I might as well confess to being a Klansman. After all, I'm from Mississippi, so everyone knows anyway.

A very liberal woman told me at a party last night that I’m the only Mississippian (I live in Oregon, but was a Mississippian for most of my life) she has known who isn’t prejudiced. I interpret such statements as blatant prejudice, so I goaded her by asking how she knew there wasn’t a Klan robe in my closet. I also speculated that modern white Mississippians are less prejudiced against black people than are white Oregonians, although it’s hard to know for sure because Oregonians have been so little tested (1.8% of Oregonians are black versus 37% of Mississippians) whereas Mississippians were long since forced in the direction of racial equality. She retorted that anyone knows if they’re prejudiced because if they’re prejudiced against one group, they’re prejudiced against pretty much every group.

We were teetering on an all out argument when she tried to change the subject. Unwilling to let the matter drop, I told her about the time that, on a dare, I went to a local meeting wearing a dress. To get there, I had to walk several blocks from where I parked, and the hostility I encountered along the way rattled me. By her reasoning all those people who stared hatefully or spoke contemptuously because they thought I was a crossdresser were prejudiced against black people too, casting doubt upon her belief that racism is primarily a Southern problem.

The North was seething with contempt for the racism of the white South during the 1960s, yet—to the delight of Southerners—it was Yankee cities that were ablaze a few years later (many Southerners use Yankee and Northerner synonymously). My house today is in one of the most liberal cities of one of the most liberal states in America. The following is from my 1955 subdivision covenant, and is still binding according to my 1990 contract to buy:

“If any of the property in the tract is ever sold, rented, leased, or given to any person or persons other than a person or persons of the caucasian race (sic), then, in such event, the title for such property shall revert back to the original owners; except that this restriction does not apply to domestic servants…”

During a slightly earlier period, many Oregon towns had sundown laws, the purpose of which was to run any and all black people out of town at sunset. The following is from an interview with James Loewen who wrote Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism.

“People I talk with often think I'm doing my research in the South. But very few people in the South ever did this. In Mississippi, I only found six sundown towns. Compare that to Illinois [where 472 municipalities had sundown laws].”

Still earlier (1844), black people were forbidden to live anywhere in the entire state of Oregon, the penalty being not less than 20 and not more than 39 stripes. The penalty was later changed to involuntary servitude for a set period, although slavery as such was always illegal in Oregon due to a desire to protect the labor market from unfair competition.

The existence of Yankee hypocrisy is why a black Oregon friend (herself a transplanted Southerner) told me that Oregon prejudice is more hurtful than Louisiana prejudice because it’s like a glass ceiling in that it’s obviously there, but no one will admit to it. She also said that many white Oregonians are so eager to prove that they’re not prejudiced that they tend to make fools of themselves around black people by saying things like, “I’ve always wanted a black friend,” or, “I really like people of color.”

In this modern era, black people in the South have too much political and economic clout for white people to run over them, and they’re hardly sitting by the phone hoping some white person invites them to dinner. When I attended faculty meetings as a Mississippi elementary school teacher, the black teachers usually sat together and the white teachers usually sat together. If someone crossed to the other side, they weren’t stared at or talked about, and I would even say that black teachers and white teachers treated one another as equals. Yet, the members of both races made the seemingly universal decision to spend their social time with those who were most like themselves.

Does what I’ve written mean that I’m turning into a booster for the South in my old age? Hell no. I hate the South for its heat, poverty, and religiosity. That’s why I left. Yet many is the time that I have been left speechless by Yankee hypocrisy. In fact, I often want to ask: “Is it possible that you’re really as stupid as you sound?”

35 comments:

kj said...

snow, what perspective and credibility you own in this essay. i so encourage you to publish this somewhere with a wide(r) readership. it is that relevant.

i agree with every word including this one, not by you:

'if they’re prejudiced against even one group, they’re likely to be prejudiced against pretty much every group (other than their own).'

it's been my experience that is pretty much true.

i was madly in love with a black woman for several years and often i was the only white person at social functions. in every instance i was greeted and treated with affection and courtesy. i couldn't say the same was true when we traveled in my white world; not always, of course, but white folks were not as inclined to be kind.


kj

Vagabonde said...

I was sitting next to a young African-American in a plane once coming back to Atlanta from Washington, DC. He told me that he was moving to Atlanta and many of his young professional friends were too. He said that Atlanta, even though it was in the Deep South, was more open to blacks than cities up north or in the west. He said that if some people in Georgia were prejudiced it was easy to see but it was a totally different atmosphere in the north. But here you can also find the other prejudice, that is, from the African-Americans. I had a US friend who had lived in Morocco and married a woman from Morocco and they had a son. When he moved to Atlanta, his son was 12 - his son who had been born in Morocco and thus was North African was also American because of his father (he had dual citizenship) – he tried to go into an “African-American Youth Club” in the neighborhood where they lived in Atlanta. On the phone they asked if the boy was an African-American, the mother said yes. But when the boy showed up at the club they refused to have him join because he was white. I found this fascinating. In France I had several black friends growing up, some were from Africa some were born in France, several were Asian and several were from the middle-east. Even now it is hard to remember who was what – I just remember their names – it was not something we paid attention to. Our neighbor – I am talking about the 1950s now – was a French white woman married to a man from Senegal (Africa) - their son was very talented – he became a successful surgeon.

The Elephant's Child said...

Sometimes I wonder whether you get a tad tired of the overwhelming chorus of agreement that meets your posts. Yes, you do get the occasional dissenter, but they are in the minority.

'if they’re prejudiced against even one group, they’re likely to be prejudiced against pretty much every group (other than their own).'

That was the sentence that resonated most with me too. And subsets of their own as well. White women. White women with disabilities. Gay white women with disabilities. etc, etc.

Loved you in a dress though. I hope that the dare and the meeting were worth the hostility you experienced.

kylie said...

i like a man in uniform. do hoods count as uniform?

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Growing up not too far from where you did, I have to concur. My high school which was rated one of the top 100 in the nation was 55% black.

I've seen far more prejudice here in California than I ever saw in Mississippi. Even my own mother has grown and evolved in the prejudices she grew up with to the point that her closest friend is black.

Surprisingly, I developed a prejudice living in California - not against blacks. I would rather not state it publicly but I have encountered group of immigrants here that have a sense of entitlement that blows my mind. When I meet someone with this background, I am always wary.

Ed Pilolla said...

first of all, you are welcome to grab any photo of mine at my place.
now then... i laughed my ass off at the first couple of graphs. that conversation must have really blown that gal's hair back. i forgot about sundown laws, and i didn't know they were that common. i have known that there's no knowing the black experience, and that was a good start for me.
the hypocrisy is intriguing, and inevitable, seems to me.
a lot of people, especially privileged white people who didn't grow up in integrated neighborhoods, don't know how to talk about race. we are a sight to see sometimes:) i was lucky, though. i went to an integrated high school on the west side of chicago and began to confront my own racism, which took years.
today at the bus stop a black man approached me and i felt myself instinctively expect him to ask for money and i was annoyed (he sold me a token for a dollar, a good deal for me). at the next bus stop, a white man approached me and i got annoyed just the same, which sort of relieved me:)
best part was a latino man approached me at my third bus stop (yes, i take three. l.a. public trans is something no one takes unless they have to, which means people who can't afford cars), and by then i was softened up and was quite friendly:)

Snowbrush said...

Sort of in response to KJ and Child…I assume that every single human being is prejudiced in all kinds of ways the he or she isn’t even aware of. Even white Southern bigots from my area during the 60’s didn’t see themselves as prejudiced (a word which certainly suggests that your opinions are dead-wrong). In their minds, it was obvious that black people really were inferior. When someone assures me that they aren’t prejudiced, I worry about them because I figure that if they’re that deluded in one way, they’re probably pretty seriously deluded in a lot of ways. There have even been tests of this sort of thing in which “non-prejudiced” people were fitted up with meters and set in front on a television while their responses to different races of people (along with other kinds of groups) doing the same things were studied, and guess what, the image of six black male teenagers getting onto an elevator with a lone white female made their hearts race, their breathing quicken, their mouths dry, and their sweat glands go hyperactive, a lot more than when the same incident occurred with six white teenagers.

The Blog Fodder said...

Snowbrush, this is a subject I have wanted someone to talk about for a long time. Your last comment sure struck home. We are all prejudiced.

I am not sure what prejudice even is. My kids s aid I was racist because I described the man who helped me start my car one winter day as a big black guy. If prejudice means I think my country, background, culture, philosophy, beliefs are better than yours, well of course I do. They are mine. I am not losing any sleep wishing I had someone else's culture, background, religion. And I hope no one else is losing any sleep wishing they were like me.
Having said that, there are certain nationalities I cannot abide in general but have lots of time for some individuals within them. There are some countries I have sworn never to visit (again).
I am no klansman. People of their ilk are on my hit list.

Elisabeth said...

What a brave man, Snow, to go out in a dress and risk all the prejudice against someone being 'different'.

It just goes to show, how superficial we can be, when faced with the unexpected.

Zuzana said...

Ok, I am going to say it - you look really good in that dress.;)))
xoxo

Beau's Mom said...

ON THE OTHER HAND...(I smiled as I wrote that because I'm always the person most likely to open a lot of my statements with those words)

You related the story of the test showing six black teenagers, versus six white teenagers, getting on an elevator with a lone white female....

The difference between "prejudice" and "instinct" is majorly confused now to the point our minds are so open that our brains fall out.

Whenever there is a "group" - and I am the loner, I'm not getting on the elevator with them no matter what their color.

Marion said...

Very well said, Snow. You and I are surely long lost relatives as all of Mama's family is from Mississippi. I like that you defended the South and called that person out on their hypocrisy.

Hell, yeah, I'm prejudiced: for the Saints and LSU most of all.

Great post and I love the photo of you in the dress. Sexy. You should come on home now since things are better down here.....xo

"We are each burdened with prejudice; against the poor or the rich, the smart or the slow, the gaunt or the obese. It is natural to develop prejudices. It is noble to rise above them." ~Author Unknown

Gregory D. Rothbard said...

I live in Lakeland Florida and my wife teaches in Bartow Florida. The middle of Florida. The two cities are very different from the northern influenced cities on the coast. And I would dare to say far more southern than the coastal cities.

I find that people in the North are often more prejudiced than Southerners.

I grew up in Boulder County Colorado. We, in Boulder County, are good with liberal acceptance of all from a paternal detached way. We want to help those poor suckers out. But we often do not interact with people outside our culture group. This allows us to speak about others in a way that is often off base.

I am not saying there is no prejudice in the South but the South has had to come to terms with a diversity of characters, races, breeds, families, social economics, and such... that the people in Boulder County often do not have to deal with.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't hate the south or the north. I just blame the people who live there. The countryside in both places is pretty cool. It's the people, man.

PhilipH said...

Prejudice and racism is alive and well and living in all parts of the UK.
Nowadays it's probably Pakistani's who suffer the most. Back in the early 1950s, when our politicians invited a boatload of West Indians to come and drive our busses, it was they who got clobbered by all and sundry.
Prior to that it was the Irish. And those guys were the chaps who slaved away on building our railroads and any other job that needed an expert with a shovel and pickaxe.
The UK is now such a 'cosmopolitan' country that in some parts hardly any whites exist. Balti and other delicious curry houses abound in places such as Bradford and parts of London.

Where I now live, (Borders of Scotland), one hardly ever sees a black, brown or yellow face. Maybe it is too far north and chillier here for many immigrants. I don't know, but I'm not sorry! We once lived in Brixton, south London, and it became like a foreign country to us and we ran away!

I guess if the truth's known it is a case of *birds of a feather*.

Mad Mind said...

First of all, what kind of party did you go to?

I am unfortunately from that disreputable state of Illinois. But it doesn't surprise me at all.

I've spent a great deal of time in Memphis at St. Jude because of my daughter's illness. The hospital employees the best people for the jobs they have. And there are more black people employed there than other races. No cares as long as the kids are being taken care of. So I have spent time in the south and you are correct in how each race is looked at. There is no difference. And I love that.

I don't understand prejudice. I don't understand the need to make one race more or less than one's own. I think the fact that we associate more with our own race has more to do with what we are used to. It's the phrases and customs that are familiar to us. How some people turn that into being superior is beyond me.

That's my opinion.

ellen abbott said...

Excellent post. It seems to me though that some people equate preference for something as prejudice against everything else and that's not always true as your anecdote about the black and white teachers shows (at least that's what I got out of it). I think there's a big difference between preference for and prejudice against. I think it's human nature to drift toward those who are most like yourself because it's comfortable. Prejudice and racism occurs when a person thinks that 'others' are less than themselves, less valuable as human beings. You can apply all sorts of adjectives...stupid, lazy, ignorant, violent, hateful, worthless, etc. Truth is, those attributes are equally distributed among all human beings no matter their color or heritage as are acceptance, kindness, respect, intelligence, diligence, etc. If blacks, or any other group, are less successful in society it's not because they are inherently, as a group, capable of success but because they are denied access to the tools and jobs and experiences that will enable them to succeed. Prejudice doesn't understand or accept that, preference does.

We have visited Portland OR several times, and coming from the south, one of the first things we noticed was that there weren't any black people in this liberal green city. I have always preferred living in racially and culturally mixed neighborhoods even though my friends throughout my life have been white. When the neighborhood I moved into and raised my children in started being gentrified it became increasingly white. We finally moved out to this little country town about an hour away from the city that is pretty racially balanced between blacks, Latinos and whites. I like the diversity, I like interacting with people that are different than me but my friends still tend to be white. Perhaps that's a result of my upbringing...white neighborhood, white schools. My parents taught us not to be prejudiced but the only interaction they had with black people was in the form of servitude positions...maids, gardeners, etc. though they always treated them with respect. When I was in high school, my 'unprejudiced' mother cautioned me against dating blacks (there were three black people in my high school). If one asked me for a date, I was to turn them down. My children though, their friends are just as likely to be black or Latino or Asian as they are white. As a parent, I'm sort of proud of that.

Robin said...

Snow....what a throught-provoking post! I have to say that growing up in San Francisco - even attending a Catholic all-girls school, I had many friends of just about every ethnicity....and frankly, didn't think very much about RACE. I began travelling abroad as a child (thanks to my Mum - who was a REAL Pan Am *Stewardess* in the 60's...) and there, I encountered my first taste of *prejeduice*.... not race - but religion and country... my Irish relatives spewed hatred of the British and refuse to take us to see N. Ireland...my Croatian (then Juglslavian) relatives who were Communists looked down on my Mum and myself (and also our non-Communiste relatives0....we *embarrassed* them being from (*War-Monger America*)..

It is all so ridiculous....but you are right, there must be something to it being *ingrained* within everyone....because I know if I was alone in a lift and 10 African-Americans came in, I would be scared......but, I also would be frightened if 10 Hispanics or even Asians entered,....

Enough *heavy* thoughts...it's Halloween! And now I can say - you look *adorable* in that dress - great legs - a-ha-ha! And...you chose a *frock* in my favourite colour!!!! Lilac!!!!


Bwaaaaahahhhaaaa!!!!

Hugs,

♥ Robin ♥

Snowbrush said...

Kylie asked: do hoods count as uniform?

About like dresses do.

Mad Mind asked: what kind of party did you go to?

It was my atheist group's Halloween party, and the woman I was talking with is the most politically active person I know in various liberal causes.

Lorraina said...

Cool dress and it looks good on you. I had exactly the same one in about 1960 but in blue. Here in Canada i've noticed more black people have come to live but i've not met one personally yet. Growing up we had one Chinese man and one Japanese family in our small town. Mr. Wong owned the restaurant and made excellent Chinese food and the best fries and all the Joe kids were the straight A students all the way through school, also the most artistically talented. They sort of set the standard of how i see most all Chinese and Japanese people now so i guess in that way it's prejudice of a sort.

Punk Chopsticks said...

Well I supposed being prejudiced is what makes us human, there will always be things we like and things we don't. You can't help how you feel, just what you do with that feeling. Some people take it and run, go crazy, get out of control, and that's where the extremists come in.

rhymeswithplague said...

Love your shoes.

I can remember being four years old and being at the Pawtucket Day Nursery. A little boy about my age (his name was Peter and he was black) fell off a see-saw (which Southerners call a teeter-totter, but this happened in Rhode Island) and began bleeding. When I saw the blood my immediate thought was "on the inside he's just like me" and I have never had a reason to change my mind.

This made me quite an oddity when I moved to Texas at the age of 7 -- to Mansfield, no less, which in 1965 became the last school district in the entire nation to end segregation.

Your dress ain't bad either.

Gregory D. Rothbard said...

Snow Brush,
I know what you mean its the whole paternal nature of race relations. The politically correct activists often, in my P.O.V., talk a good game, but they live in an isolated matrix (pardon the cliche).

Strayer said...

This is a really really funny post, Snow. It's too true, makes me laugh til I cry.

There was some rally for black people in Corvallis once over something. All attendees however were white. There were whispers one black guy might show, hopeful expectation, but no, just the whites, at the black rally.

The Tusk said...

What is your prejudice against accepting advertising dollars for this thought provoking post. Being an Atheist and keeping your honor, sanity and ethical beliefs close to your heart and mind disallows you to earn an income from your writings. I think not.

Or is it your Wordpress domain sponsor does not allow commercial dollars to be earned.

I think more-so that you would rather not bother your readers with the graffiti of commercial advertisement.

What has become of interest to me as of late is the total absence of a collective community to grasp at the opportunity before them.

In the Early 90's, before the entire decline of the print media I saw an opportunity to advertise books in print through the television media using web based commercials. I spoke with representatives at an ABA sanctioned event concerning the role CSPAN had with Books on TV. They felt with their ties to the Library of Congress they were doing a good job. It has taken 20 years for the total collapse of the print industry due to the influences of the video and television industry. Where have all the written media authors gone to the Internet to write in Blogs.

Sometimes are prejudices remain to protect us from change and in hindsight reveal that more harm has come to us than we originally thought could happen. This defines Hindsight.

A very clever article appeared by the author Daniel Nayeri concerning the differences between Commercials and Trailers on a Kidlit Blog, I have recently read.

Prejudice prevents change.

Successful Blogs are celebrated in the Asian Communities through an organization called Nuffnanger bloggers.

These are blogs which are celebrated and compete for advertising dollars. This is where the new print media authors are being published.

Just because we print electronically on LCD or LED and we are eco friendly because of it, not considering the waste of Plastic, Glass, and Cd and Li Batteries in Waste, we prejudice our desires to protect trees, here.

There is a demise of the newsprint, but to prejudice the author and writer is uncalled for.

Snow, your readers are calling for you to publish more broadly, your fear and prejudice against commercialism is assumed here. Your unwillingness to cause change and be an effectual man of change, a mover a shaker is from the prejudices you have derived from your experiences with what America has always been, an open market, filled with all types of carny and prejudices. Overcommercialization and Greed aside there are people doing good work and good hearts out there which have no observed prejudices. Every time we choose Cheesecake over Devils Food cake we make a prejudiced decision.

Understanding the desire of people unwilling to accept a change to the status quo is understanding and accepting and forgiving those who hold a prejudice for a choice they have made in their lives.

Being a forgiving person, should be a person who forgives a person who that keeps a prejudice, because the forgiving person recognizes the fact that even though possibly willing to change a prejudiced person is afraid to see a change occur to the Status Quo.

Snow, what are your prejudices to making money on your beliefs and what you write in the digital medium(to me its print)?

The Tusk said...

Congratulations on your appearance in Punk Chopsticks' blog post on Sexy Men who Blog.

Myrna R. said...

What a great post. You speak so much truth and do it in such an interesting and thought provoking way. Prejudice and hypocrisy must be siblings. AndI guess we all have a little of each, but some have much more than others.

Snowbrush said...

The Tusk asked: What is your prejudice against accepting advertising dollars for this thought provoking post.

Ads are ugly, and I can't imagine I would make enough money off blog ads to justify inflicting myself and my readers with that ugliness. I wouldn't mind selling to magazines, but I just don't seem to have it in me anymore. I used to do it, but it was a lot of hassle for such a small reward. Even so, my unwillingness to pursue publication plagues me constantly. I just wish some good fairy would come along and do it for me--for a generous cut of the profits, of course (and, no, I haven't tried to find an agent).

Marion said...

Wow, this is a superb post!

I'm imagining you walking a few blocks in that lovely, lilac dress. You are so co-ordinated...even your shoes seem to have some lilac/purple in them! Next time, though, maybe run an iron over the pockets, hahahaha!

I have not heard of Sundown towns. This was such an honest, educational post...thank you once again, Snow! xx

KleinsteMotte said...

The topic is a tough one but it is more than just a north/south thing. We are in a rapidly changing world thanks to www.

gracefully50.com said...

A Wonderful and Wise post! Love the dress! :)

All Consuming said...

Good and interesting post, I've saved the picture of you in a dress, hubby says you remind him of Spock's brother in Star Trek 5 in it. I am lost for words.

Snowbrush said...

"I am lost for words."

Women are often that way around me. I guess it's because I'm so handsome that I make them nervous.

Mim said...

I love waiting until you have a ton of comments cause those are as much fun/interesting to read as your posts.

love the dress, especially with the shoes.

very interesting about the old laws. I'd sell my house immediately to someone non-Caucasian and then sue myself.

I have sometimes (3 times that I remember) found myself with what I consider to be prejudiced thoughts (kind of like President Carter eh?) and it upsets me no end. And I consider myself non-prejudiced. Go figure.

Kerry said...

Moving to OR from Alabama was pretty interesting. I still find Oregonians, many of them, to be smug and annoying.