You’ve heard the saying, you’re not as dumb as you look? Well the opposite applies to “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson.
He made headlines this week for his anti-gay sentiments in a GQ interview. (for which he was suspended indefinitely from the show) Now another statement from the interview — this time about the black community during the pre-civil rights era — is stirring more controversy.
GQ’s Drew Magary sat down with the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch for a candid interview about his road to fame. The 67-year-old journeyed from substance abuse to devotion to God to small-screen celebrity, all in the backwoods of Louisiana. According to Robertson, growing up in those Louisiana backwoods in the pre-civil rights era was not bad for black people.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson is quoted in GQ. “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.”
Before the civil rights movement of the 1950s, Jim Crow laws enforced a system of subjugating African-Americans in the South by upholding racial barriers for years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The cultural climate in the Southern states was one of “disenfranchisement, segregation and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence,” History.com notes.
The Human Rights Campaign and the NAACP wrote a joint letter to the president of A&E, expressing deep concern over Robertson’s remarks:
We want to be clear why Phil Robertson’s remarks are not just dangerous but also inaccurate. Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street. And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it’s important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] — it’s not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous.
Robertson called homosexuality a sin and juxtaposed it with bestiality. After his homophobia made news, A&E released a statement announcing Robertson’s indefinite suspension from “Duck Dynasty.” The network emphasized that his beliefs are in contrast to those of the network.