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Archive for July, 2013

A few days ago, I became embroiled in a minor dustup about race in America.

The primary point of contention was that the South is more racist than other parts of the country.

This was my point of view at the time, and I felt qualified to speak on the matter because I was born in the South and lived there until the age of ten when my family moved to California.

Admittedly, I haven’t lived in the old home state since I was a kid, but I have many relatives still there and, it seems to me, that their racial attitudes are representative of the South as a whole.

On the other side of the fence, an acquaintance argued that racism existed everywhere in America today, particularly California.

I agreed with this sweeping assessment, but I pointed out that racism is more socially embedded in some sections of the country than in others.

In fact, I said, the South has a documented record of laws enshrining racist attitudes and practices, beginning with the first slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1619 and continuing to this day with recently enacted voting laws aimed specifically at making it difficult if not impossible for Blacks to vote.

At the same time, I admitted that other states, principally California, had a documented record of institutionalized bias against persons from Asia. San Francisco, for example, once enacted city ordinances prohibiting persons of Asian ancestry from attending school with whites. And statewide, California prohibited interracial marriages until 1949.

Perhaps equally pernicious were unwritten practices which had the effect of prohibiting Blacks from living in certain towns and areas. Taft, California, for instance, acquired a reputation as one of the norious Sundown Towns where Blacks were warned in graphic language on signs posted at town entrances to “Don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.”

On balance, however, the South must be counted as one of the most racist areas of the country. I liken racism in America to the volume dial on a radio. InĀ  many parts of the country, racism is muted, almost inaudible.

But as the dial is turned to loud, louder, and loudest, you reach the South where racism is like a mixture of bass and treble so loud that your ears burn and your stomach shakes.

It isn just a matter of whether and where racism exists, but where it is expressed in the loudest, most vociferous tones.

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