Black and White and Redneck All Over
In Black Rednecks and White Liberals, sociologist Thomas Sowell suggests that the black pathology we see lionized by inner city thugs today is really just a kind of "black redneck" culture adopted from white rednecks in the South.
Sowell has a point. Both cultures embrace easy violence, routine inebriation, monthly government checks, and children born out of wedlock. Both cultures embrace prison tattoos and celebrate machismo posturing. Both cultures have a long love affair with fast vehicles, easy credit and gambling.
Is it really such a shock, then, that a southern black redneck by the name of Michael Vick was caught with a dog fighting arena and a kennel-full of scarred Pit Bulls behind his house in Virginia?
Let's be clear what Vick was doing: He was raising dogs to fight each other to the death for entertainment purposes, and he had been doing it for at least 6 years as part of his "Bad Newz Kennels." The "winning" dog was lucky to survive his wounds, while the loser, if not killed outright in the fight, was shot, hung, or electrocuted.
Sure Vick is a professional football player with a lot of money. So what? And yes, he's black. Big deal.
You see the germane issue here is not Vick's job, or his money, or his skin color. The real deal here is that Michael Vick is a criminal redneck.
Just to clarify: just because you are poor does not make you a redneck. Just because you are rural or Southern does not make you a redneck. There are good people, black and white, who do not have a lot of money or a lot of education and who happen to live in the South and buy their towels (and their deer-hunting ammunition) at WalMart.
Most of these people marry their children's mother, do not routinely get drunk, pay their bills, work hard at their jobs, and go to church. Call these folks "redneck," and you may be picking up your teeth.
A redneck is someone who confuses bad choices for culture. But don't take my word for it. Listen to any of the rappers who feel they have to routinely give a shout-out to their fellow "Niggaz," while singing about drinking their "40s" and shooting their "trey-eights," and cruising for their "hoes."
Better yet listen to country music star Gretchen Wilson celebrate "Redneck Women," whom she defines as those who would "rather drink beer all night, in a tavern or in a honky tonk, or on a 4 wheel drive tailgate."
And if you have a problem with her lifestyle of public drunkeness, she sings, "I don't give a rip, I'll stand barefooted in my own front yard with a baby on my hip, cause I'm a redneck woman."
Is it an accident that there's a Pit Bull in that big picture on her web site? I don't think so.
Great. These folks are glamorizing the folks who keep showing up drunk and shirtless on "COPS." Bad boys, bad boys, who you gonna call when they come for you?"
Now rednecks may come in any skin color, but in America they tend to come from one region and that region is the one in which I live: the South. When rednecks are found anywhere else in America, it is generally due to the southern diaspora to the West, Midwest and North which occurred after the Civil War, and then again after Korea.
Scratch the paint on the trailer trash living in the oil and gas-rigging towns of Wyoming, or the drive-by shooters speeding through Compton, and you'll find a Southerner -- perhaps one or two generations removed, but a Southerner just the same. It is not an accident that Michael Vick is from Virginia.
What is amazing to me is that there are those who think Michael Vick should be defended.
Why? Why would we want to defend this kind of pathology? Because he's black? Please! You know what we do to white people who are engaged in dog fighting operations (and there are plenty of them)? Why should Michael Vick get different?
No civilized person needs to be told that dog fighting is wrong, and no sensible person defends it. Anyone who claims this is a "southern cultural tradition" should be reminded that southern cultural traditions also include rape, slavery and cross burning. Let it go. Let us strive to be better than rednecks. That's good advice regardless of your skin color.
As to the notion that Michael Vick is being "persecuted" because he is famous, I have to say I am much amused. After watching John DeLorean and O.J. Simpson go free, I am not too worried about a multi-millionaire in this country getting too harsh a sentence.
As for persecution, what an odd word to use for someone who has been involved in killing dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of innocent dogs. Were the dogs being persecuted when they were chained out, beaten and electrocuted? Any sympathy for them?
Nor am I worried about too harsh a sentence for Mr. Vick. My bet is that he will get the same sentence former Green Bay Packers football player LeShon Johnson got for the same offense: a five-year deferred sentence. That was it. The dogs, of course, are almost always killed.
Still want to talk about persecution?
Finally, a word about fame. It is not a one-way street. If you are a junky for celebrity, then make sure you do only praise-worthy things that the world can celebrate. If you do stupid, criminal, or crazy things, you will find that these will show up on on ESPN and Entertainment Tonight just as fast as the good. Ask Brittney Spears and Courtney Love. Or better yet, ask Michael Vick. Bad Newz indeed!