Let me build the “surroundings” for you.
This is another incident that happened in the drama that Oprah Winfrey produced called “Queen Sugar.” It is a drama that is written from the standpoint of people of color in Louisiana and the struggles they have. It is surprisingly adept at pulling you into the lives and feelings and reactions of the people involved in it.
And as far as I can tell the story of “Queen Sugar” pulls no punches. It’s pretty adept and raw and painful to watch. But at the same time, it makes you realize that there’s a part of world that is a LOT different than what you are used to. A lot different than your middle class white suburban bubble. A lot different then the middle class suburb I live in. Not all that much different than the lives of some of the people I go to church with – except they probably don’t farm sugar cane.
Anyway, back to the happenings “last night.” There are two main people involved in this part of the story….. Charley – formerly married to a basketball star, recently divorced after finding out that husband was not faithful, moved back from LA to Louisiana when Dad died and left an 800 acre farm to her and her sister and brother. After Charley’s nasty divorce, she and her teenage son became very strong advocates for those who are the poor, the mis-treated, the abused, the poverty stricken. She sets up a free medical clinic for the migrant farm workers and is in the process of running for City Council because the ”power” white family in town is working behind the scenes and forcing black farmers to sell their land so that they can eventually put a highway, a oil refinery and lots of pollution and at the same time essentially wipe their town off the map – at least in regards to the history and family that made the town of St. Joe what it is. Charley was running for City Council to try to stop the Landry family from achieving their goal of essentially wiping out the town. The Landry family had their son, Jacob, running for City Council against Charley. Jacob is pretty much a Daddy’s boy and will do anything his family says. He also has a thing where he reacts very negatively to any woman who tells him what to do. I think it has to do with the way his mother treated (and still does) him.
Jacob confronted Charley a day or two before they were having a town hall meeting as part of the election. In that confrontation, Jacob pushed Charley and told her to withdraw from the election because he’s been told that he has already won the election and there wasn’t any way she would win, so he told her she should “save face” and withdraw from the election.
“The arrogance of mediocre white men never ceases to astound me.”
Now do me a favor. Don’t react to that statement yet. Instead, take a few minutes and look at what you know about the people in government, your local government, state government and national government. Based on what you know about them and what you’ve heard about them, does it sound like she might be right?
How does Jacob respond? He does not disagree with her, no he actually says that she’s right. But then he says,
“It’s not arrogance, it’s power.”
Ouch. The obviously mediocre white guy is saying, we’re arrogant, but not because we’re good, it’s because we have power. That’s it.
The power of the mediocre white man shows itself in many ways. It is a huge part of why racism is still an issue.
And I spent 20 years working in an industry that was full of mediocre white men who were arrogant and had the power to determine the make up of cities and neighborhoods and more.
We’ll be talking about that more in the future