been termed "microagressions." The prevalence of "hate crime hoaxes," offenses people report which we later learn they have inflicted upon themselves, is proof of the rewards of victimhood. Victimhood is embraced, celebrated, and broadcast as widely as possible.
Contrast this attitude to the modesty, dignity, and self-respect of prior generations, even in the "oppressed" classes. My mother recalls her parents' black friends express shame and disappointment at the behaviour of their children during the "civil rights" protests of the 1960s, not because of some internalized slave mentality that made them believe they should accept an inferior place in society, but because they wanted their children to pursue their goals in a way that showed respect for God, themselves, and others.
Virtue signalling is another modern affliction. I cannot count the times my grandparents quietly stepped in to provide for the needs of their neighbors and friends; sharing food or material goods, pitching in to help fix, build, or clean, offering consolation or encouragement. It is hard to imagine that any of the people I knew of their generation, black or white, would have broadcast their misfortunes or their accomplishments to 500 of their closest friends on the internet.
They made their choices not for praise, but out of a sense of responsibility to their neighbors and genuine compassion. You know, the qualities virtue-signallers like to say Americans (other than themselves) lack.
9/5/2020 08:21:54 pm
I enjoyed this essay, Carolina Contrarian. I have read and heard and seen more whining and complaining in 2020 than in all my 61 prior years combined. Complaining about the Confederate flag. Complaining about the Mississippi flag. Whining about racism. Whining about so-called 'white privilege.' To all the whiners: we who aren't whiners have had enough of you....
9/7/2020 10:15:36 am
Great read. Nails the current sense of nilhism pervading this country. We are much better off materially today, but as this essay reminds us, we are much pooter in ways that may ultimately prove to be much more crucial to our survival as a civilization.
9/19/2020 06:25:23 pm
I am younger—my grandparents were children in the depression. And yet in my personal life and experience, I concur. I think the main difference, and I am relaying information from another source. I have lived in the south most of my life and I have seen racism, but it has been in the smallest minority of people. The most common form of racism—if you could even call it an unkindness was that parents didn’t want their children marrying another race, mostly due to a belief that God wanted the races to not be mixed, not that they had anything against other races. Most, even the most racist, had black friends and would give the other the shirt off their backs. Each culture was distinct and unique, the blacks tended to be poorer and filled the service sector jobs, but there were plenty of whites there as well. Our city is unique in that the black neighborhoods were all intermingled with the white, as a lot of the blacks historically worked for all the rich white people, who incidentally treated their servants as family. (Sometimes dysfunctional families, but still family.) Newcomers (Northerners) buy a house in a nice neighborhood to discover to their shock and dismay that the houses behind them are a black neighborhood. Their is a lot of dislike for the blacks who play the welfare victim card and don’t work to better themselves, but a lot of respect for those who do what is right. I have heard from several sources and I have a lot of reason to believe that the racism in the historic south is nothing like the racism of the north. There there is abject hatred for blacks and anyone else (not like themselves). There people tend to separate themselves from all inferior people. (Everyone else.) The northerners cannot imagine that there was anything but absolute hatred for blacks in the south because they imagined the rest of the U.S. was like the north. This is just ignorance on their part. The educated northerners—which as a whole are more educated than us southerners—have unfortunately been taught a bunch of lies about systemic racism, and now believe that nobody besides them can even see their own racism, which is utter nonsense. Oh well, you have to come to the end of yourself before you can take in anything from somebody else. We in the south will go on loving our neighbors, no matter what other people think we are doing, and not cave to the ridiculousness of the crazies. One day they will see the truth.
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The Carolina Contrarian, Anne Wilson Smith, is the author of Charlottesville Untold: Inside Unite the Right. She is a soft-spoken Southern belle by day, opinionated writer by night. She loves Jesus, her family, and her hometown. She enjoys floral dresses and acoustic guitar music. You may contact Carolina Contrarian at CarolinaContrarian@protonmail.com.