It's no secret that HBO's supernatural hit series True Blood is a thinly veiled critique of homophobic and racist bigotry in America. The fact that it's pulled off four quirky seasons without getting preachy is a testament to the talent of the show's creator Alan Ball and some of its irreverent writing.
One exchange I watched last night, from season 2, hit particularly close to home -- it won't be surprising for those I've subjected to my previous rants about racism, homophobia and intolerance.
Here's the exchange I loved between nerdy mama's boy Hoyt and his mama:
Hoyt: Why do you have so much hate in you?
Mama: I don’t!
Hoyt: That’s a flat out lie.
Mama: Who do you think you’re talking to?
Hoyt: My mama, who hates Methodists.
Mama: I got my reasons.
Hoyt: And Catholics.
Mama: Just priests… and nuns.
Hoyt: African Americans.
Mama: Hush. That’s a secret.
Hoyt: People who don’t take care of their gardens. And people who park their trucks up on their lawn. And ladies who wear red shoes.
Mama: It looks cheap.
Hoyt: Families with lots of kids. And checkered curtains. And cats. And dogs. And bait. And every girl that I ever liked. And the more I like ‘em the more you hate ‘em.
Mama: I simply object to a girlfriend who will kill you and eat you. I think that’s reasonable.
Hoyt: You don’t even know her. Full of hate. I see you now.
Mama: Well it’s not my fault. It’s the way I was raised up.
There are least two insightful tidbits addressed here.
The first is Mama's admission that's she's a racist but that it's a "secret." When opponents of Barack Obama's pretty centrist policies -- policies that in many cases mirror those of Republicans -- attack him as a Muslim socialist America-hater born in Kenya, there's no doubt in my mind that what's going on here is racism. But it's the kind of racism that racists have gotten good at. The wink-wink, secret kind. Racists may be hateful but they're just smart enough to know they can't get away with declaring their hate publicly so they now resort to coded attempts at getting their point across. It also reminds me of the anti-Semitic remarks I hear out of people's mouths in front of me when they don't realize I'm Jewish. Racists and bigots still exist. They may spew their hate in less than obvious ways, but they're still out there and we shouldn't have any naive allusions about it.
The second insightful tidbit was the last line of the exchange: Well it’s not my fault. It’s the way I was raised up. The cop-out is another handy tactic used by bigots. It's the claim that, because they grew up with hatred or violence around them, they can't help themselves. They just don't know any better. Sorry but many of us are raised less than ideally and taught facts along the way that are provably wrong. In the end it's up to each of us to have the courage to overcome our bad habits and experiences, and relearn what we've learned wrong. If members of your family, for instance, have a habit of calling Jews greedy or blacks lazy or Asians sneaky or gays pedophiles, summon up the courage to call them on their hate.
If you need some help, have them watch a little True Blood.