There's a conservative counter-outrage to the Trayvon Martin outrage whipping around the blogosphere that suggests that racism no longer exists in America. But after visiting a flea market in North Carolina last week, I disagree.
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The most popular argument for the End of Racism is crime stats that show very few white people are racist enough to kill black people (here they are in National Review, for example). Another popular argument is that liberals conjure up fake racism in order to advance their agenda (see Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media, for instance). I would like to counter those arguments with some different evidence: photos. Photos of manufactured racism, sure, but not how Simon means it. The first time I visited The Depot, in Concord, North Carolina, was at Christmas, and I was surprised by the rather large variety of racist knickknacks, most of it fairly recent reproductions of old-timey racist crap. The Depot is a sort of middle-brow flea market -- it's not Antiques Roadshow or the super-expensive Brooklyn Flea, but it's not packed full of Beanie Babies and beef jerky either. (If you want to picture the average shopper, think white middle-class mom in capri pants.) Last week, I happened to be in North Carolina again and decided to go take pictures of all the racist crap. (Who knows? Maybe there would be a blog post in it?) During the car ride there, I got nervous: What if they'd sold out of all the racism? Upon arrival, I had a new fear: How could I possibly photograph it all?
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I researched one of the items from the flea market -- a jug that's made to look like a scary cartoon of a black person's face. "Face jugs" are a Carolina tradition, and they're usually not racist. But sometimes they are: "I have seen face jugs that play on racial stereotypes (which of course are in extremely poor taste but there seems to be a market for them, think lawn jockeys and cigar store indians)," an unrelated pottery retailer explains. The same goes for the rest of this stuff. Some people, somewhere, are apparently willing to part with money so they can own horrendous depictions of black people. It doesn't mean they're murderers, obviously. But it does mean they're comfortable with racism expressed not just in fleeting, un-P.C. jokes, but in coffee table trinkets for family and friends to see. It's a clear sign that racism didn't end for them.
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The Mammie bank above was $45. Put a coin in her hand, pull the trigger, and she throws it in her mouth. Below, the little Mammie was $9.50, the big one was $22, and the kid eating a watermelon was $9.95. The Mammie in red was apparently very popular, because she appeared in at least four booths in the flea market.
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This figurine was $45.
These cloth dolls were $19.50 each.
These dolls were $22.50 each. They're made to look antique, but they're new.
This $35 cloth doll is also made to look old, but the googly eyes give it away.
This "face jug," discussed above, was $75.
This "black clown syrup canister" is $79.99.
Then we hit the jackpot: a whole case of racist stuff, including memorabilia from segregation.
The "colored waiting room" sign was from Jackson, Mississippi, the tag said, and $22.
Those signs read "Public Swimming Pool -- Whites Only -- Selma, Ala," and "American Beach Fla. -- Negro Ocean Playground."
The Mammie washing the kid in a bathtub is particularly offensive.
"Mammie Folk Art -- $15."
Another entire cabinet of racist things. The racist jug in the back says "Kickapoo Joy Juice," which is a reference to the cartoon Li'l Abner, which ran from 1934 to 1977. The drink was widely considered to be moonshine.
The tag reads: "Black boy looking in outhouse. $30"
The Mammie here is a salt shaker, $18.
This $45 "black cactus planter" is crafted so the plant grows out of the figure's crotch -- a charming addition to any wholesome home.
Then there are the related racist things that are not just shocking depictions of humans. Like this George Wallace memorabilia. Wallace was the infamous Alabama segregationist. I suppose it's possible to like Wallace for some other accomplishment -- education policy, perhaps? Oh wait, that was racist, too.
This signed portrait of Wallace was $25.