Saturday, February 08, 2014

Bustin' up a chiffarobe

Today, I shall consider how society missed a chance in the 1960's to come up with another euphemism for interracial sex.
When I was a young teenager, forced by the public school system to be indoctrinated into the Cult of Diversity by way of the Worship of the Saintly Negro, To Kill a Mockingbird was both required reading and required watching. For whatever twisted reason, the indoctrination did not work, and my mind became starched and bleached with hatred for human equality. Personally, I think the reason was that I actually had lived among large packs of Negroes in the public school system, and I had never met a Negro male who didn't behave like a leering, foul-mouthed pervert with astoundingly poor impulse control. Not to say I did not meet Jewish, Asian, Latino, and White males who behaved this way, it simply was not a universal quality of these lads, the way it was with the thug-imitating culture of the teenage Negroes. Could these Negroes actually have been decent people? Certainly so. But for me, their actions spoke volumes louder then their potential for decency.

So, projecting my personal experiences onto a novel like To Kill a Mockingbird, I immediately perceived the disingenuousness of the one-dimensional characters of Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell. In the story, which largely centers on the trial of Robinson for allegedly raping Mayella, Tom is portrayed as the Saintly Negro, devoid of fault. Mayella is the White Trash whore, devoid of virtue. And yet, Tom is convicted, and the blatant injustice ends up raping the reader/viewer. It is all too simplistic for anyone not suffering from moral retardation that does not permit shades of gray. But that is what the mooing cattle need - theoretical absolutes from which to derive their moral bearings. And the herd is all too willing to suspend disbelief in the cause of racial equality.

Tom's excuse for why he was alone with Mayella in the first place was that she wanted him to "bust up a chiffarobe" for her, and he was just trying to oblige. Reflecting on the novel/movie today, I think the reader/viewer could have benefited from an admission from Tom not that he "felt right sorry" for Mayella but that he "felt right attracted" to Mayella, but knew that such feelings would get him in trouble. Of course, to prevent further disbelief, Mayella would have to have looked as if she bathed her body and combed her hair on occasion. Perhaps if this admission had been permitted, "Bustin' up a chiffarobe" would have become a euphemism for interracial sex decades before "Jungle Fever" was popularized. But this admission would humanize Tom, and remove the Saint's halo from his head - so it cannot be permitted, however reasonable and believable it would be. Instead, Tom remains a giant retarded Negro stereotype, innocent and pure, mistreated by one set of Whities and defended by another set of Whities. And this stereotype still gets a lot of play - see The Green Mile and The Blind Side.

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