Tag Archives: prejudice

Old Attitudes in the New South

I’ve just finished reading an article in the August 11 issue of Newsweek.  The issue’s cover is titled, “The End of the South:  How Obama v. McCain is Unsettling the Old Confederacy.”  The inside article I just read is entitled, “Southern Discomfort” and was written by Christopher Dickey. 

Dickey noticed some of the same things on his trek into the South that I have noticed in my move into AL:  there’s a level of ignorance that cannot be changed.  I will not for a second imply that this ignorance is pervasive.  It is an ignorance, however, rooted in a deep-seated racism that is peculiar to the deep South.  It is an ignorance that cannot be changed with education because there are blinders created by prejudice which prevent any enlightenment.  Take this quote from the article:

Yet even a third cousin of mine in the mountains of North Carolina, an independent-minded Democrat who voted for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004, said he can’t bring himself to vote for Obama, either.  Why?  “Because I believe he is a Muslim,” said my cousin.  Not so, I said.  He was raised a Christian and is a practicing Christian.  My cousin shook his head.  “I just don’t believe him,” he said.

There is no arguing with that.  There is no enlightenment possible. 

I was sitting in a local Mexican restaurant the other day when I overheard a conversation going on in the booth behind me.  The three women and one man were discussing the “fact” that they could never vote for Obama because he doesn’t say the Pledge and he was sworn in on the Koran and would be again if he were elected President.  Every intelligent American knows that these things are simply not true, but there is no telling those four people that those two things are falsehoods because, as we’ve discussed before, those falsehoods are simply cover for the fact that they can’t say, in public, “He’s a nigger.”  As Dickey says in his article:

(self-caricaturing bigot Dent Myers) argues that when Southerners criticize Obama, “They say, ‘He’s a Muslim, he’s a mulatto Muslim, or quadroom Muslim … [only because] they don’t want to use the old N word.”

There are more fantastic and incendiary events and remarks in Dickey’s article and other terrific articles in the Newsweek issue and I strongly encourage you to pick it up.  And now I’m going to do what I so frequently do:  encourage you to educate yourselves, educate others, and use your vote wisely.  And please try to open or continue the conversations on race in your own communities and try, no matter how futile, to correct the misconceptions.  Too often, it’s like banging our heads against steel walls.  But you never know when you may get through.

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We have so much work to do

Yesterday morning, I was sitting with two other white women, all of us waiting for our daughters to finish horseback riding lessons.  Now don’t get visions of country clubs, black jackets, and Arabians.  This is small town, dirt ring, middle class horseback riding.  And we’re small town, middle class white Moms.

For reasons I can’t recall, the conversation turned to a local town, where one of the women grew up, and why these two, who have lived around here much longer than I, didn’t like going there anymore.  The background for you is that this town holds our closest shopping mall, large bookstore, toy store, etc.  One of the women, let’s call her, “Mary,” for fun, opened with the classic white person cover, “I’m not prejudiced, but ….”  White people, if you’re reading this, that’s your first tell.  It’s a dead give away that you are, indeed, prejudiced.  “Mary” continues, “… but the last time I was up there, I was sitting at a stoplight and I looked around me and every car, it was dark, dark, dark, dark, dark.”  OK, she wasn’t talking about the cars themselves, folks, but who was in the cars.  What she meant was, everywhere around her it was black folks, black folks, black folks, black folks, black folks. 

At this point, “Jane,” spoke up.  To her credit, she owned her prejudice saying, “I’ll admit that I am a little prejudiced,” but here’s where she blew it, “but it’s not just against blacks, it’s against anyone who’s stupid and lazy.”  In other words, blacks are stupid and lazy and I don’t like anyone who’s like them.  White people, this is another tell that you’re an out and out racist.  So “Jane” continues:  “The last time I was up there, we went to the food court at the mall and we were the only white people.”  I could no longer shut up, so I said, “Now you know how black people feel most of the time.”  To her credit again, “Jane” said, “You know, you’re right.”  But then she blew it again, saying, “But at least when they’re in that situation, they feel safe.” 

It was at this point that I began to come a little unhinged.  My brain raced to find a way to tell this woman that she was totally off her rocker without completely losing my temper and my mind.  So I calmly asked, “Do you that’s true in the deep South?”  (Yes, I was perpetuating a steretype there.  All apologies to my friends all across the South, but I was making a point.)  She replied, “You know what?  You’re right.  Especially 50 to 60 years ago.”  50-60 years ago, my ass.  But I took her realization and ran with it, saying, “Yeah, 50 to 60 years ago when there would have been a rope and tree nearby.”  And then everyone was silent for what seemed like an eternity.  And then “Mary” and “Jane” started talking about crime.  Because when you’re talking about black people, you gotta talk about crime.  Oh … my … Lord.

We have so much work to do.

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