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Lecture 8B


Tim Parrish
Fatima Shaik

Tim Parrish has written a memoir about growing up as a white racist in a Baton Rouge suburb. The period of time he considers, 1958-1968, was the time of the greatest upheaval during the Civil Rights era. Here is a brief timeline of the period.

This book is a deep dive into southern fried toxic masculinity. The community Parrish belonged to was more blue collar than where the elite LSU faculty (like Robert Penn Warren) lived. But these were two white hands that washed each other. Penn Warren would look down his nose at the 'common' (to quote To Kill a Mockingbird) antics of the Parrish family, and they would despise his superciliousness. But both were expressions of white supremacy. As a liberal elite, Penn Warren was the friendly face of the south. As working-class people, the Parrishes were the people who would beat your ass if you crossed them. Tim, of course, lives between the two worlds, the world of fists and the world of words. For instance, he wrote a petition against Disney & ending up with two lawyers in his living room with his nonplussed father. His father was definitely not confused about one thing; he wanted no part of the elite world and warned his son not to have the event repeated.

There is a nihilistic side to the Southern racist. Rather an share the local public swimming pool with black people, they blew it up. Acts of terrorism like this are part of a larger willingness to sacrifice their own well-being for the cause of hurting others. A recent analysis of this phenomenon is Dying Of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl. In it, he documents the willingness of racist white people to kill programs that would help them just as long as those people suffer more. They would leave their children unschooled and illiterate as long as those people didn't get free textbooks. Of course, the elites never leave a nickel on the sidewalk. They'll sell out the misery-loving constituents at the first whiff of an Army Air Field.

Jonathan Metzl: "My research for the actual book itself started in about 2010. I was doing research in the south in Tennessee and talking to people who themselves would have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. They didnít want the Affordable Care Act and were on the frontlines of saying they didnít want Medicaid expansion. And it was just a really eye-opening experience for me because these were people who were very often medically ill and really would have benefited from what was coming down the pike everybody thought with the Affordable Care Act, better access to physicians, help with medical bankruptcies, help paying peopleís prescriptions. We started focus groups in the south around that timeó2010, 2011 before Trump was a blip on the horizon in terms of the presidency. Probably the most powerful stories that we heard were people who were literally on deathís doorstep, chronic medical illness, liver failure, kidney failure, things like that who would tell me and my colleagues, weíre not going to sign up for this program because even though it might help us, and these were often white working class Americans who we were talking to, they said, we donít want to sign up for a program that might help immigrants or minorities." One of the men he interviewed did in fact die.

Shaik's story "Climbing Monkey Hill" describes integrating social places from the perspective of the black people who were re-asserting the rights lost through Jim Crow. There is a hill at Audubon Park named Monkey Hill. Or maybe it is THE hill. Supposedly the hill was built in the 1930's by the WPA so New Orleans children would know what a hill was. But the minute black children began playing on monkey hill, the hill's took on a different meaning. Racist white people would pull their children off the hill, then yell at the little monkeys on Monkey Hill.

This unwillingness to share space was part of the push of white flight from New Orleans. The pull came from of white flight came in the form of the G.I. Bill. Money was available to white veterans to help them buy houses, and many white New Orleanians left the city and the parish in search for whiter climes in Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes. That's why some of the most racist politicians in the state, like David Duke, live in Jefferson Parish. Ironically, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu wanted to remove some of the Confederate monuments, he was able to do so because the people who would have blocked him no longer lived in the city. And the state had a Democratic governor who wouldn't sign a bill blocking the city from removing the monuments, as has happened in other states.

David Havird
Ashley Mace Havird

Today we have an interview with David and Ashley Mace Havird, two poets living in Shreveport, Louisiana. They read and discuss today's assigned poems, a rare treat. 

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