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Anna Graham Hunter @annaghunter
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Restaurant-gate - @SarahHuckabee getting kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant - plus an interview with @Sethrogen got me thinking about politeness, slavery, date rape, #MeToo, gaslighting, and what it means to be a Southern gentleman. 1/
Politeness serves those in power. As a child I spent much of my time with an extended family of affluent white Southerners who, I came to realize, valued politeness above many other qualities: kindness, honesty, fairness, and justice. 2/
For a long time I assumed my family adhered to politeness because of what Jane Austen believed (according to someone I can't remember) - that manners are the only thing stopping us from killing each other. 3/
That line about Austen makes me laugh, but I no longer buy it. What I think the code of politeness really does is maintain the myth that the people upholding it are "good people." 4/
In my family, the myth that they (we) are good people - and, further, that we are descended from good people, despite the fact that our ancestors owned slaves - has allowed many of my cousins to believe that we have what we have because of "strength of character." 5/
An older cousin actually said that to me when I was asking how some of our ancestors built an empire after supposedly losing everything in the Civil War. He said, "strength of character," which he believes has been passed down through the generations. 6/
You know what else helps build an empire after you lose a war and your Confederate money is worthless? The system of slave labor that picked up where pre-war slavery left off. 7/
Don't take my word for it, or even the word of @douglasblackmon, who wrote a book about it. Take the word of one of the most racist pop-culture heroes the Confederacy and its champions have ever known: Scarlett O'Hara. 8/…
In "Gone with the Wind" Scarlett uses prisoners to staff her lumber mill, which eventually makes her rich. She does this over the protests of Ashley Wilkes - a former slave owner - who said it was wrong and unfair because they are beaten and starving. 9/
In the movie version the prisoners are almost all white, and we're supposed to believe that Scarlett's decision to use them is questionable. Casting them - accurately - as black would have undermined the movie's theme that enslavement of black people was a happy thing. 10/
I have spent my life observing white Southerners twist themselves into knots trying to reconcile all the horrible shit in their past. And it almost always comes down to the myth of being good and noble and honorable in a way one's opponents are not. 11/
My Georgia-born parents raised my sister & me in 1970s Brooklyn. They chose a diverse school whose motto was "question authority." My dad was part of a group that protested banks' redlining certain zip codes by painting red lines on the sidewalk around the banks themselves. 12/
Still, my parents raised me to believe that Robert E. Lee was a good man (he told his troops not to steal crops!) and that Sherman was a monster. They were passing down what they'd heard from their parents and grandparents. 13/
Conveniently omitted from all the stories about Lee was that he enslaved free black people in Pennsylvania and brought them to the South as property. 14/…
But even though my parents were heartbroken to learn this about Lee, it's what being a gentleman has always meant: some people are included in the code and others aren't. 15/
Which brings me to #MeToo. Lots of men who've done some heinous shit think of themselves as good people (plus they have daughters and wives and sisters!). So in order to do what they did, they had to think of their victims as less than full humans. 16/
I realized this in college when I was asking about premarital sex in my grandfather's generation. Women like my grandmother, from "good" families, were off-limits. So who did my grandfather have sex with before he was married? 17/
My grandfather - whom everyone in town considered a gentleman - said there were women called "buttermilks" who it was OK to sleep with. That's when I realized that, while date rape had likely not been a danger for my grandmother, it almost certainly was for buttermilks. 18/
Because men who don't think of themselves as rapists (and who does?) can justify forcing a woman to have sex when they assume that sex is what she's there for. 19/
Now I know that black women were also included in this group of women who could be raped guilt-free by people like my grandfather. (Chill out, family - I'm referring to a class of men.) But I didn't know that in college. 20/
Dehumanizing your victims is one part the code of manners plays in the spectrum of violence against certain populations. The other is a victim's fear of being rude. 21/
When the #MeToo stories started coming in an onslaught last fall, a guy I know told me proudly that he'd gotten all the women who worked for him panic whistles and mace. I told him that wouldn't help. 22/
I took a self defense class decades ago. I carried a keychain with spikes to gouge someone's eyes out. I learned how to smash an instep, punch someone's throat. But I have never been in a situation where any of those tools or skills would come in handy. 23/
What I’ve really needed - what all women and marginalized people need - are classes in how to be rude. 24/
When it comes to harassment and assault, one of the predator's greatest weapons is our fear of offending them. Either because they have direct power over us and our careers, or because when they tell us to calm down, that we're overreacting, we believe them. 25/
That's what gaslighting does - it makes people doubt their experience. And the really neat trick about gaslighting entire populations is that they'll often do the heavy lifting for you, making sure you don't feel uncomfortable no matter what atrocious acts you're committing. 26/
And when they don't, well, people on the comfortable side of power go ballistic. Witness all the "good liberal white people" tone policing people of color who call them out on racism, telling them that being "angry" and "aggressive" is counterproductive. 27/
Or, of course, saying that "it did more harm than good" to kick Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of a restaurant. 28/
No. What does harm is allowing people like Sanders - those who use their power to hurt people - to remain comfortable. 29/
Sanders claims she believes in treating everyone "respectfully." She adheres to the code that most of my relatives do: a difference in politics is simply a difference of opinion, and underneath we all want what's best so we should agree to disagree. 30/
An aunt messaged me during the election, "You and I are on different sides. And that's OK." I forget how I responded, but one reason I haven't been to Georgia since the majority of my extended family voted for Trump is that it's not OK and I don't want to pretend it is. 31/
Because if I went along with the pretense that everyone wants what's best, our disagreements are on the surface, and family is more important than anything except when it comes to those seeking asylum, then I'd be playing a part in maintaining their comfort. 32/
And that kind of comfort - the kind that allows you to vote for an openly racist and misogynist candidate and continue to support him and his racist and misogynist policies, all the while believing that you're a good person - is profoundly dangerous. 33/
But disrupting that comfort and defying social convention is HARD (I'm taking the easy way out by avoiding my relatives). 34/
Which brings me to @Sethrogen, who recently refused to take a photo with Paul Ryan. As Rogen describes the interaction, it’s clear it wasn't easy to say no, even as he makes no apologies. 35/
It wasn't lost on me that Rogen was talking to @stephenathome, who took a picture with another of the administration's enablers when he posed with Sean Spicer at the 2017 Emmys. I imagine it’s because Spicer asked him to and he didn't want to hurt his feelings. 36/
I aspire to be more like @Sethrogen. 37/END
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