It sure is culture shock moving from
The sales lady I first had to deal with here came to see me in my office often. Tall, white, gray haired distinguished old lady type. As we trade the usual sales call chit chat, she asks where Im going to buy a home. When I answer that Im moving to
I was shocked.
“Do you mean skin cancer?” I said, pretending ignorance, and hoping she would get the point. “On no, the OTHER” she replies, “You know, undesirables”. Because her hand is a milky white, not a nasty black. And that makes her better than, oh, just a hell of a lot of folks, mostly starting blacks, probably Mexicans, and certainly Jews (who she also complained about to me).
Now what the hell was she thinking? Im a Yankee and she is a salesperson, shouldn’t her better sense tell her better? Shouldn’t she be more careful, professional and have Southern Charm? Guess it’s so prevalent that she just never considered that I as a white person would be disgusted by her. Guess that type of ugly racism must raise her net sales, so she just assumed I was 'down with the sickness'.
I was so surprised I never challenged her, and I wish I would have.
Instead I bought a framed Martin Luther King Jr poster the next day and hung it behind my desk. I noticed a lot of sales people doing the same thing I do when I sell, looking around my office for clues to who I am. And many noticed old Martin on the wall, some commented, and all of them understood what that meant.
But the painting crew didn’t see my office, so as they were painting our warehouse, I happened to hear one of them yelling to his coworker about the “whores and n******” that he was mad at. I stopped him, almost in a rage, and asked him his name and who he worked for. He told me with perfect confidence what company he was from and his name, then I told him to please put down what he was doing and leave. He was stunned, the very thought that another white man would suggest that what he had said was wrong was clearly perplexing to him. He started to argue with me, I raised my voice, set my jaw and told him to get out.
Turns out he worked for his father, a very country man in a hunting camouflaged baseball cap who arrived not long after, and fired him, apologizing to me the whole time. But I still got the feeling that the only issue was that I had complained. Later, in talking to my black employees about the situation they made it clear that it was no big deal. It had been happening before I saw it, and they had raised no complaint. “That’s just how they were raised,” said one, “I don’t pay them no attention.” I would be hard put to imagine any of my black union worker friends in
But they know what restaurants not to eat at.
Not at Malice’s BBQ: I have changed the name because I don’t want this guy suing me, but if you are from
As an avid military history enthusiast, I can understand the interest in the “War of Northern Aggression” and all, but racist hiring practices, and muted hostility that makes all the black folks I know here not want to go to that restaurant…well I guess it’s the South.
Blacks here get to deal with all sorts of reminders, daily.
Rebel flag: Here in
As an avid military history enthusiast who grew up in
There is some sort of controversy about the NCAA not allowing certain college sports events until the flag comes down, but fly it still does. Because it is necessary to piss off and piss on the black folks who see it so commonly.
Then there are the hiring practices. Listen oh ye temporary agencies, and hear. When I tell you to send me warehouse employees, I do not solely mean black men. You really can mix it up a bit, even throw some women in there. And when I ask for office employees, I don’t need just white women. I’ve tried hard to overcome that, as a hiring manager, but it takes constant work compared to the hiring practices in
That brings up the whole SIR thing: I mean everyone says sir and ma'am to some degree here, but with some of the folks that work for me it’s almost ubiquitous. “Oh yes sir, Mr James” I must hear 15 times a day, despite my protest that Im just James. “Oh yes Mr James, whatever you say!” and a little polite laugh. In
But with the Plantations still here, it’s not hard to understand. It’s not something that can really be understood up north I think. It took a lot of aimless driving through the country down here, and a lot of interviews collecting information from prospective employees and their resumes before I began to understand the reality out in the
Plantations still exist here. Old giant white country houses with big white pillars, surrounded by fields of cotton, or groves of walnuts. The same white families still live in many of them that did 200 years ago, having been passed down through the ages since time immemorial. The towns built up around them still have mainly poor minority residents whose families still mostly live there in that same town, and can trace their heritage back a handful of generations to when they were slaves. And they still work on those same plantations, now called farms, and they still make pitiful tiny wages.
Oh I can hear the cynic saying let them find some gainful employment. And how will they find this gainful employment when the primary employment is agricultural, and the illegal immigrants will work for half the minimum wage? And there just aren’t factories in the
So the cynic says let them get a job in the city! With what transportation? There isn’t any public transportation when you are an hour away from a city. Then let them buy a car! With what money? Certainly not a car whose reliability and gas efficiency is such that it doesn’t break down and lose you your job for no call no show, and cost you an arm and a leg just to fuel once a week.
I have seen one after the other of their resumes, they were trying to buy a car, got a job in town, the car broke down, they lost the job and are back to square one. They work part time half the year on the plantation farm for pitiful wages and no health care, and seem to never get ahead. It gets piled on them from birth that they are never going to be able to leave the plantation, never going to be able to succeed, and if you hear it enough it becomes true, and tiresome. And somehow it doesn’t change, generation after generation. When I drive through those country miles I see how little it’s changed since 200 years ago.
As I shine a light on it I see how complicated it all is. There is no way to change generations of feelings overnight, but as we all become aware hopefully we can begin our own personal changes. Did you know a black guy was dragged behind a pickup truck not so long ago, making national news? Or that South Carolina State Troopers yell things like "You better run, n-----, because I'm fixing to kill you," (go to YouTube to see it if you don’t believe me) because even though they are on camera they aren’t thinking, just reacting naturally. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.
Therefore, let us all search our hearts. Answers lie within, if truth has not been extinguished. A candle will not burn where there is no fresh air. Many other Yankees are moving here from the Rust Belt, and confess to me that they never understood racism claims in the Northern progressive towns they lived in where affirmative action and interracial marriages were common. But they are seeing it clearly down here, an unwelcome education.
Perhaps this new influx of thoughts will provide the fresh air that will make the candle burn anew.