As I was surfing through Facebook pages the other day, I ran across this picture. I had seen it before as a t-shirt and passed it off as blatant racism, but seeing it on one of my friends’ profiles caught my attention. Being a black girl, I figured there must be some joke I was missing if someone that called themselves my friend could have it posted there for all to see. I decided to talk to some family to see if they knew anything about it. My brother suggested that I simply ask the question to the person that posted it. It turned out not to be so simple. Asking an old friend to basically tell me that she is a racist was pretty hard. But I figured who needs a friend who secretly wishes they owned you anyway.
While waiting for a reply I did what I always do when I need information…I GOOGLED it. I soon figured out that that grinning face belongs to Hank Williams Jr. and the phrase is the tagline to one of his songs entitled ‘If the South Woulda Won’. I read through the lyrics and was caught off guard when I read in the second verse:
I’d make my Supreme Court down in Texas,
And we wouldn’t have no killers gettin’off free.
If they were proven guilty, then they would swing quickly,
Instead of writin’ books and smilin’ on T.V.
In his song Hank Williams talks about southern cooking and old country singers, but “if the South would’ve won,” I think we all know what that means:
“THEY would SWING quickly.”
When I finally got my friends response she said, “It’s semi-offensive. I don’t mean to offend anyone by it.” I know my friend well enough to know that it was ignorance, not mean-hearted racism, that allowed her to post this picture, but in 2007 where do I start drawing the line. All racism leads back to ignorance but at some point people need to be held accountable for their, albeit misguided, actions. Because, unfortunately, my feelings weren’t semi-hurt.
Tara Banks is an entering freshman at The Ohio State University and is routinely outraged by the casual racism of her southern Ohio upbringing.