Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flannery's racism

You see frequent casual comments about the supposed racism of Flannery O'Connor, mostly revolving around her use of 'nigger.' As she herself would point out, this is ridiculous: she was writing about people in the south of America at a particular point in history, and that is what they would have said.

A brief episode in Brad Gooch's biography of her is illuminating:

"I see I should ride the bus more often," she wrote to Betty Hester, in 1957. "I used to when I went to school in Iowa, as I rode the train from Atl. and the bus from M'ville, but no more. Once I heard the driver say to the rear occupants, 'All right, all you stove pipe blonds, git on back there'. At which moment I became an integrationist."

Not conclusive, of course. We'll never really know what she thought. But this, at least, offers better evidence of her opinion than the facile transposing of the views of her characters to her.

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