I was digging into Emmett Carr some yesterday, a minor figure in the bombing story, and I’m struck by how much his active racist life–meaning, the time in which he made the papers–seemed to be about trying to be a big man. He was a Klan leader–the Grand Titan of Middle Tennessee–and he was trying to start up a Pro-Southerners group and then he broke away from the Klan and joined some other Klan. And he ran for State Senate. And he ran to the media every chance he got.
I kind of see him in the vein of Donald Davidson. Davidson and Carr seemed to believe in the front of their minds that white people were superior to black people, in general. But somewhere, in the backs of their minds, because they hadn’t risen to the level of prominence they wanted, in other words, because they were only above average, couldn’t an extraordinary black person, if given a level playing field, surpass them?
So, by god, the playing field must be kept uneven.
But there’s another group of people in this bombing story who are violent scary assholes in many facets of their lives and so also violent scary racists. These folks leave a trail larger and longer than just their racist activism.
So, you have guys like Carr running around screaming, metaphorically, “I’m important! I’m important! Treat me like I’m important!” And then you have these other guys being all, “You’re going to be sorry.”
They feed into each other. The “I’m important!” guys will happily stand at the front of a crowd of “You’re going to be sorry”s. And the “You’re going to be sorry” guys are glad to have someone point them in the direction of some people who need to be sorry.
And I think there are rare cases, like with Stoner, where a person could be both.
But I’m looking for the traces of those “You’re going to be sorry” guys. So, after everything, I felt like I’d wasted a lot of time on Carr.
This, of course, is also the story of Trump, the “I’m important!” guy, motivating a lot of very scary “I will make you sorry” guys.
I’ve seen a lot of what you’re describing over the years in men who panic over women being better than they are at things they have staked out as masculine.
Heck, that’s the dynamics of my nuclear family of origin in a nutshell — endless machinations to suppress and destroy my sister’s abilities and mine to keep us from passing up our mediocre brother. It didn’t work.
The recent movies about the Brontes — To Walk Invisible — queried this at length (too much at length for most viewers who were frustrated at too much screen time being wasted on the no-good brother). It did raise a good point, though: When the pressure is on the golden child to be THE achiever who must be better than all the others, but all the others are geniuses, what the heck does that do to the golden child?
I think you may have explained that Google fruitcake who has been in the news claiming that Google discriminates against men, when there’s endless evidence that the opposite is true. It would certainly explain his willingness to make a prat of himself in the media if he’s obsessed with, “I’m important!” only to discover he’s at best an uninteresting minor cog in the Google machine.
NM, I know it’s a little naive of me, but in doing this research, I’m constantly surprised by how much continuity there is between then and now. I should know better, but I think I must believe that these racist activists are like an algal bloom–that there are normally very few of them and then circumstances are right and, poof, they’re choking the damn pond. But most of the time they’re barely there.
But really, it’s more like some kind of rhizome, where it can look on the surface like there’s nothing happening, but it’s always there under ground and sometimes it blooms. And some of those rhizomes are really old and tie directly back to this era. There’s just a straight line. Jack Kershaw, who advocated for the likely Hattie Cotton bombers, was one of the founders of the League of the South, which today is helping more violent younger racists with their organizing.
Helen, that’s a good point. This is a dynamic that probably plays out over a lot of axes of oppression. And it shows one of the ways in which oppressive systems are also bad for people in the oppressor classes. What if you’re just average? There are many ways to go through life perfectly happy not being the best or most important, but what if you’re never taught them? Or that the only way you can be okay about being average is if you know you’re keeping people from surpassing you? it’s a recipe for misery all around.