A Black White Supremacist — No, Really
Comedian Dave Chappelle recently received a lot of heat for an act in which he said, among other things, "If they're black, it's a gang. If they're Italian, it's a mob. But if they're Jewish, it's a coincidence, and you should never speak about it." I don't regard this as anti-Semitic, or for that matter racist or anti-Italian, because he is clearly mocking all racial stereotypes as opposed to promoting them. To this he added, "I've been to Hollywood ... it's a lot of Jews. Like, a lot. But that doesn't mean anything. There's a lot of black people in Ferguson, Missouri. Doesn't mean they run the place." This again comes across to me as ridiculing the stereotypes in question, and I am by the way of Jewish identity.
Comedians, like court jesters who often had license to criticize their monarchs in public because everything they said could be taken as a joke, have some leeway with regard to ethnic and racial humor because none of it is meant to be taken seriously. Monty Python makes fun of almost everybody, and Mel Brooks's comedies are full of humor about Jews, Catholics, and others. Archie Bunker, meanwhile, discovered that his longtime friend Stretch Cunningham was a Jew when he attended the latter's funeral. Chappelle also made a short video about Clayton Bigsby, the black white supremacist who was born blind and never realized that he was black. When he discovered his identity, he divorced his Caucasian wife of nineteen years for being a Negro-lover ("Negro" was not exactly the word he used).
Our society needs to understand the difference between humor that is clearly not meant to be taken seriously and racist or anti-Semitic commentary from white supremacists, Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, and Black Lives Matter spokespeople, who mean every word they say. In the meantime, however, Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction story "Farnham's Freehold" suggests that Senator Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), the mentor of Robert Byrd, AKA Senator Sheets (D-W.Va.), really was a black white supremacist.
The story's protagonist, Hugh Farnham, begins by pointing out that, given the fact that the Roman Empire had black citizens and Caucasian slaves, including presumably some with blond hair and blue eyes, given Rome's occupation of portions of Germany, France, Belgium, and Britain, most Europeans have at least a dash of Negro blood and "[s]ometimes more than a dash." The narrative continues, "That southern Senator, what was his name? — the one who had built his career on 'white supremacy.' ... This old boy had died from cancer of the jaw and had had many blood transfusions — and his blood type was such that the chances were two hundred to one that its owner had not just a touch of the tar brush but practically the whole tar barrel." He added that a Navy surgeon had documented this in medical literature.
The story does not name the senator in question, but Theodore Bilbo died from oral cancer. Heinlein served in the Navy before tuberculosis forced him out, and he might well have known the purportedly fictional Navy surgeon himself. This makes absolutely hilarious Bilbo's statement to Dwight Eisenhower that social equality would result in "familiarity, miscegenation, mongrelization, and in many cases intermarriage between the races." Had Bilbo's own ancestors avoided these things, he would have never existed. This also leads to some Robert Byrd jokes, such as "Why didn't Robert Byrd like The Hobbit? He learned its protagonist was Bilbo Baggins rather than Theodore Bilbo, and Smaug was a big dragon but not a Grand Dragon." "What was Robert Byrd's favorite convenience store? Sheetz — it reminded him of what he and Theodore Bilbo wore."
The lesson is that racism and racial identity politics are absolutely stupid in a multiethnic country like the United States, and the best way to deal with these things is to ridicule them. If you're a white supremacist, how do you know you didn't get a "touch of the tar brush" several generations ago? If you're a black supremacist, are you similarly certain of the purity of your African ancestry? If we look back even farther, a good part of the ancient world also was a melting pot, so most of us "white people" are more likely a very light shade of gray, while many "black people," at least from northern Africa, are probably a very dark shade of gray.
Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Europe as a Melting Pot
Even though most people in the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance worlds rarely ventured more than twenty miles from their birthplaces, some traveled and migrated long distances. The "Galatians" of the New Testament lived in Asia Minor — i.e., what is now Turkey — and their ancestors were Gauls. The ancient Greeks knew of Ethiopia, and none of them objected to a story in which their hero, Perseus, married the Ethiopian princess Andromeda. I recall that a children's book from long ago portrayed Andromeda as having blonde hair and blue eyes, but as she was an Ethiopian, she was almost certainly a black person — and the Greeks didn't care. Greeks were far more likely to hate a fellow Caucasian from a rival city-state, as portrayed in The Boys from Syracuse. "What did he do?" "He came from Syracuse." The Athenians' treatment of the Melians, along with the Peloponnesian Wars, meanwhile speak for themselves. Ancient people could easily hate rival tribes or rival city-states, and they did not apparently factor skin color into these considerations.
Morocco, whose population includes a lot of black people, once ruled a good part of Spain, and there are plenty of Spanish people with mixed ancestry. People of Spanish descent can therefore identify, and with justification, as both black and Hispanic. Shakespeare's Othello was a Moor who moved to Venice and married a white woman (Desdemona), which suggests that the Venetians did not care about racially mixed marriages, either. Had there been laws against "race mixing" or "miscegeny," the story would have simply not been believable. Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, was the son of a biracial French general who had no problem fitting into upper-class French society. All of this suggests that racism and racial identity politics are not only bad for a multiethnic country like the United States, but ridiculous in the bargain.
Maybe Dave Chappelle has the right idea: we should ridicule racism instead of hating it. Hate is often a product of fear, and fear implies that the enemy has real power over us. Ridicule is, in contrast, contempt directed at a powerless enemy, and it has the ability to take away whatever power the enemy has. Perhaps we can eradicate racism by laughing at it and its purveyors — e.g., "What do you call a white supremacist with an IQ of 60? Gifted." "What do you call Al Sharpton if he wakes up one morning to discover that he has become a Caucasian? Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan." If a white person doesn't want to shake hands with a black person, or vice versa, remind him that the last time the color came off was when the leopard got his spots (according to Rudyard Kipling).
The real joke is Theodore Bilbo, who, unlike Clayton Bigsby, seems to have been a genuine black white supremacist.
Civis Americanus is the pen name of a contributor who remembers the lessons of history and wants to ensure that our country never needs to learn those lessons again the hard way. The author is remaining anonymous due to the likely prospect of being subjected to "cancel culture" for exposing the Big Lie behind Black Lives Matter.
Image via Pxhere.
Correction: Sen. Bilbo was from Mississippi, not Michigan