Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Racism, What is it Good For?
Part II

Wow! Doesn't that sound formal! My opinions are so profound, they must be divided into PARTS! Maybe I should stop now. Nah...

When I was a child in California, back in the 'fifties, racial prejudice was rampant and open. There was no such thing as "political correctness." The shit just flew. I was fortunate to have parents who may have had some prejudices, but they weren't necessarily negative, and they definitely weren't hostile. My dad worked in the steel mill, alongside men of many different ethnic backgrounds, including "colored." He was friends with at least one black man that I remember, mainly because of the following incident. Dad brought Charlie home for dinner one evening. My little sister, Judy, was two years old and very cute and engaging. As Daddy and Charlie were sitting at the table talking, Judy was standing nearby and staring at Charlie. Charlie started talking to her and she was all smiles. He picked her up and sat her on his lap. She reached up to his face and wiped her hand across his cheek, and then looked at her palm. At first, the adults wondered what she was doing. Then she did it again, and looked puzzled when there was nothing on her palm. Then everyone burst out laughing, realizing that she thought the color on his brown cheek was painted on! There was no animosity on the part of anyone involved. It was just funny and innocent.

My mother also had black friends now and then, depending where we lived. Most neighborhoods were segregated, but the lines of demarcation were sometimes fuzzy, so we occasionally had black and Mexican neighbors. I remember one "colored" friend of Mom's that I am grateful to. My sisters and I had contracted a lively case of pinworms. Maybell gave Mom a recipe for a thick, dark syrup containing lots of garlic. We were given a few doses of that syrup and Voila! Pinworms were history.

The only thing that bothers me now is remembering that both parents and their families used the "N-word" freely. They didn't call colored people ni**ers, but they used the term sometimes. The only things I remember right now is their term for Brazil nuts - "ni**er toes" and the child's verse, "Eeny, meeny, miny moe. Catch a ni**er by the toe, etc." Remember that, any of you other geezers out there? I know there were lots of other references, but I can't remember them. When I had my children, Brazil nuts were only called Brazil nuts and I changed the second line of "eeny meeny" to "catch a tiger by the toe." The kids were teenagers before they heard the original verse.

Hell's bells. I guess there's going to have to be a Part III. I'm too sleepy to finish now.

9 comments:

One Man’s Opinion said...

Brazilian nuts equal nigger toes? That is priceless. I knew the "catch a nigger by the toe" thing though. My grand mother told me that was the original verse. She also told me that when people said "cotton picking" what ever, it had negative connotations.

Anyway, I'll tell you what racism is good for, Madam Z. I mean, without racism, how would we know who to hate and who to like? Who to trust and distrust. Rasicm makes this easier for us to makes these blanket decisions without have the bother getting to know other folks.
I was going to say your parents were like my mom until I read down to the end. My mom never taught me racism. My entire life, until I was in my twenties, I had never heard the lady say anything negative about anyone that was race related. Amazing but true. She just honestly did not base her opinions of other on their nationality. Nope, i had to go to school and stuff to learn that crap and thank goodness I did, otherwise I'd still think that all men was created equal What kind of crap is that?

Just kidding. Racism sucks, but I understand it and that's the bottom line. Actually, I don't understand all of it so just disregard this entire comments.

electro-kevin said...

The word 'nigger' has become taboo like no other.

I don't think it's right. It hands massive privilege to one race where all others can be insulted more freely.

Madam Z said...

omo: We both learned something here! I didn't know that "cotton picking" had negative connotations. And yeah, I guess being racist IS easier than making the effort to "get to know other folks."

As for your third paragraph, I think I gave you the wrong impression of my folks, somehow. My parents "never taught me racism" either! They didn't base their "opinions of others on their nationality"...except maybe Polacks... (Just kidding)

ek: I agree that "The word 'nigger' has become taboo like no other," (I can't even make myself TYPE it. I had to use cut and paste.) there are still SOME restrictions on pejorative terms for other ethnic groups. E.g. I very seldom hear or see the terms spic, wop, dago, kike, mick, squarehead (that's me, by the way), redskin, or gook anymore.

DCup said...

Reminds me of sitting on the school bus behind a little white kid who was sitting next to a little African American kid.

"Hey! You look like a chocolate donut!" the white kid said to the black kid.

"Hey! You look like a powdered donut!" said the black kid back.

I laughed my ass off. Quietly.

Madam Z said...

dcup: That's pretty funny, all right! For some reason, it made me think of that song from the musical, "Hair." Black boys, white boys... Do you know what I'm referring to?

Utah Savage said...

Ah yes, sadly, I remember it all. In the fifties and early into the sixties we had a restaurant, a very popular restaurant here, called The Coon Chicken Inn. One drove up to the the huge, grinning face of a black man with a huge grin and the whites of his huge eyes showing. His mouth was wide open and his teeth were very white. His tongue was a pink shag rug and the the doors opened into a fairly ordinary restaurant, specializing in racism and good chicken. The race consciousness of the sixties shut it down, finally.

Dr. Zaius said...

I was born in the sixties, and I remember all of that racism as well. Even television shows were rife with it.

Dr. Monkey Hussein Monkerstein said...

Your family sounded a lot like mine.

S E E Quine said...

OMG! The way my insane dad used to rattle on and on, and me unable to figure out what the hell he was talking about, I had no idea what he meant by 'nigger toes' until I was 12!
` Speaking of which, didn't know that about eenie meenie.

` They had some kind of remedy for pinworms? No way!!

And one man's opinion; Lol!!

I agree with you Electro Kevin. Hey, did you know that Eskimo is derogatory for Inuit people, and it means 'eaters of raw blubber', you know, because... blugh!

Z: I very seldom hear or see the terms spic, wop, dago, kike, mick, squarehead (that's me, by the way), redskin, or gook anymore.

Those are the races of the world my dad taught me!!! Lol!!

Coon Chicken Inn! Lol! So it DID exist! (Like in Ghost World, where it indirectly plays a huge role in the plot!)