Eclectic Floridian: Southern Whites and Blacks - Modern History

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Southern Whites and Blacks - Modern History

I read the yK Rebel Ass diary by grapes. It talks about the South as a political entity. It engendered thoughts that are really off topic, so I thought I'd diarize (new word?) it myself. Some light may be thrown on the South as a political entity, but that isn't the intent.

I was raised in pre-Disney Orlando, then, a sleepy southern town. My grandparents, as was normal for reasonably affluent southerners then, had a black woman, Rosa, to help in the house, and a black gardener, Rosa's husband. This was in the early 1950's and I was about six years old.

Rosa grew bitter about the plight of blacks in the south and moved to Chicago, where she had relatives. Only a year passed, when she returned. My mother asked her why:

My mother told us of Rosa's answer and I've remembered it for the last 55 years. Note, I remember Rosa as a loving care-giver, not as a servant. When my family came for dinner she always managed to have one of my favorite dishes, she'd give me a big, sweet hug and a kiss on the cheek and tell me she had missed me.

When Mom asked Rosa why she came back to the south, Rosa replied:

"Miss Virginia," she said, "the Powell family (my Mom's family) has always been good to us. When my husband got drunk and arrested, your daddy went down and bailed him out of jail. You've always paid us well and treated us with respect. You've treated us as good friends, not as servants or slaves.

I have friends that work for other white families and they are treated the same way. But, most white folks in town don't treat us that way.

Even though you treat us well, I came to feel that you controlled our lives, not us. I wanted to try living on my own, without the control of a white family.

Up north, in Chicago, I learned something. I learned the difference between North and South attitudes toward blacks.

Up North, whites say they accept blacks as equals, but dislike them as individuals. Down South, whites say the don't like blacks as a race, but accept them as equals individually."

My attitude on race relations has been colored by that last paragraph for all my years. After all, how do we judge anyone, regardless of race, if not by their actions, if not as individuals? Judgements formed any other way are, at best statistical approximations, at worst, simple bigotry.

A heartfelt, Thank You Rosa ... and a big hug!


Blogger Michael van der Galien said...


Very good article: forces one to re-thing certain... prejudices.

6/18/2006 12:39 PM  

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