A Budding Racist

Allow me to relate an incident which took place out on the front porch a few days ago.  It intrigued me, and perhaps you might find it to be of interest as well.

It was another warm and humid evening after a typically hot July day.  I had been upstairs in my room reading and playing music but I’d become restless.  I thought that perhaps a walk might be salutary.

I came out onto the front porch and found three young female figures sitting side by side on the front steps.  To my right was fourteen-year-old Ronnie, Myrlene’s younger daughter.  I get along well with Ronnie; I’ve known her since she was nine.

To my left was Cheyenne, one of Ronnie’s best friends.  Cheyenne is thirteen, a very pretty mixed-race girl.  She has a bad family situation, with an abusive black father and an ineffectual white mother — an all-too-common scenario in Hannibal.

Between the two girls was a much younger one, a scrawny nine-year-old girl with a scowl on her face.  I could sense tension in the air, so I sat down in a chair behind the trio, partly out of curiosity and partly to see if my mediation services might be of some help.

I had walked into a heated discussion of racist attitudes.  Evidently Alexis, the nine-year-old, had made some slighting comments about Cheyenne’s skin color.  Ronnie was remonstrating with her:

“Alexis, saying things like that is just stupid and hurtful!  Cheyenne is my friend, and as a matter of fact most of my good friends are black.”

Alexis countered with:

“My grandma says I shouldn’t ever be around black people, ‘cuz they’re bad.”

How to react to statements like this from a child?  I put in my two bits:

“Alexis, your grandma might be the sweetest and kindest grandma ever, but even nice grandmas can have wrong and harmful views.  If you are going to live in Hannibal you’ll be much happier if you learn to appreciate and get along with black people, as well as Mexicans and orientals.  Listen to Ronnie; she knows!”

Alexis turned her head and gave me a sneer, as if to say “Your opinion doesn’t cut much ice with me, mister!”

I sat back and listened as the three girls wrangled in a low-key manner, probably just one of many such discussions taking place in Hannibal about that ever-contentious issue.

I felt sorry for Cheyenne, as she has inner conflicts about her mixed parentage and her skin color.  Unlike Ronnie, Cheyenne is still in school and has to endure the thoughtless and cruel comments of her redneck peers.




Filed under Hannibal

3 responses to “A Budding Racist

  1. Joan

    Well, Larry, you and Ronnie did your best, but you know that song from “South Pacific”: ‘You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught.’

    On July 4, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act , setting off racial mayhem. Now, here we are in 2010, and even though we have a Black president, this racial poison is still handed down to the next generation. In fact, it has never really left parts of the South, and make no mistake about it, Hannibal is way too southern for my comfort zone.

    I watched (most) of the Elena Kagan hearings on public TV this week. Southern senators repeatedly grilled her about her ‘relationship’ with Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall fergoshsakes! As if he were someone whose company should have been avoided. I flashed back to the McCarthy hearings. (“Have you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”) “Have you now or have you ever been a close friend of Thurgood Marshall” seems to have become the new mantra of these southern senators in an effort to stain her record. Yeah.. this will pull a lot of votes in an increasingly African American and Spanish speaking electorate.

    Following is a link to a great review of our blotchy senatorial past by NYT’s Frank Rich . Hope it works. If not then cut and paste.


  2. Interesting editorial piece by Rich. This link might work:

    Fourth of July 1776, 1964, 2010

  3. Joan

    Thanks, Larry. Strangely enough both links work now. Who knew?

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