Christian Living Identity

“Who’s Your Daddy?”: Our Creeping Cultural Crisis

Carl Ellis

My wife and I pulled into a gas station where several others were already fueling up. From all appearances, they were “good-ol’-boys”– friendly southern White folks who have risen above the old historically offensive and racially charged “redneck” culture.

Good-ol’-boys are light-hearted about their own culture, and appreciate the cultures of others. As we filled our tanks, an African American fella pulled up in his ‘hoopty’; gangsta rap booming so loud that it distorted his speakers. With pants sagging, he promptly left his car with the ground shaker blasting, leaving the rest of us in the noise that required us to shout to be heard. Everyone at the pumps was similarly affected and annoyed.

As we left the gas station with our ears ringing, my wife commented, “the ol’ redneck culture meets its progeny.” (I’ll explain this in a bit.) This incident caused the memory of Lil’ Wayne’s tasteless and insolent lyrics from “Future’s Karate Chop” to intrude into my mind: “I’m gonna pop a lot of pills / [then] beat that p***y up like Emmett Till…” – disgusting.

The door was opened for this kind of madness when gansta rap with obscene lyrics was allowed to propagate openly under the cover of “Blackness.” In 1990, Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. successfully defended 2 Live Crew’s lyrics in “Nasty As They Wanna Be” against Florida’s obscenity charges. He justified their lewdness as “great humor, great joy, and great boisterousness….”, “a joke” and “a parody” – “one of the most venerated forms of art.” Gates portrayed this smut as an “exuberant use of hyperbole,” implying that “anyone fluent in [Black] cultural codes” should not be offended. In other words, to take offense at these obscene lyrics brings into question one’s authenticity and renders an African American an “oreo.”

This led to a flood of gangsta-rap CDs containing similar lyrics. The influence of this so-called musical genre has been a contributing factor to a growing African American cultural crisis.

So … what does this have to do with the ol’ redneck culture? Plenty.

The roots of this crisis do not go back to Africa, but to the old South. Few of us remember this, but at at one time, the dominant influence in the old South was a chaotic culture that came from pre-18th Century regions of the British Isles, namely, 1) the Scottish highlands, 2) the “midlands” – the anarchic region between England and Scotland and 3) what is now Northern Ireland. Before the formation of the United Kingdom, these regions were unstable, lawless, violent and uncontrollable. Most southern Whites can trace their roots back to these regions.

They arrived in the American South with this chaotic culture in tow, and the result was the ol’ southern “redneck” culture. The values of this culture produced self-sabotaging, self-destructive behavior patterns, including: drunkenness, gang formation, “talkin’ trash”, a scornful attitude toward education and boisterous exhibitionism, to name a few. These rednecks spent their energies on useless bling; wealth was used primarily for conspicuous consumption and reckless pursuits of pleasure and excitement.

A cavalier attitude toward marriage and family was a major component of the ol’ redneck culture, and instant sexual gratification led to single moms and fatherless children becoming the rule, rather than the exception. When Africans arrived in chains, having been stripped of their native culture, many ended up absorbing much of this ol’ redneck culture. This partly explains the plantation phenomenon of the “stud” that sired children, but never fathered them. Of course, many slaves never fully absorbed this chaotic culture. As a result they continued to value marriage and family, in spite of the hostile cultural and economic forces that surrounded them.

After emancipation, many African Americans who were devastated by the ol’ redneck culture eventually rose above it. They became what I call “achievers.” The values that governed their lives included: valuing work as a means of getting ahead, delayed gratification for the sake of a better future, and goal orientation involving planning. Those who participated in the great northern migration generally succeeded in spite of racial discrimination in housing and employment.

However those who continued to wallow in the ol’ redneck culture became what I call “non-achievers.” Unlike the achievers, they generally did not succeed when they migrated to the urban North. Thus, for many non-achievers, the ol’ redneck culture morphed into what we now recognize as “ghetto culture.” The values that governed their lives included devaluing work as a means of getting ahead, instant gratification with a disregard for the future, and crisis orientation with no planning.

These cultures have produced two distinctly different outlooks on life. For example, because achievers tend to see their role as contributing to society and earning its respect, they tend to see non-achiever values as a hindrance and self-destructive behavior as irresponsible. Conversely, because non-achievers tend to see their role as critiquing society and demanding its respect, they tend to see achiever values as oppressive and self-destructive behavior as purely the fault of society. Achievers tend to see social justice in terms of equal opportunity, while non-achievers tend to see it only in terms of equal outcomes.

These are only a few examples of the achiever/non-achiever clash of values and cultures. Incidentally, the wild regions of the British Isles and the American South have largely risen above the old chaotic cultures – leaving the culture that produced the trash of Lil’ Wayne’s ilk as the strongest surviving offspring.

Contrary to popular assumptions, the achiever/non-achiever divide is ultimately determined by value systems, not by economic status or character. In other words, not all poor people are non-achievers, nor are all who are middle class and above are achievers; achievers and non-achievers alike have good and bad characters. Take a look at Wall Street’s recent ethical failures – the irresponsible pursuit of greed that led to the financial meltdown, and you get the idea.

While achievers make up the overwhelming majority of African-Americans, too often the corporate media continues to grow wealthy by trying to pimp us – presenting us with a non-achiever face. The huge African American outcry and disgust over the recent threatened Oxygen network broadcast featuring rapper Shawty Lo and his 11 kids by 10 ‘baby-mamas’ was a prime example of the cultural dissonance triggered by this kind of illegitimate portrayal. In the show’s trailer, his ‘baby-mamas’ talk about their situation as if it is normal. To make matters worse, not even Shawty Lo himself could remember the names of all his kids.

In the Lil’ Wayne incident, we see the irony come full circle: the misogyny of the ol’ redneck culture toward African Americans reflected in public vulgarity of the very ones the Civil Rights Movement was supposed to benefit – I see this as a great regression.

Lil’ Wayne and Shawty Lo, who’s your cultural daddy?  You don’t really know, do you?

Psalm 85:10 says, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”  But for you and those who idolize you, ‘self-sabotaging and self-destructive behaviors meet together; the ol’ redneck values and the misogyny of nihilism have casually hooked up’ – and the rest is becoming history.

Could it be that in the minds of many, authentic Blackness is now measured by ol’ style ‘redneck-ness?’

Looks like a creeping cultural crisis to me.



1 McWhiney, G. (1988). Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. 2 Fischer, D. (1989). Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

8 thoughts on ““Who’s Your Daddy?”: Our Creeping Cultural Crisis

  1. Steve

    I found this to be a fascinating article and it has percolated on the back of my mind for quite a while. I am afraid however that it is not a sustainable argument historically. Here is an alternative story:

  2. Brittany Jones

    Being an African American woman and also unfortunately grew up without the presence of biological father, I find this article to be highly repulsive and even lack of the True Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    To say and even highlight that the start of this crisis we have came from the “ol’ redneck culture’ is by far, so far from the truth and racist in itself. Abraham and Sarah is the earliest story, I personally know in regards to absentee fatherhood with Ishmael. Which was a result of disobedience and unbelief of the promises of God. That was not the fault of another, but their own son. Which we all should own up too, yet having good news, because Jesus has given graces upon graces to forgive and to make our paths straight. This was the same man who became the father of our faith, so as you can see, this crisis is redeemable, brother. Instead of pinpointing the who, what’s and why, playing the blame game, we should be glorifying a God who has reconciled all things unto himself. We should be teaching our brothers, how to be what God called him to be as a man, as a husband, as a leader, as a brother instead of victimizing the whole issue. We all have fallen short of the Glory of God yet again, I say we have hope because God has reconciled all things to himself, Thanks to Jesus Christ. Hopefully Brother, you consider these things, and see that thoughts like what’s in this article, brings forth division and not unity.

  3. C.L Edwards

    On point, sounds a lot like what Thomas Sowell talked about in Black rednecks and White Liberals. IF anyone has time check out this blog post I wrote on the church and race entitled “The Church in America and diversity from the eyes of a black ex muslim”

  4. Rob

    Interesting article. A good read. However, I’m concerned that the labels, achiever and non-achiever, may be inadequate to fully describe this ‘cultural crisis.’ For example, Dr. Ellis implies that contributing to society and critiquing society are mutually exclusive. Doesn’t the gospel provide God’s critique of the ideologies of this world? He further implies that somehow this type of critique is harmful to poor people with non achiever values. I would agree if only a critique is presented without presenting God’s salvation & kingdom principles as the necessary alternative. Moreover, some of these so-called achiever values are unbiblical (Rom. 12:3a) because they’ve led to unbiblical behavior (Jam.2). That’s because these values have proven to be more ‘middle class’ than Christian. Finally, as it relates to social justice: Is it wise for us to ignore outcomes altogether? Haven’t our historical consideration of outcomes helped to clarify the true equity of our opportunities (or the lack thereof) ? The usage of these labels ultimately implies to me that Dr. Ellis believes that successful folks who become successful embracing achiever values are encouraging poor non achieving folks to embrace a non achievers value system. If so, I believe that this is painting with broad strokes. I agree with Dr. Ellis, that this ‘ghetto culture’ is real but I’m not so sure about these labels. Perhaps these pathological behaviors are best understood in a fallen world, with fallen humans, that is dominated by satan as simply internalized oppression.

  5. William

    Grace & peace brother. I don’t know if the historical context of what you say is true or not sense I haven’t done that research, but you seem like a very intelligent man. I’d love to know if you think your presentation of this information could have came more invitationally.

    I’m left to assume you’re a believer & you probably know better than me our call is to compel people to at least hear the Gospel. I must admit, if I was a “redneck,” Wayne, Shorty Lo, or his kid’s Mom’s, after reading this I’d probably be more compelled to combat what comes off as high minded condescension with pride & a self righteous defense of my lifestyle. I’d want to defend myself against your condemning accusations, whether they were right or wrong. Not hear your Gospel. Simply because of the presentation.

    Now I dont say this to condemn your article or anything close. Just to maybe provoke prayerful thought. Praying that they come to know the Christ we love, & that we live to glorify him as much as we want them to know him.

  6. Steve

    Interesting article which has stimulated my thinking and prompted me looking further into this connection.

  7. Stacey Westfall

    Sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes 1: 9-11 ~ What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.~ I am sure that we can trace the ol’ southern redneck mentality all the way back to Genesis. There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.~ Proverbs 16:25

  8. Ariel Bovat

    What a great article. The historical ties make perfect sense.

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