A friend of mine sent me this slideshow a few months ago: http://www.slate.com/id/2188648/slideshow/2188675/fs/0//entry/2188674/
I wrote this piece before completing the whole slide show, in response. Just seeing that first picture evoked strong memories of the first time I saw it as a little boy in the pages of the Life, Time and Ebony magazines we had at home…
I thank my father for exposing me to the real world through books and subscriptions to news magazines when I was younger. 😎
Peace and Much Love. jw
When I was in Upper 6th Form and due to leave my Trinidadian secondary school, a teacher organised a SAT/Scholarship session with some recruiters from the University of Steubenville, and some other US college. The teacher was caucasian, or as we like to say here in Trinbago, “Trini White”.
Before our guests came in, he pointed out to us, that in many ways, the US of A was more racist than South Africa (this was in the early 1990’s, a few months before they released Nelson Mandela from prison), and actively encouraged the “students of colour” to hype that fact up in US college applications, as we would have an advantage because of the affirmative action programs that the US colleges had to deploy.
I remember hearing one of my white classmates sitting behind me utter a soft “steups.” 😉
I got a chance to visit a fairly rural part of a deep southern US State for the first time on a 3 month company sponsored training trip in the late 90’s. While there, I sometimes used to think that I was the only black man for miles around. It was the kind of place where, when you saw another black person, you gave them that knowing “How you doin’?“ nod, and even stopped to chat for a few. Most times, the black folk I encountered were the “help” in the place I was in/visiting/working. I met up with two Trinidadian families that way… but that’s another story.
Anyway, being the “good” Church boy that I am, I wanted to go to a Catholic Church close to my hotel. I found it strange that all the hotel clerks were directing me to a Hispanic church which was about 10 minutes away by car (and therefore, more taxi fare) instead of one that I could just walk to in under 20 minutes. As I wanted to explore my surroundings and stretch my legs a bit, I went to the closer Church regardless.
No problems for me… I sat in the back and spied a black family at church! My heart leapt for joy and I made a mental note to speak to them afterwards. Because I was a first time visitor to the church, the mainly white congregation welcomed me with open arms. I mean, I saw these middle-aged & older white men and women come up to me and hug, kiss and embrace me like a prodigal, when I could swear a few days ago, more than half of those same folks crossed the street when they saw me coming towards them!
Anyway, after the service, one of the daughters from the black family came over to chat with me. Her folks were Jamaican, and one of the first things she asked me was “How come you didn’t go to the Spanish church?”
“I don’t speak that much Spanish, so it would’ve been difficult for me to understand. Plus this church was only about 20 minutes walking from my hotel.”
“Yeah… something’s wrong with walking?”
“Where’s your hotel?”
“The Radisson on such and such street.”
“Oooh… that’s a nice hotel… they have nice food there…”
Moms walks over to chat, with her other daughter in tow. Pops is talking to a man on the side. Moms hits me with the Jamaican slang as soon as she realises I’m Trinbagonian… “Wham now, rude bwoy?” I laugh and smile… tell her its good to see fellow West Indians up in the place.
“How come you didn’t go to the Spanish church?”
I give the same reply, and begin to wonder “what’s so wrong with this church” that makes people want to recommend “la vida loca“ on sight of me. Pops comes over and we chit chat, they have to leave, but promise to look me up at the hotel now that they know that I’m there.
“We West Indians have to look out for one another!”, Mom says and smiles as she gets into their sedan. She
works at some law firm or the other. Pops is a police man or an Army soldier or something.
As they pull off, I turn around to start my walk back. I almost bounce into this middle-aged white man. Pepper gray/blonde hair. Ice blue eyes. Affable looking, he apologised, and asked if I wanted a ride back to my hotel, as he’d overheard I was staying at the Radisson. I accepted his offer.
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Jude.”
“Ah… like the song, or were you named after the saint?”
“Both, actually. I’m sorry… but I didn’t catch your name?”
“That’s cuz I didn’t throw it. My name is Jim. Jim Crow.”
[picture taken from: Literacy Rules!]
In shock, I look up at the man, to see if he’s serious. He’s not laughing.
I look at his wife and his little daughter. They’re not laughing either.
I’m wondering whether I should laugh or if I should run… but my instincts told me to take him at his word… play it cool, and use my keys as a weapon… just in case.
“Your parents must’ve had a unique sense of humour, Jim.”
Jim grins. His wife laughs. “That’s what I always tell him!”
We get into the car, and we pull off. Jim talks about the teasing he endured growing up because of his name… and that he always gets that same reaction from black people when he introduces himself to them.
For the duration of the 5 minute ride (which seemed like forever), I get told about how articulate I am, how intelligent I seem, and how handsome I am (when Jim’s wife said this, I saw his eyes flick up to the rear-view and hold me in a glance for a few seconds. I met his gaze while I thanked her for the compliment and nodded back to Jim. He put his eyes back on the road.)
As I’m getting out of the car at the hotel, they tell me about the Spanish church 20 minutes driving from here, and wonder aloud why I didn’t go there. I give them the same reply, plus the fact that I didn’t have a car to use while I was there.
Jim: “Oh… with a country name like Trinidad, you would think that you’d speak some Spanish!”
“Yeah, you would! But I have basic Spanish skills.”
Jim’s Wife: “So, see you next week? We can come pick you up, if you want…” Jim looks a bit uncomfortable but smiles.
“Maybe, but I think I’ll walk! This is a nice neighbourhood. Thanks for the ride. Take care, Jim!”
I stand outside with the doorman watching their little girl wave to me from the back seat as they drive away.
“Crazy, man…this is just crazy.”
“Por que?”, says Jose, the door man from Mexico.
“That man just told me his name was Jim Crow!”
“So what ees so wrong weet dat name?”
I sigh and walk away. I pat Jose on the shoulder as I make my way inside.
“Its a black thing, Jose… I don’t think you’d understand.”
For the duration of my stay, I didn’t go back to Church.
I never saw the Jamaicans or the Crows again.
I do regret not going to the Hispanic Church though! I’m sure that would’ve been something!
When I look at the image of the man getting rammed by the American flag, it brings to mind the challenges the Obamas must undoubtedly have to face during their long election campaign.
Colin Powell said that he didn’t run for US President because his wife expressed fear for his life. Had he done so, I wonder what sort of campaign the Democrats would have mounted against him? I’d like to think that it certainly wouldn’t be anything as bad as what Fox and the Republicans (and Billary, Jeremiah Wright and Jesse Jackson) have tried to do to Barack and Michelle Obama.
[Pic: Ask Men]
Let’s think about it for a second.
Colin Powell is the man that handed out cans of whoop ass to Saddam in Operation Desert Storm. He wasn’t just a soldier, he was a GENERAL, and the history making Chairman of the freakin’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. Brother man was also the first African-American Secretary of State. To wit, all of this was achieved under conservative leaning REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS (George Bush I and II).
Yet, people STILL wrote hate mail when he merely contemplated running for President on a Republican ticket…
One thing’s for certain…
If Jesse Jackson was really serious about cutting Obama’s nuts off, he has to get a HUUUGE knife.
Balls that size don’t come along everyday.
Oh… and in case you were wondering…
Peace and Much Love.