Half a dozen of us were in the AGT tent at the Lenoir City Crafts Festival today when a man came up to our front table.
He was a large man and had an American flag on a dowel, maybe stuck through his belt, maybe carried in his hand. I’m not sure.
I was seated toward the back of the area and didn’t pay much attention until I heard him say, “That’s a racist book.”
He repeated it, pointing to one of the books on display that had the word redneck in the title. “You wouldn’t use the n-word in that title, would you? No, you wouldn’t. No, you wouldn’t.”
He continued, “I’m done with you.” His glance swept the area. “I’m done with all of you.”
“Racist bigots,” he said, and walked away, repeating that phrase over and over.
During this the woman sitting at the table where the book was displayed did not say a word. Probably she was dumfounded, blindsided by this very angry man who came up to our table, labeled us all racist bigots, and then walked away.
To me it’s obvious that the words redneck and nigger are not equivalent insults; I can start or stop behaving like a redneck (although it might not be easy). I can’t change my DNA, any more than anyone else can. The fact that this man saw them as equivalent and expected us to accept his assertion of their equivalence is one issue, and not an insignificant one.
But not the most important, at least for me at this time in my life. Uppermost in my mind while I was sitting there was fear, wondering if this guy was getting ready to pull a gun. I’m coming up on ten years after the church shooting and still the gut reactions are there. Intellectually I know that what happened to us then was an aberration and is extremely unlikely to recur.
Emotionally that doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.