Maybe it slipped Clint Eastwood’s mind just how horrifying and deadly his “politically incorrect” generation was for black people.
This morning, Salon published a story about actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood. The gist of it is to serve as a recap of an interview the Academy Award winner gave to Esquire magazine on why he’s voting for Donald Trump.
None of the reasons Eastwood offered about Trump’s appeal should be surprising to anyone.
Like many white voters (and a few black ones as well), Eastwood believes that Trump’s propensity to blurt out the first hateful thought that comes to his addled mind in a public forum is refreshing, or, as Trump himself would put it, a throwback to the “good ol’ days.”
One of Eastwood’s comments, in particular, which the author plucked out to serve as the title of the piece, caught my attention as well:
“Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.”
“Secretly,” Eastwood went on, elaborating his thought to Esquire, “everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation.”
This is a disturbing, not to mention chilling, defense of Trump’s brand of politics.
In contrasting this generation — which is a “kiss-ass” and “pussy” generation — to his own, Eastwood is effectively romanticizing the early half of the twentieth century, which saw him come of age.
Eastwood “grew up” in the 1930s and 1940s, at the height of segregation and Jim Crow. It’s imperative that we remind ourselves of exactly the sort of race-related “things” his generation was doing during the time he was maturing.
In 1930, the year Eastwood was born, a mob of 500 whites attacked Filipino farmworkers in Watsonville, California. “The worst part of [the Filipino man] being here,” a local judge said about the presence of Filipino men in the state, “is his mixing with young white girls from thirteen to seventeen. He gives them silk underwear and makes them pregnant and crowds whites out of jobs in the bargain.”
That was January. Eight months later, another mob, whose numbers spanned to 10,000, lynched Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana. Even though the lynching was photographed and identity of perpetrators was known to authorities, no one was charged or prosecuted.
In 1931, months before Eastwood’s first birthday, a white mob burned Raymond Gunn to death in Maryville, Missouri. Twenty-two black residents fled Maryville in response to the murder. Later in that same year, Juliette Derricote, black dean of a historically black university — Fisk University — and one of her students, Nina Johnson, died after being denied hospital service at a white hospital after a car accident.
In 1934, 40-year-old Robert Johnson was falsely accused of raping and robbing a white woman. After he was cleared of all charges, a mob of white men kidnapped Johnson and lynched him.
In 1939, black activist Lloyd Gaines, who had fought for and won admission into University of Missouri, went missing. His family suspected he was abducted and murdered. More than likely, he was — by members of Eastwood’s generation.
What about the 1940s?
In the first year of that decade, a black man was lynched in Alabama for violating southern racial etiquette. He forgot to call a white police officer “Mr.” This wasn’t an anomaly. It was characteristic of the times. It was characteristic of Eastwood’s generation.
In January 1942, in Sikeston, Missouri, a white mob shot and killed a black man named Cleo Wright. The very next month, Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, a bill that legalized the internment of upwards of 120,000 Japanese immigrants living in America, many of whom, by that point, were American citizens. This was directly related to hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
In February 1945, a grand jury in Henry County, Alabama refused to indict the white rapists of a 24-year-old black mother named Recy Taylor. On the other side of the country, in December, the Shorts, a black family living in Fontana, CA, were killed by a mysterious house fire after they refused to move out of a white neighborhood. At the time, they were the only black family to live in the area.
Two years later, a twenty-four-year-old black man named William Earle was snatched by a white mob, pistol-whipped, stabbed with knives and lynched.
I can go on and on in this vein, about the “things” that were transpiring back in the “good ol’ days” when Eastwood was growing up, in a time when people weren’t “pussies” or “kissing ass” on matters of race.
But, the basic point of all this historicizing is to make clear the fact that there was nothing charming or nostalgic about this era of political incorrectness for people of color. Nothing.
Racism and the real possibility of death was a daily fact of life and Eastwood’s generation made existence a living hell for Blacks and people of color.
Political correctness wasn’t a problem during this period because it was politically correct for white people to call Blacks “nigger”, “boy”, and “coon” and for white folks of this period — Eastwood’s generation — the generation he inherently links with Donald Trump’s political brand — to beat, burn, lynch and murder Black people.
Funny how that inconvenient truth about the period in which Eastwood grew up didn’t make it into his reflections.