Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well, I Figure It This Way

I got involved in a conversation over at Althouse's blog that stated with Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act, and devolved into a discussion of state versus individual racism.

One of the Althouse commenters, who lives in New Orleans, mentioned that she can drive to a point in New Orleans where whites are not made welcome, as well as a point out in the Bayou where Blacks are similarly treated.

I felt my response was worthy of a post here as well.

Beth, I find it interesting that in an hour's round trip drive you can find establishments that discriminate racially from both sides.

45 years after the end of Jim Crow and the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

How do you explain that?

How do you feel about it? In as much that this requires at least a percentage of blacks to be at least a little racist?

Or is it a retaliatory response to the white store owners several miles away?

I used to work in a service station, back when that meant something, in a racially mixed neighborhood. We had young black guy who did the cleaning for us at the station, and on Saturday's he would stop at a barbecue joint a block or two away and get ribs for us.

Some Saturdays I would go myself, if there were two of us on the shift, and invariably when I opened the door all conversation would stop and every eye would turn toward me.

And I knew by sight most of the folks in there. They came by the station; I had pumped their gas and fixed their cars.

I was served; conversations would slowly restart, I would talk to several about problems they had with their cars, but the whole atmosphere was strained.

And I was the only white person in the store.

Was this racism?

I don't think so; I just think it was a group response to someone different in their midst.

My presence made both sides of the situation uncomfortable, and yet we both knew we had no reason to be. I didn't go there often; maybe 3 or 4 times tops in the course of 5 or 6 years, and each time I felt the same.

Did they feel the same when they visited the white owned business I worked at? I doubt it; our place was always full of both races, so things weren't as one sided.

To makea long story short, if its not too late, maybe the feeling you get in both of these places isn't institutional or even individual racism, but only a sociological response to some one different?

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