Cynthia Tucker, writing at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, illustrates how folks refuse to see what’s going on around them.
In this case, she’s considering Haley Barbour’s inability to see the racist undertones of many of his public statements; she tells a story to illustrate her point that he has an excuse for not knowing how to behave in public:
When I was a teenager, an older white lady whom I barely knew volunteered to help me hone my piano solo for the county Junior Miss Pageant, in which I played W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” My talent presentation included a short recitation explaining the origin of the blues — born of black folks’ suffering. Upon hearing me recite the prose I’d written, she said, “Cynthia, the Negroes never had it that hard.”
I was stunned by her certitude, her arrogance and her lack of compassion. But I didn’t believe her response was born of flat-out racism. It was born of a willful ignorance — an unwillingness to confront the truth about a system in which she was complicit.
Nor do I believe Barbour is racist. But he showed the same blindness my piano tutor did — an inability to empathize with Jim Crow’s victims. Given his state’s history, that’s no minor failing.
I am not nearly so charitable.
In the case of the old lady from Ms. Tucker’s youth, I can accept this argument, at least somewhat.
When you grow up and live inside a system that seems immutable, you tend to accept that system.
Jim Crow seemed quite normal to me when I was seven years old.
In the case of Mr. Barbour (and many others like him), not so much. He has lived to see the system change (though much more change is needed).
In his case, not only is ignorance no excuse, ignorance is inexcusable.