The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Dog" the Bounty Hunter

“Dog the Bounty Hunter” got his show cancelled because of racist rhetoric? Is anyone surprised? I mean, if it talks like a redneck and acts like a redneck, we’re supposed to be surprised that it has feelings stereotypical to that group? When 80% of whites evidence unconscious aversion to blacks? Oh, please. The real question is: what’s better: political correctness, or honesty?

Well…I think political correctness. Why? As Orwell suggested, when you can’t speak a word, it is difficult (although not impossible) to imagine a concept. Control what people say, and you begin to control how they feel. If racist attitudes are (as I believe) a natural result of our capacity to differentiate US from THEM, then all we can do initially is be aware that we have them. If we consciously choose to be polite and humane, that goes a huge distance. After that, it’s just a process of maturation. Existential loneliness can motivate people to join groups in order to stave off the fear of death and separation. Dealing with the cold realities thereof can be a powerful wake-up call.
In Quincy, Florida for a family reunion and eventually the Miami book fair. This is a tiny little town, with a painful racial past—and present. The races are still pretty far apart. They naturally segregate themselves in restaurants. There are few mixed-blood children. Old neighborhoods are chiefly one or the other race, although newer neighborhoods are mixed.

Much is made of “Southern Hospitality,” and you know? I like it. I find Southerners to be, in Hannibal Lector’s fine old phrase, “courteous and receptive to courtesy.” That goes a long way.

I have to give a keynote next week at a university in North Carolina, and the subject will be the alternate history of the south. Not sure what I’ll speak of yet, but it will probably revolve around research for “Lion’s Blood.” There’s an oddness about the Civil War. Southerners will often claim that it had nothing to do with slavery. Northerners will often claim that the war was “to free the slaves.”

But looking at documents and speeches, editorials and letters written during the War itself, I come to the conclusions that follow
1) Slavery was not the only issue, but it was the single most important issue. Those who fought for the “Southern way of life” or simply for “freedom” were fighting for a social system that was committed to keeping blacks in a very specific social position…if not actually economically dependant upon same. A minority of Southerners owned slaves, but there were countless interlocked motivations that were rooted therein.
2) Northerners would, in the main, have been perfectly happy to send freed slaves back to Africa, or over the edge of the Earth. While some definitely extended their own humanity to brothers and sisters of darker hue, others considered us barely more than monkeys. The point certainly wasn’t “I’m willing to die to help black people” but “I’m willing to die to protect and preserve the Republic. We can’t have Slavery because it would hurt the working man. Johnny Reb wants slavery, so Johnny Reb has to change.”
3) The South wasn’t as good as they want to believe, nor as bad as the North makes ‘em out. The North isn’t as holy as they want to believe, and not as bad as Southerners make them out.
4) Yes, there is more racism in the South than in the North. This is the opinion of most black people, especially those who moved away from the South, or have lived in both sections. That doesn’t mean there is no racism among Northerners. Remember what I said? EVERYBODY has it. But a core component of racism is fear, and God knows the South has more to fear. On some level, they HAVE to wonder when and if blacks will ever even the score. I doubt it will happen.
5) But it would be nice.
The next project after I finish SHADOW VALLEY will be a series of published articles, possibly for Creative Screenwriting, on Lifewriting, so I have to start organizing my thoughts. By the way, we turned in the rewrite on THE GOOD HOUSE, and keeping fingers crossed…


academic writers wanted said...

I think Dog refers to Tim as his blood brother – despite having the same last name, they aren't biologically related

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By the way, episodes have been filmed in Hawaii, Dog's home state of Colorado, and the city of San Francisco.

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