Oops! Excuse my accidental racism

My 70's class
 from Pearl River Central, Carriere, Mississippi
Have you ever just said the wrong thing?

Have you ever been so comfortable with your own skin that you made an off color joke about someone else’s?

Or, do you harbor deep thoughts of ill will and dislike that eventually the inside darkness spills out into sunlight, the thoughts become words or actions, leaking out the poison that is within your skin cells?

Then you might be a racist.

Being Southern, talking all country and stuff, doesn’t mean you were born racist, or that is okay to act racist or its mandatory that you apologize and make up for a racist history.

This country gal is a product of a changing world that has embraced the good parts of being from south Mississippi and pushed the ugly back into a dark precipice.

I have witnessed a transformation of white and black growing up together in the sixties and seventies. Uniquely, I am the generation of moving past racial lines.

Honestly, we know this racial transition period has been a rollercoaster ride of high hills and free falls, constantly pushing forward. In this century, the ride is moving forward, slowly sometimes, but edging along, hitting bumps along the way.

We still have some folks living in the past, some hanging on to bitterness, some who will never live in harmony and so we have to skirt around these folks in our progress.

Yet, our society punishes severely for any miss-steps along the way.

When one of these racial boo boo’s occurs, I can feel the heat of a judgmental glare from the media.

Is that white guilt?

Am I nicer to one race because I feel obligated? Or, am I just nice? Or is it just that I like everyone I meet regardless of culture, color, size, religion, gender or sexual preference.

It’s after I meet them when I generally decide if I like them or not. Just sayin.

Strange as it may be, but I love people, not just selected people. Isn’t that what my Christian faith taught me?
My Southern Mississippi school

I look back at my milk toast life and I am not guilty of anything drastic. Living integrated was normal for me, a first grader in 1969, where my only separation of colors was at the movie theater. Why did they seat us according to color?

The ‘Oops’ moment is Paula Deen’s racial slurs and inappropriate ramblings from 1986. She is in apology mode.

The country is in point fingers or excuse it mode.

Celebrities are held to higher moral standard and once the deed is brought to media life, then the 24/7 cycle news begins to fatten up with pile-on opinions, debate and more racial comments for and against. Yakitty Yak.

Do I know the Paula Deen’s of this world? Yes. They too were a product of another generation that has had to adapt despite their upbringing and in our environment of growth, they have made mistakes along the way.

I do not excuse Ms. Deen but I do understand her. We all make choices and some come back to haunt us.

If these comments were from the 2000’s, maybe then we should pounce upon her so vehemently. Why can’t the world take a step back and see how she responds. Her reputation has been smudged and someone’s pocket book will become fat as we dispense moral justice now via the mighty dollar.

Whether guilty or not, the hint of racial injustice is enough to bring down a house of cards, and in this case, a Southern mansion built on old southern prejudices.

Sometimes people are accidentally/on purpose guilty of racism, or rather guilty of trying to blend in while ignoring the rights and wrongs of a situation.

It’s the dirty joke in the room syndrome where some will be offended but instead of leaving, they join in the laughter. It’s a rationale moral moment.

To a degree, we are all guilty of something. We have all been accidentally racist through deed or thought or word.

Its these events that remind us, that yes, we have moved forward, but not everyone is picking up their feet. We got some stragglers.

Should we hold racism acts that were made decades ago up to the same criticism light of today’s acts?

My upbringing skipped certain teachings of inappropriateness, such as the use of the word, “nappy.” With my frizzy hair that always seemed to puff out as soon as I walked outside, my term for the out of control curl was nappy.

A good friend helped me understand the offensiveness of the word and I went from being accidental racist to respectful and informed. This was before the Imus foot in the mouth episode where nappy received national attention.

Sadly, my hair is still frizzy.

Many older folks have used negative language all their many decades of living, and their old habits are hard to break. They have been informed by the younglin’s of certain words that must be omitted from their vocabulary, but let’s face it, old dogs forget.

They are in truth, accidental in their verbiage, but thankfully, not in their hearts. The meaning of words do change as do the intent in which they are said. Old Southerners are not completely innocent of their reputations but are far removed from the evil plantation owners stereotype.

I am so glad that growing up in Southern Mississippi I did not feel better than others, entitled, or embrace
PRC kids in the 70's....
any leftover racism attitudes that were still around at that time. I am so glad I did not have parents encouraging me to dislike black schoolmates but rather just treated all my friends the same.

Was it all rosy? No. If I were to have dated someone from another race, my community would have looked down upon this as shocking. Just a friendship with my friend Joe had some tongues a wagging with whispers and outspoken nasty comments.

But, we are still highly sensitive today, maybe not of interracial connections, we are blending the colors quite nicely now, but the words, insults, and ugliness continues to rear its head. The Trayvon trial still reminds us that those bumps can be tragic.

It is hard to clear all the years of hatred, anger, and bitterness from the slate.

Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J. tried to start up a conversation about racial issues this year with their musical collaboration, Accidental Racist. People did start talking, mocking, and laughing. Did it help? Or did it hurt?

Paula Deen is paying for past mistakes, for acting the way society at that time found acceptable. What if I were to make it big, what skeletons would be in my closet? Have I tried to impress a crowd that thought the N-word was okay to say?

Would my record be white?

Happily in those days, not everyone had a recording device everywhere I went!
PRC Elementary class
from the early 70's

I recently talked with a friend who was dealing with some upper elitist, white Southerners in her church and found them cliquish, opinionated, and highly intolerable of outsiders. It had nothing to do with color as they shared the same pigmentation.

I think the attitude of racism boils down to just a way of excluding. Skin color is just one form of exclusion which in extremes, is hatred of anything different and the fear of that which threatens them in some way.

Southern Racism in general, to me, is not about hatred of race, but about a way of life that has been deemed acceptable in its attitude, its speech, and it’s exclusion of change. Thankfully, it’s a fading trend.

Southerners are burdened with those souls that just hate to hate, with evil in their heart, using the tool of racism for an excuse to wield their internal anger, but these are the exceptions and not bred in every good ol’ boy or girl.

True racism is to feel better than someone, to think others should act or look uniformly to be accepted.

I must confess that I am a racist. I have a dislike for people who are intolerant against other people.

So, sue me. Hate me because I am white, hate me because I am Southern, hate me because I am a Christian, hate me because I am a Star Wars geek, hate me because I am a right hander, hate me because I choose Coca Cola over Pepsi and dogs over cats!

PRC always chose Coca Cola
Location of Coca Cola in Picayune, MS
They advertised in our Yearbook!

In the Paisley lyrics of the “Accidental Racist” he does sum up the mood of the Southern nation:

“I’m proud of where I’m from 
But not everything we’ve done…
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells,
Fightin’ over yesterday, and caught between southern pride and southern blame.”

Yep, that about ‘splains it.


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