Wednesday, April 21, 2010

have you seen the KKK?

yesterday i was talking with one of my coworkers and i mentioned i was from Alabama. his response, like others i've gotten, have been questions about the race relations there (all of these people have been black). "isn't it scary living down there?" or "have you ever seen the KKK?"
moving to New York i had many people telling me this was a dangerous city filled with hoodlums, druggies, rapists and murderers. one of my coworkers in Alabama even offered me her mace when i told her i was moving. few, if any, of those individuals had actually been here, let alone lived here. and thats the same case with the New Yorkers i've encountered that ask me about the south.
it seems as though many northerners believe that the south is stuck in the 60's in which blacks are still being lynched on a daily basis, having to move off the sidewalk to let whites pass, and are constantly bombarded by the N-word. even moreso, they think that the KKK is still....running things, i guess.
my coworker asked me if i'd ever seen the KKK.
no, i haven't. although they do have the occasional rallies member orientation (??) in some smaller neighboring towns (i am from Enterprise. just think south of Montgomery and a little north of Florida). and if i ever had encountered the KKK, more and likely, they would give me some bullshit speech about how they don't really hate blacks and browns and Jews, they really just dislike miscegenation as opposed to real physical danger. i think people should be more alarmed by these blatantly racist groups, otherwise known as "tea parties" more than groups like the KKK which almost no one takes seriously anymore.

but i think the underlying implications are one, that the south hasn't progressed, two, that the north has and/or always was progressive, and third, that racism is always simple and overt.
in retrospect, i have encountered racism, but in ways that weren't really directed at me. i had a friend in elementary school that was forced into breaking up with her boyfriend in junior high by her parents because he was black. while the encounters i've had with her parents have been nothing but normal and pleasant. i've been in conversations with friends, where someone comes up and says to the person i'm talking with something like "did you hear Becky was pregnant? yea, and its by a BLACK man." to me: "....oh, no offense though." and at the time i was completely confused as to whether it actually was offensive. fortunately, i've progressed. other than that, i cannot say i have encountered blatant racism directed at me.

to the second and third point.....we all need to realize that racism exists everywhere. just because theres a ton of black people here, with blacks holding office and living in extravagant brownstones does not mean racism isn't here. it is there when you look at the black unemployment rate, the schools that are being closed down (most pupils being blacks and latino), in the schools populated by blacks and latinos that have less than average test scores and skyrocketing drop-out rates, and in the seat that no one will sit in on the subway more and likely because theres a black man next to it.
the other day my roommate, who is born and raised in Harlem, was telling me about how theres no white people living in projects, or at least not when he was growing up (he's in his late 20's). he said whites all lived in the rich neighborhoods, while almost all the blacks lived in lower-income housing, with no in-between. i asked him if this warped his concept of what he, or any black person could achieve, considering he knew not one black that was well off, let alone middle class....and he said it definitely did. and from what i've experienced, that is pretty much how it seems to be. there are some stops on the train in which only whites get on or off, and these are the rich areas, while any stop that has mainly minorities getting on or off are more and likely low or lower-income housing areas.
i might even go so far as to make the argument that the race relations are more warped in the north than in the south. most Jews are in one neighborhood, most Puetro Ricans in another, most Italians in another, Chinese in another, most blacks in one (which, as i've come to learn, are made of two sub-groups-one being "regular black", which is anyone that has no island heritage in their family, and then theres blacks from the Islands like Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, Barbados, etc. the latter is the nighborhood i live in. mostly....non-regular blacks?? irregular blacks??), most whites in another. i mean, one could almost assume that this segregation is government mandated. and with this separation comes ignorance. and ignorance breeds a plethora of problematic and counter-productive concepts, stereotypes, and ultimately racism. not to mention that it makes racist policies easier to implement when all one group is in one neighborhood.
in my hometown, there are whites, blacks, asians, hawaiians...and probably everything else. this could have something to do with the fact that Enterprise is right next to an army base, bringing in people from everywhere. but i think this is the case in the rest of my town. not that there is a lot of diversity-it's still mainly white. my point is more so that all of one group is not living in one neighborhood. there are blacks and whites in all of the neighborhoods. and the schools don't have all latinos and blacks going to one school while the whites all attend another.
then again, this may just be my town in particular considering it is neighboring a military base. maybe it is the anomaly . i don't think i can say the same for the smaller neighboring towns.

if you haven't been to the north, it is not what you think. and if you haven't been to the south, it is not what you think. not everywhere, anyway. then again, i probably can't speak about "the north" and "the south" considering i'm really only mentioning my small town vs. NYC.

think. travel. comment. offer your perspective.

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