August 13, 2007

Ignorance Breeds Ignorance

Ignorance breeds ignorance. This was the first thought that entered my mind while viewing a talk show about the Ku Klux Klan.

The KKK is bad enough in itself, but the panelists, from some place in rural Georgia, were giving a bad impression of Southerners, in general, because they were acting rude, uncouth, and all seemed to have the maturity of ten or twelve year old children.

There was an elderly man who proclaimed himself to be the leader of the group, who included his own wife. There was a younger woman with two small children, and two young men who looked to be in their teens, or twenties. It was difficult to determine, because they were all attired in their Klansmen robes --including the children.

The reaction of the audience was hostile, of course, which made the panelists more angry, seemingly, further showing their immaturity.

Seeing this brought back an unpleasant memory of something that occurred when I was about ten or eleven years old.

We lived in Oxford, a little town in Alabama. A family of seven in two small rooms, in a building that was called "the mule barn", because that is what it had been at one time. We lived over the mule barn, because that was the best that Daddy, my stepfather, could do. He provided a roof over our heads, and food on the table. He was a good man, as much as he knew how to be.

When he got paid -- which was every two weeks -- he paid his bills, which included the bill at the small grocery store where he bought groceries every two weeks. The problem was that the bill that he would currently be paying, was for the groceries he had bought two weeks before, and the next two weeks' groceries would be bought on credit again. Never-the-less, he paid his bills on time.

After paying the grocery bill, he would pay any utilities due, which would have been for gas, water, and electricity -- because we had no other luxuries such as a telephone or anything else. Only after taking care of these responsibilities would he go to the bootlegger, pay his bill there, and get his supply of "white lightening" -- on credit, of course --which he would drink over the next two, or three, or four days. As a result of this, there were certain people who decided that he needed a lesson in "morality."

I will never forget how frightened we all were when we looked outside one night to see a cross burning in our yard, around which stood several men in hooded white garments. They stood silently, staring in menacing intimidation. We knew what the KKK was, and what they were capable of doing if their first warning went unheeded.
Perhaps, you are thinking that we were a black family who were victims of racism. We were not. We were a family who lived in poverty, and because of that, were considered "poor white trash." Bigotry, racism, hatred, and self righteousness of any kind...they come in all colors, and know no parameters.

I don't remember much more about that event, except that we moved shortly afterwards.
No, Daddy didn't change after that. He didn't know how to change. He was doing what he knew to do, because that was the only kind of life that he, himself, had ever known. All that it accomplished, I suppose, was that he had been humiliated, and made to feel less of a man than he already felt. That to him, I know, was devastating, because regardless of anything, and as strange as it sounds, Daddy was a proud man. He would never accept anything from anyone, unless he could give something in return. As I said before, he was only doing what he knew to do.

Remembering the pain that I had felt as a child, I could feel nothing but pity, and compassion, for the panelists on the television talk show. And for the audience, as well. I wondered if they recognized what was being played out before them. I wondered if they -- any of them --realized that until the cycle is broken, ignorance breeds ignorance.

And it hurts. It hurts me still.


rockync said...

It never seems to end, does it? Why some human beings need someone to hate is beyond me. Isn't life hard enough? The desire of these people to want to hurt and degrade others sickens me. My life long defense has been to raise my own children to never judge someone by thier color or circumstance but to judge a person by their character and actions.

Jan said...

rockync...yes, there will always be that sort of thing in the world, human nature being what it is...but you are a wise person to recognize the hurt and degradation of it, and to try to effect a change.

And by the wawy...welcome, friend.

DNR said...

All I can say is wow!

I too have tried to raise my sons with colorless eyes.

Jan said...

Thanks, dnr...good for you, and your sons are blessed.

The awful thing is that when one hears of an event such as I have written about, most think that it always involved the Negro in the south, but as you can see, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the South, especially, or at least where I lived as a child, if you were very poor you were treated no differently from the way Blacks were treated at that time. I suffered greatly because of that fact.

For that reason, I get really frustrated when I hear so much whining about the inequality suffered by any group, especially if it is coming from those who are hanging onto the coattails, and benefitting from those who endured the real deal back then.

Besides, now, that particular thing has turned around, and it has become reverse discrimination, anyway.

rockync said...

Thanks for the welcome, Jan. I like to visit thoughtful bloggers, even the ones I don't always agree with. You bring up a good point, that prejudice and hate aren't always about color. My parents are foreign born and speak with rather heavy accents. As a child I witnessed several men making fun of my father behind his back. He is a smart man, well-read and always a hard worker and their behavior was pretty upsetting. Probably what affected me the most was a schoolyard incident. I was in fourth grade when my school integrated. One black girl and I became friends. Her clothes were worn but always clean, her hair was always fixed and she had nice manners. We were in the yard when several other girls walked up and one said,"My daddy says you're a dirty n-----." That little girl's face just collapsed and she ran off crying. I never forgot this incident and it helped shape my actions in adult life.

Jan said...

It is unbelievable how cruel some people can be, and to be cruel to a child is especially hateful in my eyes.

I'm sure that your parents were fine people, but i'm also sure that they were hurt by the thoughtlessness of others...all because they spoke with a different accent. How sad.

rockync said...

Jan, I figure how sad for them that they miss the opportunity to meet some really extraordinary people by being so close minded. How wonderful for us that we get to meet all these wonderful people.

Jan said...

Yes...and what a wonderfully diverse group we are!