Equivalent Insults

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.

Published by


A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

3 thoughts on “Equivalent Insults

  1. Sometimes you have people who argue against and point and, in the process, prove they are wrong. Coming from a long line of rednecks (My dad was their king), I can tell you there is nothing offensive about it unless you are ashamed of it.


  2. I am so sorry Jim….I don’t think you can erase the memory your body has to physical and verbal violence. A remnant will always be there…and it is no wonder that you had that initial reaction. The question is how do we respond to people like that?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s