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.
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?
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.