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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Racism In America

I have always been blind to racism (see an earlier post of mine about this here. In fact, I will openly admit that I have sometimes been so blind that I have often dismissed it as a thing of the past.

I think that racism has diminished greatly over the years, but I will share a story with you.

Almost 10 years ago, I spent some time briefly in Alabama. I had no idea what a 'jig' was, but I heard white boys calling each other 'jigmasters'. The only 'jig' I knew of was in fishing (I grew up here in Florida) so I figured they were great at fishing. Later on, I realized what they were talking about and figured out what *ssholes they were. I had nothing more to do with them.

I was also startled to find out that in that town they had a black/white divide at the railroad tracks. I couldn't care less. So I would shop at the black grocery store if it was on my way somewhere. Black people would stop and stare as I went by. I guess no whites ever went there.

I didn't stay there for long (I was only visiting friends, who didn't stay friends after I realized what 'jigmaster' meant). What a wretched town.

Strangely enough, a couple months ago I got a call from a business contact in a major city in Alabama. We got to know each other after a while. He was black, and had travelled a great deal in his state. I brought up this small town I had visited, and what do you know, he knew it! I told him what *I* thought of the town, and here is his story.

He is a preacher, and went from town to town at that time, doing revivalist meetings. He had spent a night there, preaching, and left that same night to head home. As he left town, he noticed a couple cars behind him, but thought nothing of it. He continued on, driving into winding mountainous areas. The cars were still behind him. Suddenly, one revved up and passed him, trying to cut him off. The others remained behind, not allowing him to slow down. It was clear that their goal was to run him off the road. "By the grace of God," he told me later, "I was able to get around them, speed up, and leave them behind." He told me the town was well-known for their racist tendencies, and any black people that were considered 'uppity' were discouraged from staying there.

This was a town that was steeped in evil, despite the fact that there was a church on every corner on their main street. What a cursed town to live in. I can only hope that it has improved, but I know the leaders in that town, and they were the ones who called themselves 'jigmasters.'

37 comments:

Ajay Shroff said...

Racism is alive in Canada atleast. For the past few months, canadian teenagers have been driving around in 2 cars throwing eggs at the foriegn students here in saint john,NB and the police are not able to do anything about it although this is just a small town and everyone knows everyone. The latest incident happend last night when two of my classmates were victims of harassment.
Ajay

Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...

i've just been reminded of the man behind the slaying of the three civil rights activists in the 1960s that inspired the movie "Mississipi Burning".

Edgar Ray Killen, now 80, is going to prison for having been involved in their killing. That's one other thing I love about America: long arm of the law!!

from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4085238.stm

Jamie Dawn said...

I agree with you completely; that town was evil.
Isn't is terrible that there are still people in this great country of ours who think blacks are "lesser" people? It really defies all logic and reason. I know that other forms of racism exist also against Jews, and even against whites in some places. It's all an awful blight; it's like a big tumor on America's soul.
God forgive us!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ekbensah, I know the case you're speaking of. It's like Nazi war criminals: No matter how old you are, get used to prison, baby.

Jamie Dawn, Well, in most of my experience, I haven't seen much racism and I've travelled to a lot of places (Dallas, TX; NY, NY; the Tampa Bay area; and other major metropolitan areas). So that's the good news! I think it's being eradicated. I just have honestly never understood it. I wish everyone felt the same way.

It's funny, I just googled that town in Alabama. One of the major players in the town is also a major contributor to a key University there. I find it amazing that they can pretend to be so civilized.

dddragon said...

I was raised to be color-blind and didn't see it until I moved east. The most racist place I've ever seen was Hilton Head Island. 99.99% of the vacationers were white. Every single face at the bus stops were of color, and I'm talking a couple of a dozen at each stop! These were the maids, groundskeepers, etc. Most of the island is made up of gated communities. Pretty place, but I've grown so uncomfortable with the image that I only wore my HHI t-shirt a few times. I was thinking I would include it the next time we take a bag over to Goodwill, but I may just trash it.

Tabasamu said...

Scary. I am always so glad I never grew up in the 'deep south' but in the civilized south of west central Florida. Here there are so many northern transplants and Canadians that it's rare to find a native Floridian, but if you do, you'll find that they usually behave 'northern'. The southern accents, and 'confederate' attitudes seem to fester is out of the way places. Some states have a lot of those 'out of the way places', like Alabama.

Fred said...

The horrible part of this disturbing story is this question: How many times in how many places has this happened? It was such a pervasive and ugly part of our history.

Evil is a good term. When using that word, this fits.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. With your permission, I'll use this story in my class. (I won't give them your blog address - promise!)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Fred,
OK, by all means! Feel free to use it. Of course, be careful if you're in Superintendent Clayton Wilcox's district (Pinellas County).

He's considering firing a teacher because he insisted on teaching his students that racism was a serious problem years ago, and made them read a story where a white woman called a black man a n*gger.

When he tested them, he asked what the white woman had called the man and many of the students wrote "black" or "African American". He marked them down for the answer, because the point of it all was to show how ugly it was. And now Clayton Wilcox wants to fire him for it.

bananarama said...

wow...that's an INCREDIBLY CREEPY post.

snicksnack said...

Is it something the FBI could get involved in? Just a thought...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Snicksnack, not at this point. He didn't report it at that time, and the trail is cold now, I'm sure. Good thought, otherwise.

A Little Bar of Soap said...

"Jigmaster" sounds very Satanic.

Saur♥Kraut said...

dddragon, interesting! I'll bet they'd argue that they weren't racist, since they allowed black people to work for them.

TC, yup!

Soapie, you said it, sister!

Kathleen said...

There is racism in every culture. TC has told us that African-Americans are racist even to those within their own ethnicity.

I was born and raised in Southern California. My father forbid me to date a Catholic! You might think this was because of religious reasons, but it was not. Catholic Churches in Southern California were mostly populated with people of Mexican and Italian decent. His daughter was not marrying one of them! Oh yes, he also thought that Catholics played dirty football! WHAT! ?????? All this came from a highly intellegent and successful man who was self-made. Of course, that was some time ago. So silly. So real.

I have two friends, one African-American and the other Jewish. I was a bit startled to discover that each would "disown" their child if they did not marry someone of their own ethnic background. I challenged them saying you just think that now, but if the time ever came and you saw your child was happy you would change your mind. NO!!!! They were adamant!

I personally don't think that people will ever be completely free of prejudice. I don't think any culture can claim they are not guilty of having their own bias'and prejudice. It's what we do with them. How we choose to let it influence our actions toward others.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am tired and discouraged. I am just one white woman who loves her family and community. But, no matter how much we give and try to fix this we can't.

One day during Black Appreciation Month, I had gone to an event celebrating African American art, dance, poetry, etc. The featured speaker was a black man who was a minister in a local church. I was aghast to discover this man was full of hate and rage against white people. He told the audience how he needed to be paid reparations and that we owed him and all African Americans "consderation" because of past and present racism. I will admit that when I left, I too was now filled with rage and frustration. Later, I went to pick up my grandson to spend the night with me. He was two at the time. I began to sob as I looked at him. I sobbed because I was forced to realize that this innocent "white boy" will still be paying for the past long after I'm gone. I realized that I wanted a bottom line on the debt. How much do I owe? I wanted to know what it would take to get beyond. I wanted to pay the debt so my grandson would be free of this hatred. That day, I realized that there is no end in sight. The sentence appears to be infinite and the forces wanting to close this chapter and move on were powerless. This had become self-prepetuating. The anger has it's own life now. This anger has become a means to an end. No amount of money or advantage was going to make that man happy.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Kathleen, what a powerful post. And you made excellent points. I've encountered that reverse racism, too. And, as you pointed out, there is racism in all the races. But overall, I think we are mostly dealing with extremists who are racist in the states.

For the most part, I see very little to any racism here. For instance, I work closely with a couple black women who are every bit my equal, and I adore them. We have a very harmonious relationship. They would never discount someone because they were white, and they know that *I* respect them.

There is a child in my family that is dark tan, due to mixed racial heritage. She is a beautiful child, and turns heads where ever she goes. But she has been put down by black children because she's 'white'. She has honestly never thought of herself as anything in particular, racially. Neither have we. But it's strange that she has been told by black children that they won't play with her because she is too light skinned.

Anonymous said...

Saur,

I use to live in South St. Pete. I was always envious of Dwight’s cars. I had black people who lived behind me and across the street. The nicest people you could meet. I moved right after the first round of riots because it seemed like the logical thing to do. And know matter what Tsunami says, hearing the pounding of those ghetto blasters all night long gets on your nerves. Your environment has a significant impact on your views, especially if you can’t get a good night’s sleep.

Tabasamu said...

*LOL* Mr Gator, you're busted! I know that's you. I tell you what, most of us blacks don't much like living among these thugs. There are good people, but we're often overshadowed by the bad ones like the Uhurus and the dealers. At least you don't have to worry about crime in the hood, because they don't poop in their own back yard. Usually. Unless they're really high. Which is why we have bars on our windows in those areas. I live in a better area than that now, thankfully.

Fred said...

P.S. I linked to you. Since I'm now a daily reader, and you're a fellow Tampa resident, how could I resist?

actonbell said...

That's quite a story. I'd never heard of "jigmaster" either, but can imagine what it means. And I agree that racism has become more subtle, but it's still there. The more people mix and live together, the better things will be. Unfortunately, it takes awfully long for any place to become truly diverse.

Anonymous said...

Tsunami, (phonetically this is just easier for me)

There is definitely mutual respect in the hood, I was packed and I assumed my neighbors were too. After living up North, South St. Pete was quite a culture shock to me. It’s like the land time forgot. I’m glad you live in a good neighborhood. You would get quite a kick out of my house now; I have a bazooka mounted on the roof. Now my wife’s snoring drowns out the woofers. It’s funny how the Lord provides.

I don’t know Mr. Gator but he sounds quite handsome.

Tabasamu said...

Anonymous, TC will do just find. Tsunami sounds very...destructive. :-D

Tabasamu said...

I mean FINE, not find. sigh...

Saur♥Kraut said...

It's Mr. Gator's lovely teeth that make him that handsome. Gator, I have a poem for you in Saur Grapes today.

Acton Bell, yeah, it was new to me too.

Fred, thanks! I was going to add you to my links too!

Alyssa De Jour said...

I use the word "jig" quite often, but I never knew the horrible context of the word that you described in your post, until I looked it up on Dictionary.com just now. And I am horrified. The context in which I have used the word has been to describe a crafty plot or a plan… “she’s up to something = she is jigging” or after getting away with something …”that was a good jig”. I never knew it had racial connotations like it does. But maybe we just use it differently here in Australia.
Up until this post, I was really fond of that word. Now I will have to reconsider it all together. Anyone got a better slang word to describe a crafty plan, that rolls off the tongue as well as “jig” does?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Alyssa, it was a new one to me, too. It may be just a word that is used in only certain parts of our country. The only other time I've heard jig in anything racial was the term jigaboo a couple years later, so maybe it's a shortened version of it(?) Oh funny, *I* just went to dictionary.com and that's their guess too.

You know, this brings up another interesting question: When a word is appropriated to mean something other than it originally meant, are we obligated to stop using it?

For instance here, in Florida (which used to be Land of Mobile Home Parks a.k.a. God's Waiting Room) we had a mobile home park named Gay Ranch. Well, once the word 'gay' began to mean something else in the 70s, we drove by it one day to see it was renamed Bay Ranch. We kids got a real chuckle out of that, thinking about how the grannies probably couldn't move fast enough to get that word off the sign.

Anyway, you could certainly start using the word 'gig' instead. It's a slang term here for a good job, as in "The band just got a really good gig playing at Alyssa's." Perhaps, subconsciously, you'd heard the word already and were just mispronouncing it to start with.

Anonymous said...

saur,

I'm still pondering over the word "sucks" and now this. *g*

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

As you know, I devoted two posts on my blog to this question, and do think it is very much alive here in America. We just do not want to believe it, and the targets are different too.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous,

*LOL* Oh you're the one who had difficulty with 'sucks'. That sucks. Just kidding. ;o)

Barbara,

I know. I just believe that it has declined over the years, although there are still pockets of it. The whole thing that started this post was a misunderstanding in my blog. However, the misunderstanding got me thinking that it was time to tell this story.

United We Lay said...

My husband is hispanic and I'm white. We have experienced a lot of racism, mostly in Florida. People don't like that we're together. People will say things to us, or around us, like the man who told his son, loudly, that he'd disown him if he ever married outside of their race. Men will come up to my table at restuarants when my husband has gone to the bathroom and berate me for marrying a sand-nigger. I guess he can look arabic. Someone once pulled up to us as we were walking through a parking lot, cursed us out, and condemned us to hell. Hispanic women glare at me. We can't get a realator to call us back when my husband leaves his name, but when I leave mine, the response is almost immediate. I've been told by black parents that their kid doesn't have to listen to me because I'm white. I've been called a cracker and white bread by students. Racism is rampant, and as always, education is the key.

The Fat Bald Married Guy said...

I spent the first 7 years of my life in the southeast, mostly in Florida, but also Georgia and Alabama. Obviously, I was aware of racism, but it was not tolerated in our family. I lived in Australia for 4 years in the early 70's. In that entire time, I think I saw a handful of black people. One of those times was the Jackson Five in 1971. Also lived in New Jersey for a couple of years. Lived in Vermont ever since, going on 30 years. My recollections of racism in the 70's was that most white people told racist jokes and speculated about all the stereotypes and used the n-word frequently. My experience though, was that once any of these people actually got to know someone who was non-white, their view changed. It's human nature to fear the unknown and hate things that are different. Familiarity can change those feelings.

Now, through the media and the internet and just general racial awareness and political correctness, most races are very aware of each other and now they really and sincerely hate each other for real more than ever.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Polanco,

Horrible.
You know, I was engaged once to an asian who couldn't bring himself to tell his parents that he was marrying a white girl. I had to end it with him (obviously I wasn't what he really wanted for a lifetime). It broke my heart at that time. Now, I'm grateful. Anyway, I remember standing in line in a store with him, and having this old couple staring at us with loathing.

I finally picked up on the fact that they were staring, and I was truly puzzled. "Why are they staring at us like that?" I asked. "Oh, it's just because I'm asian," he said. At first I flat-out didn't believe him. He swore he got looks like that all the time and it was obviously made worse by the fact that he was standing arm-in-arm with an attractive white girl.

I started to go over there and tell them off, and he pulled me back in line. "Don't do it," he said. "It won't change their minds, and it will only strengthen their beliefs." I still wonder if that was good advice or not.

Fat Bald Married Guy,

Great handle! ;o) I appreciate the contribution. I think you're right, the press and internet can really accelerate things.

bananarama said...

That's a sad love story, Saur. I've had my share too...

Eddo said...

This was a good post.

I am multiracial myself - black, white, native american. Most people assume I am Hawaiian or Mexican and it doesn't even occur to them that I could be part black.

Once at a very close friends wedding in Alabama I heard the groom's father say, "This Nigga Woman just told me and this he spoke like a black woman (sir, you sho look nice today dressed up in that suit).

My legs almost buckled with disgust. Not only was this nice woman paying him a compliment, he had the nerve to call her a Nigga in the church on his son's wedding day.

I remember being upset the entire wedding. I couldn't believe that people were still so backward. In Texas you see racism here and there, but never is it so blatant. I never here the "N" word used in general conversation.

Racism still exists. For some reason someone always needs some people always need to be better than somoene. So even if they are ignorant white trash, they still think they are better than any other minority group.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Eddo,

Thanks very much for dropping in and contributing. I would have had the same reaction at the wedding. My biggest failing is sometimes my big mouth, though. You would have had to pull me away.

I probably would have said something in a dumb-blonde manner, while laughing at his joke, like "Oh my, that's funny. I wonder how she would imitate you? It's always hard to sound like a white supremacist..."

Tabasamu said...

Saur, *LOL*

-TC

Emmanuel.K.Bensah II said...

I think I can only echo the beginning of the UNESCO charter (I think) " Es en la mente donde deben erigirse los baluartes de la paz" : "it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed".

Racism, like the desire to go out to war, is a canker that starts with the mind.

As Polanco said, education is key, and perhaps here, no quote is as apt as Martin Luther King's (paraphrased): one day we WILL live in a nation where children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Just because it will take a lifetime doesn't mean it is not achievable.

;-)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Emmanuel,

Excellent point. Or, as someone else pointed out once, eventually there will be so much intermarrying that it can't be an issue any more. We'll all be a uniform shade of tan.