"Traitor to My Race: The Abolition of White Privilege
A STORY TOLD IN THREE PARTS.
PART I: Origins -- IN THE BONE
"If it came to fighting, I'd fight for Mississippi against the United States even if it meant going out into the streets and shooting Negroes " I will go on in saying that the Southerners are wrong and their position is untenable."
So which is it, Bill?
The foregoing is a self-contradictory quote from an interview that William Faulkner, slightly drunk at the time, gave in the middle of the civil rights battle over integration in the early 1960's. I borrowed the quote from an op-ed article in The New York Times (6/21/15) written by Faulkner scholar Arnold Weinstein. To quote Weinstein himself, "It is this political ambiguity [on Faulkner's part] that many people today find unfathomable."
Which is, of course, the reaction of most readers to Harper Lee's updated version of Scout's father, Atticus Finch, portrayed in Go Set a Watchman (2015): could the loving, compassionate man depicted by Ms. Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) be the same racist member of the white Citizens' Council that a now grown-up Scout encounters on her return home twenty years later?
The simple answer is "Yes, of course." White supremacism, a term I find more accurate than racism, is bred in the bone. Faulkner and Harper Lee knew that. It's been the core of the self-identity of all white Americans, particularly white American men, and was codified into law at the dawn of the Republic and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Remember the Constitution's three-fifth rule: black slaves were classed as property, worth 3/5 of a white man in determining the population of each state and consequently the number of representatives in the lower House of the Congress to which State was entitled.