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From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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Frank 013
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From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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Those of you who know me also know that my job requires me to travel to post-storm ravaged areas. This dialog was inspired by one such trip.In recent weeks we have been hearing about the poor in this country and how opportunity and education is there for the taking. That is true for most of our country but while I was in Louisiana, in the once great city of New Orleans, I was witness to some of the most appalling displays of racism I could imagine.Myself and several people from my company were invited to help out in Louisiana and we happily volunteered. For the most part the trip was rewarding and without incident. But there were exceptions. The first involved and older black man who did not speak English, not a problem I thought we had a Spanish speaking person with us. Unfortunately the man did not speak Spanish either, he spoke Creole, which is not a recognized language. Furthermore this man had no ID or any way to communicate his needs. This sad man was sent away unsatisfied. This was not an isolated problem many of the needy had never had a bank account and had no idea what a deposit ticket was, and of course, had no ID. Many of them were frustrated and rude, border lining on violence.My first reaction was "what was wrong with these people." "Had they never been to school? How can someone get by in today's age without the simplest modern skills?"My questions were all answered before I came home. On the last week of my stay I had the luck of meeting a man who would bring the whole picture into light. I never got the man's name but he was an ex-cop from New Orleans and a "good Christian." This man commended us on our good work and thanked us for coming "all this way." He also talked about his destroyed house and vehicle and was glad for the government's help. His next statement floored both me and my partner. He started talking about all of the "Niggers" that were looting and how the police should shoot them all. He then added that he had shot 17 of them himself during his time on the force, but he wished he had shot 17,000. Our horror must have shown on our faces because he then added "But I ain't racist." I believe that he meant it.Now to put this whole scene into perspective, we were in a public building surrounded by other patrons, many of them black. Had this man made a statement like that in my home town he would have been killed where he stood. But the people nearby just stood by, and the black men in the area just looked away. This incident started us asking questions and it appears from our investigation that this attitude is still alive and well in Louisiana and it appears the rest of the Bible belt. The real tragedy is that the black population does not know this behavior should be intolerable. Many poor believe that a middle or upper class living for black people only exists on TV.Why did this attitude still persist in this area? What was the fundamental difference between where I came from and Louisiana? The answer I came up with was religion. This group of good people were saying things like "those people got what they deserved for their sins" and "God has finally punished those black heathens."While most Christians preach "thou shall not judge," very few practice it. In fact I have never been in a place where I felt more judged for my way of life. Saying that you are an agnostic in Louisiana is almost the equal to saying you are a Nazi in Israel. In addition, I have never been witness to a more oppressive group than the Christian fundamentalists. For a group that should not be judging, they sure do have a lot to say about how I should live my life. And when I say I do not want to follow their rules they try to push it into Law. It is this group of "good" Christians that is holding down the poor and black population. The odd thing is that they really do not know that they are doing anything wrong, it is in fact the way it has always been done "down there". I no longer wonder why groups like the KKK and other white supremacists groups have such a large following in the same areas. I think that Katrina destroying New Orleans might have been a good thing; get some of these people away from the backward, ignorant line of thought so they can see what America truly offers its people. LaterFrank
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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Thank you for sharing your story. Also, thank you for volunteering to help people who are in need!
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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FrankGood on ya for the work you do. It must e really tough, seeing people whose lives are turned upside down, have lost loved ones, etc.Your story was quite jarring. We have seen scenes of the most appalling racist character following the hurricane, but hearing someone speak so [words fail me at this point] must still shock, and chill the marrow. _________________________________________________________Il Sotto Seme La Neva
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Frank 013
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horror

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It took me a while to come to terms with what I saw out there. One of the reasons I wrote this article was because I needed to get it out somehow. I am glad that I went out there. and I am glad that I got to help, if even in a small way, but that single encounter will haunt me for a while, it was the most horrid moment of the entire trip, even worse than the smell.later
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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Having lived in the South more or less my whole life, I'd say that the problem is a bit too complex to narrow it down to just "religion". Nor is it a given that a bigot who talks about "niggers" is necessarily talking about black people in general. It's a complicated issue -- not so much ethically as culturally -- and I don't think an attempt to tie the persistence of racism to a single institution is going to be of much help. It's like blaming one head on the hydra while ignoring all the rest.And my experiences outside of the South have more than amply demonstrated to me that these are not problems unique to the Bible Belt. There are, of course, areas of the country where you won't find much evidence of blatant and outright racial prejudice, and it may be that those regions are as free from such bias and hatred as they appear to be. But I've certainly met and spoken to natives of the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast who are as unabashedly bigotted and racist as nearly anyone in the rural South. There are regions as far North as Illinois and as far West as Los Angeles that are well known for their systematic abuse of race disparities. I won't deny that it's more apparant in a broader swath of the Bible Belt, but to think of it as indigenous and limited to that area is a delusion.
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Frank 013
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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I think you might have missed my point. I do not hold any illusions that racism is confined to religious areas, or that religion is the sole reason for racism. Racism is born of ignorance and there are many reasons that a person might be ignorant or racist. There is no doubt in my mind that the people who displayed such a blatant display of racism were ignorant. My question was why were these particular people ignorant? After all they claimed to be "good Christians" but showed open contempt for their fellow humans.The problem as I see it comes from a whole culture of ignorance. The music, the symbolism, the language, it all reeks of ignorance. And it seems to go hand and hand with strongly religious populations. Could this be because church going people are taught not to ask questions? "Just accept what your preacher tells you." "Don't listen to that pesky science teacher, evolution ain't real." "Jesus died for your sins, it don't matter that there ain't no record of him in history." "Ok pa." It is not much of a stretch to believe that this attitude pressed into young minds might continue into their normal lives. "Them blacks is heathens." "The south will rise again." "Blacks are just inferior people, they ain't smart like me and you." "Ok pa."Religion breeds ignorance, it is evident because in the areas where religion has the strongest hold, the people are most out of touch.The real delusion is the belief that the church and its leaders have some special knowledge that is better than anyone else's, when it is in fact worse. Later
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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Frank 013: Racism is born of ignorance and there are many reasons that a person might be ignorant or racist.Ignorance is too simple an answer, too -- there are a great many very intelligent people who are shockingly racist if you can get them to express it. The difference is that most of them are clever enough to choose their words more carefully. Let's not forget the controversy that arose over "The Bell Curve" about a decade ago. For a brief moment, it became permissable to seriously suggest that their may be a genetic reason for the disparities between the races in America. And just as quickly, public opinion closed the door on that opinion.If you want to find an explanation for the particular experience that you had in New Orleans, I would say that the answer is probably the fact of relative isolation. The ideology held by the racist person may not be all that different from the ideology held by, say, a Berkeley professor. The difference isn't necessarily that one man is racist and the other is not, but that one man feels that it's perfectly acceptable to express it -- or even that certain forms of expression are not obviously racist. Which is probably a result of having lived all his life in an environment where such statements met with little or no resistence.What I'm saying is that the fact of harboring a prejudice and the fact of feeling comfortable enough to express it may have very different causes.Religion breeds ignorance, it is evident because in the areas where religion has the strongest hold, the people are most out of touch.I may be overstepping the boundaries of comfort that I've established here to say that this is itself a prejudice with very little factual support. The fact that religion and intellectual isolationism tend to inhabit the same areas is not necessarily the product of religion -- it's the product of extreme intellectual conservativism. You rarely find them lumped together when the religion in question is relatively new. What these people are latching onto is not religion itself but the appearance of a long, unbroken tradition.
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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MadI am back from New York.You are probably correct that I have a certain amount of prejudice towards religious people as a whole. I have seen people do horrible things in the name of religion, and I see religion as one more difference between people that we can fight about. If you were to say that I hold a certain amount of contempt towards people who believe in myth as fact, you would be correct.I still believe that these same people have the right to believe what they will, but I loose a certain amount of respect for someone when they say that they are religious. I know they won't listen to reason on certain topics, so I am forced to restrain my discussions as to not offend someone's fragile belief system. I am finding that I have read more of the Bible than most Christians, and what I have found is disturbing. I am reluctant to discuss most of my findings because the religious people I know could not (for the most part) handle it.I am also a huge history buff, I specialize in Greek and Roman history, My findings here also lead me away from the Christian version of the way things were. To be fair I think every person has some prejudices of one form or another, but the ones derived from race or religion seem to me to be the worst of all. I hold those who judge people for their race or religon with even more contempt than those who believe in myth. The fact remains that in our world the least educated people tend to be the most religious. The most religious people are the most judgmental, they tend to be elitist and prejudice. Most religions (Christianity included) allow for violence on others, most notably non believers. Of course not all people come to similar thinking for the same reasons, but when talking about something as widespread as racism I must remain general. People need very little reason to escalate to violence on one another. Religion through history has turned out to be just another reason. Later
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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There's a lad up in Northern Ireland, one of Paisley's lot, who came out (no not in that way) the other day and claimed that the New Orleans disaster was an act of God in retalliation for a Gay Pride march of some sort. This same man who claimed that the Tsunami was the result of Asia being a Godless place and that AIDs was designed by god to eliminate homosexuals.A friend of mine heard, shook his head and said 'That fellow has it all wrong? Has he never of Amsterdam or San Fransisco? God loves homosexuals as much as the rest of us. It's Jazz he hates' before downing his pint and leaving. Anyway, I think that from the context this white ex-cop was using the word nigger in much the same way that Chris Rock uses the term. In this sense Niggers tend to be black men with little sense of responsibility, regard for the law or intelligence. Let us agree, there is no one single reality. Not upon this stage, not in this world, all is in the mind... imagination is the only truth. Because it cannot be contradicted except by other imaginations - Richard MathesonThere are no conclusive indications by which waking life can be distinguished from sleep - Rene Descartes
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Re: From the Front Lines of the Bible Belt

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It is very possible that the ex-cop was just using the word "nigger" as an alternate for ass-hole, which I have heard in the past. But the Black people where I come from would never allow an old white boy to throw that term around in such a manner.The running joke while I was out there was that God hated cajun food. later
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