It’s worth remember that people brought their spouses and children to lynchings, that they kept gory reminders of the work on store counters. I’m sure many of these people were good parents, good spouses and deeply committed to their society. But it’s much more comforting to imagine them racists as Lex Luthor evil and Jeffrey Dahmer depraved
For if we admit that racists—and by extension homophobes and misogynists—are not some alien species, but that they walk among us, then we must also admit that we are subject to looking past their flaws, and that we, ourselves, are subject to the same impulses. And then finally we must begin to see how easily we could have lived, in that time, and done nothing. Or done something horrible.
The stereotype of the wife-beating, baby-roasting, Southern racist isn’t about the past as it was, it’s about the future as it is now.
On a sidenote, I’ve refrained from commenting on The Help. The expectation that a people’s entertainment will generally be more progressive than the people themselves, strikes me as bizarre.
Alla Nazimova (1879-1945), a bisexual actor very popular with the ladies of her time. She was also very popular at the box office; at one time, she enjoyed being the highest paid actress around and starred in successful films like Camille (1921) and The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1944). However, between the creation of the Hays Code and the failure of the all-gay film adaptation of Salomé she produced (and for which she created her own motion picture company!), her career and power in Hollywood began to erode.