September 24, 2009

Down At The River

While down at the water I was speaking with an elder man, a native of the city. We were talking of many things as old men will do and we eventually got around to his new vehicle. I was shocked when he said, “Yeah, I ran into this nigger woman down in C________." I was shocked by how ordinary it was for him to just use the word in daily conversation. The ordinariness of what he said was strikingly matter of fact, commonplace. He apparently felt I shared his views and kept talking.

He kept up about the incident about how more “n_____s” kept arriving. He said he felt threatened until friendly deputies showed up. He believed he got the last laugh as he believed the crowd thought the deputies were taking him to jail when in fact they were only giving him a ride home.

Let me tell you as a white man in the deep south that incidents like this are not uncommon. Despite some claims to the contrary there is a very deep vein of racism running through some of the white population. In most cases the N word doesn’t come up until the speaker is sure everyone present shares his or her views. Others just don’t care. It is their worldview and they see/have no reason to change.

The implication is that white folk are superior and that all African-Americans are slow, stupid, inferior, a segment of their society that just has to be tolerated. Their world is literally black and white. Here there are still black and white funeral parlors, black and white churches, even black and white barber shops. Many whites have no interest in dying, worshipping or spending any time in the company of non-whites. The problem is systemic and endemic.

Personally, I don’t understand it. I have felt the sting of being ignored, demeaned and mocked because of my social status. How much worse to endure centuries of organized and (but no less strident) individual, perpetual racism? Are we not all in the image of our maker? Would our Lord create any of less value in his eyes than the other? We are told to love without reservation, not to pick and chose only among those who we believe look like us. The vestiges of racism are an embarrassment to the South, to America and to humanity.

What does it say about me that the old man thought it was ok to speak this way in my presence? I know what it says about me that I was only silent in protest. Lord have mercy.


s-p said...

When I was maybe 3 years old (in the 50's) my parents took me to visit my grandparents in Arkansas. They put me on my grandmother's lap in the front seat of the car as we drove around Little Rock and they taught me to yell "HEY JIGABOO!" out the window at the Blacks. Everyone in the car apparently got a hoot out of it. The South has not really gotten much better except perhaps in some isolated pockets of the bigger metropolitan areas. I too was racially profiled for years being half Chinese...then finally Bruce Lee and Cheech and Chong liberated me from being called Charlie Chan. I guess my question is, what good would a protest do? It would only make me feel like I stood up, but to what? An immovable object. And it just seems like a waste of time and energy.

Anonymous said...

Dare I comment on this? Personally, as a Southern caucasion, I believe racism is far less than it was 30 years ago. Both sides of the "race card" need to drop it. However, human nature does not allow this blight on society to completely go away. I pray that over the next couple of generations, we, as a society, can overcome this horrible mentality.

I once rented property from a gentleman who truly despised black people. I had a conversation with him concerning what scripture teaches...deep rooted racism continued even after the scriptures should have caused him to reconsider his position.

I filled a preaching appointment once in which the senior deacon approached me apologizing for the location of the church (not an all white neighborhood). He said this use to be a fine neighborhood, but not anymore. That went all over me. I had something entirely different prepared to deliver as my sermon...the Lord changed my mind...My sermons developed around how the church should resemble the area in which it resides.

After services, a sister of that church came to me and said, "I know what you preached was right, but I didn't like it."

People get things engraved in them. It is at the very core of their lives. It take sincere self examination and awareness to overcome these prejudices in our lives. It takes Christ!

I have come to realize, most church goers do not realize the fact that Moses' second wife was an Ethiopian, a very dark skinned race.

I don't want people to forget their heritage, shoot, I like mine (for the most part), my heritage is about family, hard times, laughter and so on. Our heritage should be important and mine includes a womanizing grandfather and another a wife beater. Those two men are a part of my heritage, but I choose not to run around with different women, nor do I beat my wife. I hope I have learned something from my heritage.

We should learn from the good and the bad of our heritage...keep that which is good and throw out that which is bad.


elizabeth said...

Wow. I would feel shocked to hear this. Very Sad.

Hard to know how to handle such a situation.

Lord have mercy on us all.