Between the Lines

Lynchings and Litmus Tests

When it comes to race, life in America resembles nothing so much as a reenactment of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”  That story, you’ll recall, depicted a town that seemed normal—except that, once every year, there would be a lottery, and if you picked the one black stone among so many white ones, the townsfolk (your neighbors, friends, and family) proceeded to stone you to death.  For a few minutes, there would be an explosion of bloody violence, and then the town would revert back to its sleepy, rural routine, as if nothing untoward had occurred.

This is what happened to Paula Deen, a hapless 60-something Southern lady who was a star on the Food Network, whose only sin seems to have been a wide-eyed honesty.  In a court deposition, she admitted to using the N-word, albeit “not in a mean way.”  She also had plans to throw a “Southern-style” wedding, complete with black waiters in full dress uniform, for her brother.  She tried to apologize.  She tried to explain.  All to no avail.  Within days of the stories appearing in the media, she had lost her job, her sponsorships, and her book-publishing deal, and had become an object of national opprobrium.

The Deen lynching was barely concluded when the “antiracist” mob descended on a fresh victim: Jack Hunter, a.k.a. the one-time “Southern Avenger,”...

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