Theodore G. Bilbo – governor of Mississippi, Senator from Mississippi, enduring icon of White supremacy – was dying. At his side, eventually, was Leon Lewis, the editor of Negro South, a Black newspaper. Bilbo stated for the record:
I am against the social intermingling of Negroes and Whites but I hold nothing personal against the Negroes as a race.
Theodore Bilbo’s views of Black people, and some of his proposals aimed at Black people, had been showcased proudly throughout his career in politics. He had spent his life specifying everything he had against Negroes. So had be been dishonest then, or was he being dishonest now?
And how was this “clarification” supposed to elevate him in the eyes of Blacks? “You know all that stuff I said about Black people? Well, it was nothing personal.”
When people say things like this, it actually demonstrates how little regard they have for your intellect. They expect you to swallow whole the notion that someone can insist on being socially superior to you and not really have anything against you.
But recognizing this contradiction doesn’t really make me angry. I actually feel pity for someone like this.
It can’t be easy to go through life knowing full well that Black people are human beings – with all the same human impulses, strengths, and weaknesses that you have – but having to maintain a public posture that asserts the opposite.
How do you convince yourself that another human being isn’t human?
This isn’t an exaggeration. If there are things you find completely unacceptable for yourself but you have no problem advocating for me – solely because I’m Black – then you’ve convinced yourself that I’m not human.
In the face of all the evidence that I’m essentially no different from you, you’re going to have to construct quite a mental edifice. And keep yourself locked in it. Twenty-four/seven.
You’ll need to have this concrete image of me inside your head at all times. It’ll be a lot easier for you to turn me into this object called a Nigger than it’ll be for you to recognize that I’m actually one of a kind, as you are. That I’m vibrant and variable, as you are. That people who don’t know me have no business claiming to. The way you see yourself.
So there you go, in your asylum, with your special safety goggles you go through life wearing, where every Black person is this object. And an object being inanimate, it doesn’t require any special consideration. It’ll never know the difference, will it?
For all your insistence on being respected because of Who You Are, you haven’t earned anybody’s respect. Because you’re a coward. It doesn’t take any guts to be you. Shutting yourself off in your world where everything is black and white (ha!) and simple and pure and uncluttered (nothing at all like the real world). Where These People belong here and Those People belong there.
Do you know what a fool you sound like? Do you know how puny and frightened you really look?