Friday, March 14, 2008

Maintaining Segregation

When I made the commitment to start blogging again, my goal wasn't to come here and report everyday on how racism is alive and thriving in my area. But some stuff, I just gotta tell.

I live in an area of the South that was largely biracial--(non-Hispanic) black and white--and racially stratified for most of the 20th century. But, in the early 21st century, things, at least on the surface, are changing. The geographic boundaries that separated the "black" and "white" sections of town are increasingly disregarded. Poultry processing plants and timber industries have attracted a number of Latino residents to the area. And we have our first black mayor.

There is the problem of white flight--there are fewer than ten white students at the local school, though the town is still about one-third white. Still, it's changed significantly since I was growing up here.

Yesterday, my younger cousin was at our house visiting my son and nephew. At some point, he was ready to go so that he could play basketball at the gym of First Baptist Church. I was a bit surprised as First Baptist is a "white" church. The only church with a predominantly white congregation in my town that routinely reaches out to the whole community* is Pisgah Baptist. My son and nephew asked to go and my dad said no. When they walked out the door, he told me the reason he said no was, "I don't see how they can justify letting the black kids have just one night."

"What?" I asked. He repeated it. I asked for more details and he explained. The gym is open five nights a week. White children can go two nights, Latino children can go two nights, and black children get Thursday night.

"What?" I mean, that's all I could say. "Is that what people do or did the church people say that?" I asked my dad. Again, he repeated the breakdown. "No, Daddy. Did they say that?"

And my dad, who's a deacon at my church, finally confirmed that, yes, they said that. They extended the invitation to our church officers that way. And our pastor politely declined.

I'm still saying "what?" What makes the people at First Baptist think this is okay? Because I really believe they think they're being generous. What makes them think our kids can't play together? And why, as I've told this story over and over to (black) people in the last 24 hours, has the response still been, "Why do our kids get only one night?"

Apparently, we've become so accustomed to the division that it's like second nature.
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*Which is not to imply that the black churches here do conduct community-wide outreach programs. The churches, at least, have changed little.

4 comments:

JustMe said...

all i can say is wow.

and i think it's great you put this on your blog. b.c there are still so many ppl who think segregation, etc no longer exists.

katecontinued said...

I am 60 and I am feeling that my life was for nothing. This is shattering.

elle said...

Thanks justme!

Kate, no, no, no. I definitely don't want you to feel anything you've done is purposeless. Things are changing here.

It's just sad that it's taking so damned long!

Brian said...

The worst thing for me was that I wasn't surprised when I got to the disturbing part of the story. Angry? Sure. But not surprised.

And the worst part is that the church officers who extended the offer probably felt, on some level, that they were being liberal and accepting by making the offer in the first place. How screwed up is that?

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...