You may have noticed that I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet about Kim Davis since she’s been jailed for contempt of court. There are two reasons for that: 1), I felt like crap last Friday and writing was not exactly at the top of my list and 2) I’ve been taking some time to sort out what I think about the whole thing. Yes, I realize that second item is a bit of a novelty for me, usually I just say whatever pops into my head. But, looking at the discourse surrounding Ms. Davis, I didn’t think that would be such a good idea. Plus, being sick when the shit hit the fan forced me into a period of self-reflection; which is probably a more truthful rationale for the reasonable, well-thought out tack I seem to be taking (it’s too early to know if I actually mean all this).
First, disclaimer: no matter what else is said in this post, I firmly believe that it is wrong, both legally and morally, for Kim Davis to refuse to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples and that if she cannot do so in good conscience, she should resign her position immediately. You might think that I wouldn’t need to say that here, as I’ve said it at least once before on this very forum. But, I have to waste time and space repeating myself because, on the internet, saying something once (and, a week ago, to boot) is like never having said it in the first place. Okay, let’s get on with this.
A little earlier, I mentioned “the discourse surrounding Ms. Davis”, saying that it gave me pause. That’s because a lot of it has been pretty fucking shitty. And, I’m not talking about the people taking up for her, either. There have been some really ugly and derogatory memes and comments floating around progressive circles since last Thursday, some almost gleeful that she “got what was coming to her” and others denigrating her faith and her background. As much I’d like to say “Come on, people; we’re better than that”, after the past 5 days, I’m not so sure.
Let’s get one thing straight: what’s going on here is nothing but redneck shaming (if that’s not an actual term, it should be) and I don’t understand it. Why do people freak out when poor black folks are called “freeloaders”, “thugs” or “welfare queens” but have no qualms about calling rural white folks (especially southerners or mountaineers) “inbred”, “ignorant” and “redneck”? Maybe it’s cognitive dissonance or maybe it’s just plain, old hypocrisy. Either way, it’s fucking wrong.
This goes deeper than a few ugly memes and comments about Davis, however; it’s about the fact that rednecks are the last group of people we can denigrate with impunity. In an article on white, rural poverty, Leonard Pitts wrote, “In a vacuum, yes, Honey Boo Boo, would be fairly meaningless. But the show is not aired in a vacuum. Rather, it is aired in a country where art and scholarship have spent two centuries pounding home the idea that some of us are ‘white trash,’ ignorant ‘crackers’ and, most infamously, ‘hillbillies’ — America’s unalterable and unfixable misfits.” Indeed. It seems that America believes rednecks exist for two reasons: the entertainment of their “betters” and, more importantly, to fill the slot of the ultimate “other”.
All this is not to say that you must agree with Kim Davis; you can disagree to your little hearts content. And, you can continue making your shitty little “redneck” and “hillbilly” jokes. But, understand that if you do, you’re really no better than the people you’re ridiculing. Maybe even worse, because what they’re doing, they’re doing out of love; misguided though it is. You have no idea how much I wish I could say the same about the rest of us right now.