Friday, September 24, 2004

The South's ugly colors

Misty's mom got moved into her new apartment last week. It was a long process of packing and cleaning before the big day arrived. The landlord at the new place was kind enough to give us the keys early and said we could start moving things in as soon as we wanted — just so long as the apartment wasn't occupied until the 15th. I made several trips from her old home to the new one with my little Jetta loaded up with boxes and other things that wouldn't fit well into boxes.

My mother-in-law's new apartment complex is full of old ladies. These women don't have much to do in their day to day lives, so any new activity is met with a captive audience. Each time I made a trip over there to unload boxes, one neighbor or another would come out and introduce herself. Each of them expressed enthusiasm that someone was moving into their little community. They were cleary a friendly bunch.

On one such cleaning/moving trip, I had the help of Misty and her aunt and uncle. We moved a whole bunch of stuff over, and as usual, a couple of the old ladies came outside to offer their greetings. They told us how long they'd been residents and assured us that Misty's mom was going to like living there. "It's very safe here," we were told. "And we've been lucky that we've never had any of those kind of people move in."

I swear to God, I thought she meant noisy college kids.

But no. Uncle Mike knew what she meant, and he chimed right in. "So, y'all ain't got no niggers here, huh?"

My jaw dropped.

"No, we don't have any niggers," the nice hateful old lady said with a chuckle.

The conversation continued with the word "nigger" being droped several more times back and forth along the way.

The whole time I kept my mouth shut because I was too timid to stand up for what was right. All I could think of was how much that hateful word reinforces the stereotype that the South is full of ignorant redneck trash. I thought of Sidney Poiter in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" when he said: "Not until your entire generation has lain down and died will the weight of you finally be off our backs!" *

Ah yes, what a wonderful community Misty's mother has moved into.

* I can't find the exact quote, so I may be a bit off.

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