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Living with not-so-tolerant kin - Ed Brock

Here's to the racists I've known and loved.

We'll start with a close female relative whose identity I'll withhold because she's still alive and will kick my butt. Actually, she wasn't too bad, and it was mostly a peer-pressure thing, I think.

When I was a young man just beginning to take an interest in the fair sex I made it known that my desires included young ladies of all races. I also stated unequivocally that ethnicity would be no boundary in my choice of a future wife.

And so this dear woman, surely with my own good at heart, took it upon herself to try and dissuade me from that proclivity, telling me horrible myths I chose not to repeat about what a terrible fate awaited the children of such a union. I didn't give in, and I'll grant that this relative and the other racists in my family (sadly, there are more) have been very accepting of my current mixed marriage.

Of course, my wife is Asian and for some reason that's OK with them, so long as she isn't black. But hey, maybe next time.

All this came to mind when I saw on the news a member of Lester Maddox's family saying that those who knew this man who chased black people from his restaurant with a stick rather than "give in" to segregation loved him anyway.

In a sense, I can understand that, for the reason above and those given below.

Now, the reason I think my close female relative, who is by her nature truly loving of all people regardless of race, surrendered to her segregationist views is because she grew up in a conservative family during a time when the South was undergoing its great civil rights battle. Like so many others of her generation, her perspective is simply that those people are generally very nice, but they have their world and we have ours.

It's fine to talk to them on the street or at work, but you don't have them over to dinner and you most assuredly don't have them in the family.

There are others who retained even more of the ways of the Old South. My uncle, another man whom I've always loved and admired except for this one foible, has never been beyond telling a racist joke every now and then.

And yet, I don't believe that even in his youth he was ever inclined to take an ax-handle to those African Americans who were fighting for the rights that come with the latter half of that label. In fact, my uncle has boasted on more than one occasion his protestation of a Ku Klux Klan meeting that was held down their street at a time when the Klan was still very powerful.

But that same uncle and his wife, when they learned I was dating some lass, would often ask "Is she white?"

I can't blame it all on age, either. My otherwise favorite cousin who lives in New Orleans and is but 10 years my senior freely uses "The N word." But he's quick to point out that it doesn't apply to every person of color, only those he doesn't like.

So as for Lester Maddox, I suppose I can have a little sympathy for his family, maybe, just a li? ah, no, no, I can't! He chased people with a stick, for God's sake!

It's difficult to grow up in Dixie and maintain an open, non-prejudiced mind. Am I to disown my family? Rather, I simply argue them down whenever the subject comes up and accept them for what they are.

After all, they're mostly that "harmless" kind of racist, and I'm willing to bet they exist on both sides of the great racial divide. Some have changed, like the close female relative who now allows any number of black people right into her house.

Bravo!

And there are bright lights, an enlightened few who have encouraged me in my rainbow-colored philosophy.

My father is one example. Of course, he's a homophobe, but nobody's perfect.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.