Swimming In My Head…

diving in the deep end…

Vernon, Alabama – It’s where I want to summer, Part Deux

Let me start off by saying that I’m writing this post simply because of the volume and passionate nature of comments (some posted, others received privately) that I’ve recently been receiving by some Vernon, AL residents in response to my post “Vernon Alabama – It’s Where I Want to Summer.”  There is a difference between sarcasm and arrogance – you be the judge.

I remember the day the reality I was trying to avoid set in.  The day I realized that racism is alive and well in the United States.

It was in 2003, I was 30 years old and I entered the Cactus Lounge in Perryopolis, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh) with several members of a bridal party that we were in.  I chuckle now because I’ve had to make it funny in my mind in order to not be depressed by it, but at the time it was scary.  It was just like the movie Blazing Saddles – when I walked in, the music stopped, everybody stared and then slowly went back to what they were doing.

As everyone else in the bridal party got their drinks, I sat there waiting for mine.  I sat there, sat there, and sat there some more until one of the white members of the bridal party asked the white female bartender about my drink to which she replied: “we don’t serve his kind here.”

My kind?  What kind is that?  My American-born kind?  My tax paying kind?  My law-abiding citizen kind?  My educated kind?  My working kind?

For those of you that can walk out of your door and expect acceptance generally wherever you go, it would be quite difficult to understand someone like me who has to always wonder what I’m up against because someone may not like me for the color of my skin.

Usually, this is where people say that there is prejudice/racism on both sides of the spectrum.  Absolutely correct!  However, simple mathematics based on the number of blacks as compared to the number of whites in the U.S. will dissuade the statistical likelihood that whites experience the same amount of racism over the course of their lives.  And let me state for the record, I am equally disgusted when a black person generalizes or makes racist comments toward white people instead of focusing on the true object of their anger.

Now, I brought up the incident in Pennsylvania to point out that I am not naive in thinking that racism is limited to the deep south, Alabama or Vernon, Alabama alone.  Maybe you’ll want to hear the rest of the story…

I made it through the incident at the bar without showing what I was truly feeling, I even went to the subsequent wedding reception and I tried to have a good time in yet another room full of people where there were more than 1 that had some obvious misgivings about me.  It wasn’t until late that night, when I was alone, that I sat in the dingy bathroom of the closest thing to a 5-star hotel (Holiday Inn) that Perryopolis had, and I cried – a lot.

I cried because I was tired.  I had only been on this planet for 30 years at that point, and I’d done everything I could to be a good person.  I grew up very religious and had always tried to do unto others as I would like done to me.  I paid my taxes, I paid my bills, I worked and did my best to contribute to society.  Worst of all, I had, up until that point, tried to ignore the nagging feeling that this stuff existed.  So, why was I working so hard for the acceptance of someone that didn’t even know me, but hated me?

I was hoping that in my lifetime, I would never have to personally experience true hatred with no basis other than skin color.  I couldn’t make it logical, but unfortunately I had to see it and draw some unfortunate conclusions.

So, I bring this post to those residents of Vernon, Alabama who have blasted me because they seem to think I’ve condemned the entire City of Vernon.  You couldn’t be more wrong.  I got some things off my chest about the ignorance of the statements made by both Gail McDaniel and Don Dollar.  I’m not apologizing for that.  I would’ve called the woman out by name who stated that “she didn’t want a black man over her” too if she had been brave enough to have her name posted.

I don’t think for one minute that everyone in Vernon is racist or ignorant.  But in the amount of fervor and time you’ve taken to call me out for my post, I can only wonder if you’ve taken the same amount of time to state your dislike toward what Gail or any of the other people quoted in the New York Times article said.  Because if you have/had expressed that displeasure with them, my post would not have bothered you.

I have kept my mouth shut for years, bottling up feelings in the hopes that people with racism issues would see the ignorance and lack of credibility in their thinking.  Gail McDaniel said that she fears that Obama’s election would “give blacks a right to be more aggressive.”  That statement deserves to be ridiculed.

Does that mean that every time a white President has been elected (which has been all but this year) it gave white people the right to be more aggressive?  Should the Klan have been more aggressive?  Should any of the white murderers, rapists or thieves gotten a free pass to be more aggressive with each election?  How come some 7 and 8 year old white children in Rexburg, ID were exhibiting aggressive behavior by chanting about assassination of our incoming President?  Technically, per Gail, the aggression should be limited to blacks.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for this country to grow out of this stage.  I know that we’ve taken a big step forward with the election of Obama, but I’m also a realist and know that there are some people with some real issues as it relates to race.

All I know is that even on the day that I wasn’t served a drink because of the color of my skin, I couldn’t hate white people.  “White people” weren’t the ones who mistreated me, the bartender who wouldn’t serve me was who I disliked.  I have a problem with that bartender, not “white people.”

I’ve seen some things in my lifetime that I thought I would never see – the collapse of the ‘Twin Towers’ (9/11), a commercial jetliner crashing into the Pentagon, a complete economic crumble, and the election of a black President.

I can only hope that I can someday add to that list – complete unity as a country…but I’m feeling like it’s a pipe dream.

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November 21, 2008 - Posted by | Life In General, Politics | , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. **big hugs**

    So many thoughts in my head, and nothing coherent that I can express without a little foaming at the mouth and a desire to kick the bartender’s ass.

    Comment by sideon | November 21, 2008

  2. sideon – **big hugs to you as well** and thank you.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 21, 2008

  3. I can only hope, for me and for you and for everyone else who gets discriminated against, that we’re able to surround ourselves with people we trust and like, and possibly even love. The haters can have each other. And there will always be a few haters in the world.

    Comment by Doug | November 21, 2008

  4. “The author, Fred Fessenden wrote a great article.” (This indicates to me that you agree with the thoughts in the article.)
    “The dazzling parts were the comments that some of the residents of this tiny rouge-collar hamlet protruding from the globe in awkwardly backward northwestern Alakuntry – I mean bama.”

    “I bring this post to those residents of Vernon, Alabama who have blasted me because they seem to think I’ve condemned the entire City of Vernon. You couldn’t be more wrong.”

    Derek, These are two of your quotes. Describing the residents as rouge collar is negative not towards just two people, but to all the residents. Using the words “awkwardly backward” to describe the entire area was again not designated to the two people. Yes, you have condemned the people of Vernon. No question about it.

    I leave you with two sets of questions. What are you currently doing in a long term consistent pattern to change the world to a better place? When did you start? How much time per week do you sacrifice for this goal? How much does it cost you?
    My answer to the first question is on the website address I gave you.

    And the second question is, will you come to Vernon and speak to the community about how your life reflects the answers to the question of how can one live so as to create racial harmony?

    Comment by Law | November 21, 2008

  5. Hey Doug!!! How are you? You’re right…there will always be haters…I guess it’s just one of those things that we’re always going to have to live with.

    But on a good note…you’re meeting Jack this weekend! That’s awesome news! Let us know how it goes.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 21, 2008

  6. Derek, I hear lots of people give their opinions. Many are very interesting. The problem is that they really don’t ever getting around to sacrificing their time, talents, or money to finding or creating solutions.
    I am passionate about all people coming together to help one another (which can’t be accomplished if racism is a factor). I have, and will continue to sacrifice my time, talents, and money towards this goal.
    The volunteers who raised the money and sacrificed their time and talents to rebuild the churches were an inspiration to a great deal of people both Black and White. Much more than just the rebuilding was accomplished.
    Rebuilding those churches (and other projects) was something you might not expect in Alabama, but that sort of open compassion for each other does exist in abundance.
    I pay for an author from Texas and a singer from Tennessee to come to the Black Belt to talk to the youth in our schools. The message I want to deliver is that they, the students, can be successful, too.
    If you have been using your time and talents to help others and have a genuine positive talk to give to the youth in our schools……then, oh yes, I do want you to come to Alabama and help others.

    Comment by Law | November 22, 2008

  7. Law – in all seriousness, I think that if you’re really doing all of those wonderful things for others and that’s the only thing your time is spent on, it’s commendable. I would never take that away from you or try to.

    I think it’s great that you’re passionate about people coming together. And according to you, racism doesn’t come into play. While I can only take your word for what you do for others and trust that it’s heartfelt and sincere, I’m going to assume the best.

    I also think it’s great that you bring the author and the singer in to tell the students they can be successful too. I’m not sure what the relevance of bringing them in from Texas and Tennessee is, but ok.

    While I appreciate your invitation to come to Alabama and have a positive talk with the students there, I would have to decline.

    My plate is actually quite full with the things that I do for other people here in Florida. I will however, offer you the same courtesy. If you’d like to come here and speak with some of the groups that I head up, chair or am President of, you are more than welcome.

    It seems that you continue to try to get me to discuss things that I haven’t yet discussed or shared in the form of a post. Those things and the things that I do for others will be shared when I see fit. Since this is my blog, it’s the only place where I get to decide when and how I’m going to share what I’m feeling or thinking.

    So, I’m going to respectfully ask that if your intent is to spar with me, that you please stop doing so. If your intent is to indeed share another side of the original story, let’s continue. You’ve shared a lot about what you do and your efforts. Quite frankly, I think you should start your own blog to discuss yourself and what you do. You can rest assured that if and when you do, if I run across one of your posts and I choose to read and subsequently comment, I would be mindful of accepted blog etiquette and only remain a part of the discussion as long as I was welcome. I’m certain that you understand and will respect those parameters won’t you?

    That being said, my original post made reference to some things that were said by two individuals in Vernon. You stated your opinion about Don Dollar. What is your opinion about what Gail McDaniel said? And if you felt that what she said was somewhat out of line, did you discuss it with her?

    Comment by derek | November 22, 2008

  8. You gave me two questions…..
    1.Gail McDaniel’s comments:
    She has made three statements. There is no vast majority of opinion on either of the first two statements by Americans. But there is hardly anyone that could stand alongside her third thought. In a way I would like to know more of what she meant, but then again if I knew more I fear her thoughts might even be worse. What other thoughts she has can only be imagined.

    2.I did not discuss anything with her, because I do not know her and she does not have a site to respond to.

    Comment by Law | November 22, 2008

  9. Law – I went back and re-read the NYT article. I didn’t think that Gail McDaniel made those other two statements? In any event, I, much like you, would really like to know if there were anymore context to what she said.

    If there is more, which I believe there was, it really scares me as well. Hence the post.

    I appreciate your willingness to understand where I’m coming from given your last response. Now that we’re being open about it…my first post was so laced with sarcasm and dry humor because I’m scared to death of the Gail McDaniels’ of this country.

    What she described as a reality in her mind is nothing more than downright scary to me. My coping mechanism? Make fun of the ridiculousness of something that is frightening beyond belief.

    One other point that I’m not sure you caught or not…I was actually kind of angered by the whole article which is why I called it a piece of literary masterpiece.

    Implying that the entire City of Vernon is upset over this election, did nothing but perpetuate some ignorant fears that some of us may have had or have.

    I’ll admit that I had some misguided ideas and notions about Vernon after reading the article. However, I received quite a few responses from current and past residents and some residents of Alabama enlightening me on life there in reality.

    While I still don’t believe that if I for some reason chose to move there, I would be welcomed with open arms, I have gained some respect for some of the folks who have communicated with me.

    So, because it’s my sense of humor speaking…I’m going to say that I still don’t want to summer in Vernon, but it’s nice to know that there are people like you working to change things.

    I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

    Comment by deek1973 | November 22, 2008

  10. It is good to end on such a positive note.

    Comment by Law | November 22, 2008


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