Monday, March 7, 2011

Race By Degrees

The 1960’s was not a time of Enlightenment in South Georgia. Desegregation was forced upon the population which took to it with the same enthusiasm as they would have taken to euthanasia. Most people, over time, simply accepted the way things came to be as the ways things would be, and most people learned to live with it in their own way. The South, regardless of what you might have heard, was not the last bastion of virulent racism. There are various degrees of racism, different species of it, and like certain species of viruses, some are more deadly than other. Some are harmless, in their own way, and some are nearly comical.
            Sometimes someone can begin a debate and you realize your point of view, as well as yourself, are much safer without this person on your side. These are usually undereducated people, and for the most part this is like saying Custer was a bit undermanned when compared with the Sioux. Such a person once explained to me blacks and whites ought not interbreed because it was unnatural. As an example of natural breeding, or the lack of unnatural breeding in nature, he pointed out blue birds and red birds never mated. This person isn’t a Nazi flag waving cross burning racist, but a racist he is nevertheless. I tried to explain the differences between two species were the telling point in genetics, and if two animals, or people, could mate, and produce viable offspring, then they were of the same species. Color, it seems, is a cultural consideration found chiefly in humans. But as I pointed out; there are some people you don’t want to convert to your side of things.
            I once sat and listened to a man as he very patiently explained to me that blacks were good at doing “black things” while we whites were much better at doing “white things” which is why you never saw a black doing anything that required much thought. They were good at football, and drug dealing, and mating, while whites were good at running the country and math and science. I asked him if he had ever hired a black to do anything but manual labor, and he laughed at me, and asked me if I had been listening to him. Blacks, he told me, were also bad about stealing from him. Every time something went missing it was one of his black employees that had stolen it. I started to ask him by what method he determined who had stolen what, but decided to bail. As a businessman and an employer, this man is a little more dangerous than the “Blue Bird Racist” because he could, would, and did, limit the future of his employees determined solely on race. He did not consider himself as a racist, but a realist. In the greatest of all ironies, his son was arrested for stealing a piece of farm equipment and selling it to supply his drug habit.
            This man also exhibited a great deal of tunnel vision. He told me blacks were out breeding “us” and all blacks had several children, usually six or seven, because they were getting paid by the welfare office to have more kids, and whites were paying their own way. I pointed out that blacks represented only thirteen percent of the entire population of the United States and he was certain that was wrong. Why, he explained, there were cities which were all black. If so, I commented, there were also cities whose population was made of mostly of lighter skinned people. The fact he did not realize just how small the population of darker skinned people versus lighter skinned people led me to guess out loud he had never really done much research on what we were talking about. The welfare myth will usually reveal exactly where someone stands on the argument of race.
            There are the “Bless their hearts” racists who feel sorry for the plight of anyone who isn’t white, or at least pale, and they wring their hands at the state of affairs. Of course, they would not be caught dead rubbing shoulders with anyone who wasn’t old money, or at least pale money, but they do mean well. There are more of these out there than most types, and of this we should be grateful if not amused. You’ll find these people wondering why someone doesn’t do something to help, but they are really busy right now.
            The flag wavers, the cross burners, the yellers and screamers are still out there, but they’re not nearly as numerous as they once were. I grew up with one of those people in my neighborhood and the other people were of various shades of this. But the biggest yellers and loudest screamer was a man I never liked, never respected, and to this day I hoped that when he died, he died slow. He was always abusive towards us kids, and would do things to either frighten us into thinking he was going to get us in trouble with our parents or actually do it. He would make us say some of the vilest things, most of it not racial in nature but sexual, and you really do not want a ten year old even knowing some of the words that man taught me. But that is the true nature of a racist; the urge to torment those most unable or least likely to be able to defend themselves.
            Mostly, folk just went along with all this, and those were the go with the flow people, the type of people we still have today as a majority. As long as supper is on time, the television is on, and the kids are quiet, it’s okay to have a black president. Yet these are the people who will most accept nearly any idea, right or wrong, if someone can just slip it in without a fuss. It’s those who will go along with nearly anything that scare me the most, for they are the ones who aren’t going to say anything, no matter how bad it gets.

Take Care,

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