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When you say you are from the deep south, there was a time people had all kinds of
images come to mind.   Many had images of culture, hospitality and warmth.  The reality was many had images of fear, poverty, hate, jail, segration and ignorance.
Much of this has changed but not enough.  In the veins of the true racist, there still runs the blood of some of those beliefs.  

The black jockey  ornament was seen on the lawns of many a well to do white person.
My family never owned a black jockey lawn oranment but there was plenty of racism all around me  that I can identify with  as the signs of those times.

I recall so much ugly that I still have nightmares of those times.  I remember the N word being used regularly by just about everyone I knew, including preachers, doctors, and many professionals.   I recall people not even being given the dignity of being recognized for achievement or personality or character but were identified only by the color of their skin.   The schools were segragated, as well as every public place was segragated.  I can still see the White only and Colored signs displayed proudly.   I still remember women who behaved as they did in the movie " The Help".   Below the squiggly I will explain to many of you the feelings of a child of the fifties from the right side of the tracks with the right color of skin.  It did affect me.

I remember asking how come Annetta could not go to the movie with me.  Annetta was my best friend.   She was " the help's little girl".  Of course our relationship with Frances, the lady who helped raise me ate with us at the same dinner table.  Shades
drawn of course.   Frances would talk to me and be my friend when Mama was always too busy.  She listened to my songs.   She laughed when I made up little stories about my little friend who lived in the Mailbox.   She taught me not to be afraid of thunderstorms.  Her little girl shared her Mama with me.  I do not recall my parents ever disrespecting Francis in any way.  That did not stop the word N..ger being used in family circles without one word being said against those using it.

I remember subtle things being said about how The Roosevelts, especially Elanor being a N lover by someone in the extended family.  That kind of talk was around me.   I remember saying, " but N,,,ers are my friends.   My parents did use the N word but not in front of the the blacks, just in conversation with  people they probably perceived as their own kind.   I never even knew racism was about using that word.  Not back then.

When the conversation of race had to be discussed during the Civil Rights Movement, my parents took the side of the oppressed but still had the culture of inequality in their being.  I knew Mama loved Francis and she loved her as a sister.  She would fight for her but she did not recognize her as an equal the more I think about it.  When Francis's house burned down and lost a child, Mother took our clothes and her furniture and gave it to Francis to much frowned faces.  Still, she thought I am sure before MLK, she thought her race was superior.   I have thought about this over the years and even after posting a diary of how my family were not racists but
as I look back with a clearer truth about me, I realize, there was a superiority among them and simply based on the color of their skin.  What a hard thing to realize at this time of life.   Had they not been part of the problem, they would have joined the march in Selma.  They would have done more to correct the language especially using it in conversation with friends.  Even if it was, " Those N...ers are not done right.
Francis is a good N.   Things like that. This word should never have been used around children. Where was their backbone to stand for justice?  Why did they have to fit in?
Was it fear, was it ignorance?

 I was brought up in a bigoted home.  I never thought that was true until I sat down and really thought about some things.  Why was it thatblack and white had to hide under tables to play?  Why did I get such a mixed message regarding black people?  Why did my parents tell me it was wrong to disrespect people and yet they did.  Why did they not march in Selma?  How could Mama cry for days over an illness Francis might have, or her sadness over her loss, or tears shed after seeing black people being beaten down on the streets but not do one thing to stop it?   They might as well have had a lawn jockey.

I grew up loving Francis and her family.  I did learn at a very young age that the N word did not feel right.  I grew away from Annetta.  We did not go to the same school.
She went to RL Cousins, school for the colored as it was called in those days.   We never went to the same church, or parties or dances.  We were separate.  When the children were bombed in the church in Birmingham, I started reading about MLK.  I heard all the talk about what a trouble maker he was from certain family members but not from my own immediate family.  The murder of JFK seemed to have affected them and MLK  must have impacted their lives.   They were not stupid people.   I don't recall my Mother referring to blacks as Ni..ers again after the church bombings.  I don't recall my parents showing a difference in the races after MLK and the blacks were marching.   I know they hired more blacks in their business and paid them the same as whites and I know after the Civil Rights Marches, there was a different atmosphere in our daily lives.  I still do not recall race being talked about.  There was something stirring inside of me that felt helpless and sad during the Jim Crow era.  I was confused and I felt so very bad for the black community.  I was just a young girl but I remember
feeling like a coward not to do something.

I started playing and singing Peter Paul and Mary songs.  I was standing up for the marchers and was met with no resistance at home.   I started going to churches that did have black people in attendance.  I did not speak out against racism but I did not embrace it.   I walked out of rooms when people used the N word.  The world was changing but not fast enough but it had to start somewhere and MLK took it head on.
I stopped my car at 17 when a wagon train rolled through Douglasville, Ga. on Interstate 20 and admired the people in the wagon train for freedom.    Mother was visiting her old friend Francis regularly in the 80's and stayed with her some before Francis died in the 90's.
Dot, was a woman who worked for Hospice and even after she quit, stayed with my Mother as she lay dying in Florida in 2000   My Mother had her funeral arrangements orginally planned to be done with a funeral director who primarily had black deceased clients.
Mother, as she lay dying changed her plans due to some of her family (brothers and sisters) saying she was wrong.   She wasn't wrong because the shade of the skin  didn't matter anymore and her moving out of Ga culture and her regular attendance in a black church had reshaped her thinking.  She knew her friend Francis was her best friend in life.  She was not able to really publicly display that until the eighties.  Daddy, well he never said much about anything other than loving his fellow man with the exception of trying to say that red birds did not marry blue birds when he found out our eldest daughter was dating a fine young black teenager.  I counted that off as alzheimers but I really don't know for sure.  

Mother's funeral was not done correctly in the funeral home she finally ended up at and she would have been much happier with her orginal plans but her uppity family would have never came and supported her children, I guess, she thought in her final days. Her friend Dot helped her change her plans.  The funny part was, only one family membr showed up anyway.  

Martin Luther King made an impact on my family.  He made a huge impact on me.
I have listened to his sermons and joined the SPLC, been given a certificate for my stand against hate, and will stand up to predjudice and bigotry.  I have completely corrected and cut off old classmate tea party types and wish it had not taken a half a century to stand against hate.

When I say that I know that 20 miles in any direction of Atlanta is really the old south, it is because I have lived it.   Things came to a head again with the election of Barack Obama, twice because ignorance and bigotry is still rampid.   There are people who still think nothing of segragation or the N word.   They have closed their eyes and their minds to the future and ignorance of the past prevails of which they so clearly want to cling to, along with their guns.    Martin Luther King had a dream.  It is taking a very long time for many to wake up to his dream.  Much too long.

 This MLK holiday,Celebrate his life .   Celebrate the inauguration of This president and recognize and celebrate your shedding of bigotry.   There were many heros in the Civil Rights Movement but they had a great leader, Dr. Martin Luther King.  There is much leading to be done regarding racism and we too have a great leader.  His name is Barack Obama and his grassroots movement.

Originally posted to Vetwife on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:59 PM PST.

Also republished by RaceGender DiscrimiNATION.

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