Racism Isn’t Dead Yet, It’s Just Been Accepted As “Normal”

Jamie Clayton50 years ago, a bomb took the lives of 4 black girls in Birmingham and destroyed a church as well. Today, Americans like to think that those days of racial hatred and bigotry are behind us, but they’re not. Lynchings, separate water fountains and segregation as a law may be gone, but we still have a problem. Segregation is still practiced in various parts of the country, especially here in Acadiana.

In Louisiana, there are still “black bars” and “white bars.” There are “white churches” and “black churches,” often within a stone’s throw from each other. I’ve watched groups of black people automatically seat themselves in the back room or along the walls of a restaurant on many occasion like it was 1953, and this is 2013.

This isn’t your grandfather’s segregation, but it still exists. As an outsider here, this has puzzled me since the first time I set foot in the humid climate that blankets the I-10 corridor of South Louisiana. When I asked about it, people would say “that’s the way it’s always been, cher” and look at me like I had said that eating crawfish was weird or I’d insulted their gumbo.

There will always be cultural differences that lead to some amount of separation between races—I get that. What we must do is continue moving toward equality and inclusion, and stop letting “cultural differences” be an excuse for thinly veiled racism. The South isn’t the only part of the country that has resisted integration but we’ve certainly cornered the market on it. It is still not so unusual to hear people drop the “N” word in a conversation when they aren’t around their black acquaintances, then five minutes later, buy a beer for their black coworker or family member when they show up at the local watering hole.

The prejudices here in Acadiana, they’re rather unique when you look at them in comparison to other places, but it still gets under my skin. I grew up in a part of Virginia that was ravaged by the Civil War, or “The War of Northern Aggression” as some people there still refer to it as. The degree of racism there is different from other places I’ve lived. The “N” word was used often by the old men who rolled their cigarettes by hand around the pot-bellied stove down at the old country store. However, whenever the kids walked in, they’d avoid the slurs in addition to the profanity. It was as if the older generation knew that their prejudices needed to go to the grave with them.

Eventually, racism will go the way of the drive-in movie theaters and Polaroid cameras. It’ll be a twisted piece of nostalgia that our grandchildren just won’t understand, and I can’t wait for that time to come.


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  • .I am the poor white,fooled and pushed apart,

    I am the Negro bearing slaverry’s scars,

    I am the red man driven from the land,

    I am the immigrant chutching the hope I seek-

    I finding only the same old stupid olan.

    Of dog eat dog,of mighty crush the weak…

    O,let America be America again-

    The land that never has been yet”

  • I have visited Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana both with work and to visit family for the last 20 years or so. I have three generations of cousins living in Florida. I’m a Brit with freckly pink Irish skin and a centre-left personal and family history.

    I was first shocked by what I found in New Orleans, but also to a surprising extent in urban, as well as rural Georgia. Racism forms part of the collective shadow of the Deep South. Segregation exists de facto, rather than de jure. I remember the surprised looks on the faces of diners in a (great) Creole restaurant in New Orleans as I wandered in off the streets, the only white face among people who were obviously local, affluent and educated. When my mouth opened and a British accent came out, I could see the staff and other customers relax visibly.

    As I travelled I found myself becoming more relaxed in the company of the local African-Americans than in that of their counterparts, something brought home forcefully in Atlanta, when I was looking for directions to the MLK memorial on Auburn Avenue. I was strongly advised at the reception desk not to travel there, and certainly not to walk, as it was (said with a very serious expression “The Ghetto”). As a somewhat stroppy Liverpudlian who ws going to visit a Church in an appropriately respectful way, I decided to walk. I encountered a street market, and discussed the local gang violence with a charity volunteer who was somewhat bemused to find a white Brit wandering through his neighbourhood. We had a great time, and I was able to visit the memorial to MLK and the Church where he had preached.

    On return to the hotel I noticed that the only black staff were the cleaners. On having a conversation with one of them, a dignified middle-aged lady, it transpired that I had just visited her regular place of worship. She was just like the many working people I knew from my own community in Liverpool, but seemed somewhat surprised to be in a civilised discussion with someone who looked quite like I did.

    I hope things are changing on a generational basis in the South, but it struck me as bizarre how two separate populations living in the same spaces interacted so rarely. I wonder how many mixed-race marriages there are in the South these days?

    • Dizcuzted

      More than there were in the 60’s, but not nearly enough.

  • I still go to drive-in movies and HAVE a Polaroid camera (and a bunch of film for it)!!!! But no, I get your point and can’t wait until that day.

  • Radical at Large

    Is it racism when both groups segregate themselves willingly? I don’t judge by the group, but I have noticed that people in general stick to the groups in which they identify themselves with. When anyone wants to be part of any group they take on the behaviors and attitudes of that group. It’s not always a case of that’s the only group they can belong to. Yes the old south segregation laws are off the books, but has anyone examined the possibility that some of us choose to stay in a so called comfort zone. Based on upbringing, our parents social, and economic standards we will always identify with our own groups first. Hate and violence are terrible to have and deal with in others. But simply choosing to be in any group doesn’t a racist make. On any side.

  • Guest

    Racism in USA persists and does so in a cruel and enfermiza.Hoy, watching NSNBC, heard the story of how over the Internet, there are many people who mock modesty of African American kidnapped the three women in Ohio.

    They laughed because here the hero, not a “blonde Philadelphia.” Because besides being a black man is poor …, made ​​fun of his teeth dicendo “… where is the tooth”

    No such association because expontanea, I came to mind once FOX.Maybe so son.But false and vile, worst: Besides that, for the high rating you have … THAT’S WHAT WORRY.THAT EXIST BUT ONLY THAT HAVE FANS ..!

    And I knew then that my aforementioned association between FOX and RACISM was, perhaps, because I suspect that FOX viewers and RACIST today commented insult the hero of rrecate, ARE THE SAME!

    • I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are trying to say. Puedo leer o ingles o castillano, pero no los dos al mismo tiempo.

  • Grace

    The last time I came to New Orleans was 20 years ago to see a football game with friends. I’m here now for a conference – older, more settled, and with a few more disposable dollars. I’m an African American woman who dresses conservatively. I’ve now gone 3 for 3 in nice restaurants, wherein I’ve been served by African American wait staff. Not a big deal, right? But I’ve observed that all the white customers are served by the white wait staff, and the African Americans served by other African Americans – with no overlap. It would have been odd if I observed it just once. But three meals, three nice upscale restaurants, and three separate days. Today, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked my waiter about whether this was just local custom (?!) and he assured me it was not. He then went on to tell me that NO ONE liked to serve black customers. Lovely.