Friday, July 10, 2015

Naivete' Too

As a very young man of fourteen years, I spent some small amount of time with a family in rural South Carolina. This was before TV. I was as clueless as it is possible to be, having spent my youth in Eastern Massachusetts. All those around me were of English or Irish or French heritage. 

They were very nice people who owned a small business in a very small town. This was the first time in my life that I had been introduced to a person of color on a one to one basis. She was a single lady who cooked and helped with housework for the family I was staying with. They supplied her with a small house and she seemed happy with her circumstances.

Their son and I went into a store in Florence. Being a tad thirsty, I headed for a water fountain against a wall. When I saw a sign, "Colored Only", I pulled up short. I had heard about Jim Crow laws, but, at fourteen years old, this was the first time I had to confront them. As young and naive as I was, I knew this was deeply wrong.

I knew about the KKK from reading and from Movietone News. I never saw any signs of KKK activity the short time I was there. But I did feel there was much that was not obvious to the casual observer. I would bet they were there but unseen.

Shortly after that, the world changed. There was Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There were politicians blocking school doors, police with dogs, and people marching for freedom. There was violence and there was blood.

I was a Republican in those days. I was proud to be because the Republicans were the ones that passed civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act while the Democrats struggled to block them. It was a great day in America when those Jim Crow signs were ripped from walls throughout the south.

Also in my naivete', I never knew that the Confederate flag was flown atop the South Carolina  State House in protest of the passage of civil rights. That is evil and should never have been. But it was and it has long overstayed it's symbolism. It is good that it is gone. Better late than never.

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