Sigh

This guy isn't a racist either, I guess.

HAMMOND, La. - A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

Neither Bardwell nor the couple immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press. But Bardwell told the Daily Star of Hammond that he was not a racist.
Figured as much.

This story hurts a little more because I lived in and around Hammond for about ten years. I got my B.A. there, got married and divorced there, completely changed my life there. Hammond is where I became politically aware, where I learned to tend bar, where I moved started writing poetry again. It's also where I became aware of just how ingrained and institutionalized racism is, and saw firsthand the ways the inhabitants of small southern towns negotiate racially charged situations, which is to say the ways African-Americans often shrug off insults most white people would get incensed about.

So it's not surprising to discover that a white man in Tangipahoa Parish feels perfectly fine with enforcing his idea of what is good on a biracial couple, because that's the way it's always been. That's what unquestioned privilege will do for you--it'll make you think that it's your place to deny a couple the legal right to get married because you're sure you know what's best for them and any kids they may decide to have. It's the arrogance of ignorance writ large across a community.

And it makes me sad because there's a lot about Hammond I really love. It's the place where I was reborn, where I went from being an unhappy Jehovah's Witness to a happy hedonist, where I rediscovered my love of poetry and discovered a love of politics and journalism, and where I saw my black friends and white friends eye each other with caution and suspicion, unconsciously at times, the white ones often unaware they were doing it at all. Hell, I was unaware I was doing it half the time or more.

I love Hammond because it's the place where I started my journey to become the person I am today, and it's times like these that I understand the closing line of Natasha Trethewey's "Pastoral." Trethewey is biracial, an example that someone like Bardwell would no doubt point to as confirmation of his theory that mixed-race couples don't last. Trethewey's poem puts her beside the Fugitive poets posing for a photograph, and the photographer tells everyone--Robert Penn Warren is the one fugitive named in the poem--to say "race" as they smile for the picture. She ends the poem this way:
My father's white, I tell them, and rural.
You don't hate the South?
they ask. You don't hate it?
I don't, even though I hate much of what happens there.

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