Archiving Athens
Inhuman Noise

Carter's Greatest Hits

Truck

Carter always wants to talk politics. He lives across the street, alone, and never misses an opportunity to stroll over to my driveway and school me on what’s wrong with the world. He keeps an eye on Broad Avenue from his junk-encrusted front porch, peering out from under his grimy cap and those tin awnings sagging with mildew.

The first time we met, Carter warned me that “the homosexuals” and “the blacks” were in control of everything in this part of town. That this was no longer any place for law-abiding whites like us.

This comment was the first of many of Carter’s greatest hits, including:
“Them folks with all the Halloween decorations? They must be Catholic. You know they can’t be Christian.”
“Can you believe that the people of Illinois elected a black man to be their senator?”
“Why do I need a woman when I’ve got a microwave?”

It's kind of remarkable to witness. Carter practices a form of old-school, matter-of-fact racism that's practically extinct. He’s a pitiful old coot, with his pushbroom mustache and mis-buttoned workshirts. He lives off a military pension, the proceeds of recycled scrap metal, and TV dinners. Just off-kilter and lonely and wanting to talk.

"Let me tell you something," he tells me. "I was born in Coffee County, Georgia." As if that justifies everything.

Undyingly cordial to my elders, I usually listen to him the first minute or two, becoming more curt as the topic turns to the liberals and the Chinese. “I gotta run, Carter," I say. "But I’ll bring you some grapefruit this afternoon.” I didn’t take him too seriously a few weeks ago when he started telling me about how this housing crisis was caused by lazy minorities who had no intention of paying their mortgages. Oh naturally, I thought. Blame the black people. Let's blame space aliens too.

So I was surprised to hear a kindred sentiment coming from the mouth of one of my peers at a dinner party this weekend. Four of us, young and college-educated, were gathered at a tidy suburban kitchen when the topic turned to The Economy.

“My father-in-law is real conservative," my friend began, distancing himself. "And he says that the banks changed the rules because the government was trying to encourage more minority homeowners. And those people got more house than they could afford, that's where all this started.”

I concentrated on my salad. That sounded completely wrong to me. And familiar.

I stewed over this through dessert– cinnamon rolls– and then the ride home from Gwinnett County. I could hardly wait to get home and get on the computer and google up a decent rebuttal. Who's spreading this rumor? Who's buying it? That the global financial meltdown– from Dubai to Vegas to Iceland– all this was triggered by, what? affirmative action? The culprit isn't greed but, reckless generosity?

And I found plenty of liberal articles denouncing what the conservative pundits were saying. I didn't need the Washington Post to recognize the simmering, half-formed racism beneath this explanation. It's Carter's crap, dressed up for dinner.

Comments

Mike Goad

We've got a lot of people like "Carter" here in Arkansas, too, at many levels of income. They don't always say what they really think, unless they think you're like "Carter," too. And they aren't happy right now.

joy mc.

>> "That the global financial meltdown–-from Dubai to Vegas to Iceland–-all this was triggered by, what? affirmative action? The culprit isn't greed but, reckless generosity?... It's Carter's crap, dressed up for dinner." <<

Well said, Hannah.

Todd

Gwinnett is a cesspool of upper middle class privileged jerks. It's always been that way in the northside suburbs. Hannah to coin a favorite southern saying. You can dress a pig in a suit it's still a pig.

I do agree with Carter though “Why do I need a woman when I’ve got a microwave?” yup gotcha. Hope that made you laugh.

Lowell

Hannah, let me explain some rules to you:

1. As long as you're saying something that someone else said, it doesn't count as racism.
2. If you whisper, even in a room where everyone is white, it doesn't count as racism.
3. If you have black friends, or like to think you do, it doesn't count as racism.
4. If the group you're slandering isn't black, ie hispanics or homosexuals, it doesn't count as racism.
5. If you simply grew up in a different part of town or decade, it's ok. That's just "how you are."

So, Hannah, don't go round telling people they're dealing with underlying racist tendencies if they follow the rules.

Shawn

I have not read the stats.....but I bet blacks were two or three times more likely to get sub-prime loans than whites, though I bet the majority of sub-prime loans went to whites. Of those getting sub-prime loans, I wonder if certain races were any more likely to default (interesting because then you are comparing like finances to a certain result)?

I think Carter and Mr. Gwinnett County's statement and your reactions are a great illustration of the anti-fact prove-your-point rhetoric that is killing this country from all political and social angles. They assumed that lending to non-paying minorities caused the meltdown. You assume that they are hateful and wrong.

If the government had forced ratcheting down on subprime lending, and that was to take a disproportionate hit on black home ownership, what would your response have been (before the meltdown)? Without knowing the facts....isn't it possible that reeling in sub-prime lending could have been stifled by a racial political component? Such a disparate racial impact surely would have a political consequence right?

My point is that we are all either making assumptions without fact....or we are running to our already slanted fact pools in search of supporting facts for an assumption we are already determined to prove.

What is the real difference here? Are we to just pick supposition based upon which one feels less hateful?

In summary:

Actor 1: "It's their fault."

Actor 2: "No it is not. You are stupid."

I mean....is this the drama we want for real life?

hspalmer

@Shawn: that's the thing about taking a side. you have to be one-sided.

Shawn

Exactly! ....that's the problem with that way of thinking. Choosing a side from the list of established sides is exactly the mentality that leads us to the problem...everybody adhering to their respective side instead of investigating with an open mind.

I liked that you addressed that a little though.... "I could hardly wait to get home and get on the computer and google up a decent rebuttal."

I swear Hannah...it's like we have grown a culture that actually has disdain for fact finding and scientific process.

But to be clear....my side...and maybe I don't have one or I'm not capable...but if I do...it is that we should be open to every possibility and let genuine fact lead us down the appropriate paths of blame and curing (of course I likely don't do this any better than the next....but I can dream on Stumptown, right?).

By the way, I get so excited when I see new posts here. I wish I could talk to you everyday about idea and arguments and meaning.

Lowell

@ Shawn: I see your point, and it reminds me of one of my "whoa moments" in college. Sitting in a dingy Ethics and Society classroom, a TA busted my self righteous balloon by saying, "Yes, racism is not the best thing in the world. But how tolerant are you of the intolerant?"

I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned not to hate people for their beliefs. I do want to change them, though. Is it possible? Hardly ever. But if I can turn an active racist into a passive bigot, or an ignorant segregationist into an aware humanitarian I feel like I'm doing good.

The thing is I love em either way. And I love you, too, for bringing a bi-partisan feel to such a touchy subject. Plus you smell nice.

hspalmer

thanks for reading, y'all. I was nervous about this post, but felt strongly about writing it.

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