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Monday, March 23, 2015

THE SOUTH AND RACISM

mary hourihan lynch

Went and watched the race today, not in a good mood. Not in a bad mood either, just dissatisfied. I need a break from television every Sunday afternoon and evening. Arrived as the race started and left soon after it was over. March Madness, saw Wichita State beat Kansas State, so glad those places are no longer in my life. The only way I can figure my soul found its way to Kansas this time was maybe I saw the movie The Wizard of Oz in last lifetime while having a miserable time of it, dreaming of Judy Garland in Kansas with red shoes, there's no place like home. All my life I've wondered what kind of karmic activity in my past landed me in Kansas and a fundamentalist church to complicate it further. Could I have been drawn to the landscape from lifetimes riding a horse and wearing feathers on the plains following the buffalo? I recall a powerful moment in childhood, some time not long after learning about the Indians from my grandmother, who had an older brother who was said to have traded horses with Sitting Bull. I felt like the Indians were my real people. I got mixed up and born into white skin this time. I remember thinking in childhood, maybe seven or eight, my people will never recognize me. I am the enemy and they can never see me any other way. It was a lonesome feeling, something like lost in space. In childhood play, I only identified with the Indians. In movies and tv westerns, I only pulled for the Indians, knowing they'd lose, but they were my people. I have never felt comfortable white, especially seeing how arrogant white people act toward people of any other pigmentation. I have never felt comfortable with people of other colors, because I can't help it I'm white. I know a lot of other white people who feel the same way. We don't make headlines. We just get called nigger lovers. 

mary hourihan lynch

And that's ok. If it wasn't that, it would be something else. This is human existence. I can't change it anyplace but in myself. Racists I know don't go about hurting black people, as far as I know. Their racism is their concern, not mine. The same as I don't want racists to have a problem with me for not being a racist, I don't have a problem with racists. It's their business. I regret that the corporate takeover of our government is so vehemently racist. It's in the nature of fascism, however, you gotta have a focus for hate. Hate is the wave fascism rides. I find it interesting, not ironic, the people who call them selves Christian cling to fascism and wallow in hate. Ask any Jew who survived the Thirties and Forties in Europe. It was Christians all over Europe killing Jews, not just the German Christians. Again, my only concern is that I do no harm to Jews, black people, Latin American people, even white people. Here, too, applies being in the world not of it. I live in a multi-cultural world. I'm ok with it being multi-cultural. I like that it is multi-cultural. I am in a given race, but I do not have to partake of the arrogance of whiteness. Racism has a place, for sure, in Southern culture, but Southern culture is not entirely racist. Look at the great Southern writers. Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers. They were not racist. Though the politicians and evangelists largely are. It's about the same mix all over the country since the rise of fascist propaganda. Here again, it's the world I live in, but I don't have to be of it, don't have to do what somebody else does. And they don't have to do what I do. My racist friends know where I stand and I know where they stand. No big deal. 

mary hourihan lynch

This is an aspect of the South the people outside the South don't get. Southerners I know tend to be tolerant of people they don't approve of or don't like. Southerners want peace among one another. I don't mean there is no fighting or hate going on, but I have found on the whole Southerners to be peaceable people in their everyday lives. I appreciate Southern culture so much, one aspect that might be objectionable does not diminish the whole. Yankees don't do well in the South, only because of their arrogance toward Southerners. Condescension is obvious from the receiving end. I recall a woman several years ago, here from Connecticut, dissatisfied after a couple years. She was wanting to kick up a fuss over how some man kept his dog. She called herself an animal rescuer. She wanted to force him to take better care of his dog by some kind of idea of justice. She'd got herself into a fix that frightened her. I told her let it rest. You're in the South. You don't tell a man in the South what to do with his property, and to some a dog is property. She couldn't let it rest, it wasn't right. I attempted to explain right has nothing to do with it. I reminded her that in the South she is a foreigner, she has no backup. I recommended she let the dog issue rest. She couldn't do it. It wasn't right. She pursued it, got herself into a heap of trouble by way of threats, freaked out and left the county. She loved it here, but it wasn't enough like where she came from. She could not accept the people around her as themselves. She wanted them to be different. She was so caught up in being right, my talk about letting it go was, itself, not right. She wanted to be right. Ok. Be right. Have a good time.

mary hourihan lynch

I don't have to be every aspect of Southern culture to live happily in the South. For example, I'm not interested in college football games or barbecue. But I do like the Allman Brothers, George Thorogood and the Dirty South Revolutionaries. The South has many sub-cultures, all of them Southern. All have that something special that is Southern. It's an identity with the South, not an ideology or political belief system, nor a religion. The South has Catholic churches and synagogues aplenty, as well as temples of all the religions. There is a Tibetan monastery in Georgia.  We live in peace as Southerners. The greatest characteristic I know of the South is the readiness to allow others to be who they are. Though certain aspects of the belief systems don't necessarily accord with what they claim to believe, it's tradition and that's the end of it. Some years ago a Yankee friend told me it is my responsibility to teach one of my racist friends not to be a racist. I said it is not my responsibility. He believed it was. I maintained it was not. I still believe it is not my responsibility to set out to change anybody's pattern of thinking, not even my right. I woke this morning with the incident in my mind, talking with self about allowing others the autonomy of their own minds. I don't know of another way to live in peace with the people in my world, wherever I live, all the way to rural Thailand. I allow them their own understandings, they allow me mine. I don't like Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door telling me they're right and I'm wrong. It seems to me basic human decency to allow others their own autonomy. If I expect to be allowed my own, then I allow others their own. For me to tell somebody else their way of thinking is unacceptable and must change, I'm giving somebody down the line permission to do the same to me.  
  
janice lynch schuster and her mother mary hourihan lynch


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2 comments:

  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, TJ. Your closing line sums it all up perfectly. I've learned in recovery: a) to accept the things I cannot change, b) to change the things I can, and c) to strive for wisdom to know the difference. I also learned that you cannot change anyone but yourself. You can live according to your code and if others see something in it that speaks to them, well then they have the option to adopt it in their own lives. But you cannot make them change and to attempt it is pure folly. Thank you for spelling out this aspect of being Southern — though the same principle applies to everyone — so eloquently.

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  2. Thanks, Rob. What you said means a lot to me. Esp coming from a Rebel by birth. Not telling other people what to do was a slow learning for one trained in youth to fundamentalism as truth itself. The part I had the hardest part with was believing my particular church of less than 20 people was the only one that was right. Then years later, in a mountain old-time religion church, it too was the only one that was right, all others wrong. Last hospital visit a fundamentalist woman came into the room and wanted to talk about salvation. I wanted her to leave, but my Southern side couldn't say it, then a nurse came in and she left. I thanked God for the relief. Just about every man I know is racist and they all know I'm not. They don't care that I'm not, because I don't care that they are. I don't want to live in a world of clones of my own ego. Racism is something that starts with babies when adults teach a baby just learning to talk to say nigger and then everybody laughs like crazy when the kid says it. The kid is affirmed and believes from the start racism gets positive attention. It's like saying to somebody, your mother is a whore, to try to change it in them. It goes that deep. For myself, acceptance and allowing others their own thinking is the foundation of my own peace of mind. At the grocery store today in line at the register, a black man I'd never seen before stepped up behind me with two items. I told him to go ahead of me. He was so surprised he hesitated. Me, a white-haired Fox tv watching profile,
    I said, Go ahead, I'm in no hurry. The woman at the register told me twice that was a nice gesture. I said I can't stand to unload my basket with somebody behind me holding two items. If he'd been white she would not have said anything. And the black man expressed his gratitude as he paid up and left. I thought racism is worse than I thought when such a minuscule gesture is lauded as praiseworthy. I'd have done the same if he'd been a redneck.

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