The book and movie, “The Help,” broke many records for sales of copies, tickets and pay-per-view, so perhaps the time is excellent to look back on racism in America. It was the late 1950s. I only recall three terms used to describe “the darker race” in America: Negro, the coloreds and the “N” word. No apologies for my refusal to spell it out. It unnerves me to hear it or see it in writing. I find it nearly impossible to believe that, as a little girl, the “N” word was as easily a part of my vocabulary as “Mama” or “I love you.” But that was in the 1950s, and through ignorance, prejudice or whatever the driving factor, it was common to hear it in conversation. Just recently, as we were watching television, from out of nowhere my husband asked of me, “Do you remember when there were no blacks on television? Well, except Nat King Cole…” My response to him was, “Yes, I do. And I find it ironic we were allowed to advertise beer and cigarettes, but he was the only black American who had a successful prime time show.” But I also recall hearing the “N” word being bantered about when his show aired.

 I remember watching news footage (ironically, on our black and white television) of police officers utilizing attack dogs and fire hoses to disperse crowds of peaceful marches or demonstrations. A black Baptist preacher moved to the forefront, preaching peace and brotherhood. He had a dream. Yet, all around me I heard family and friends using the “N” word to describe him. I just didn’t get it. Whites and blacks—we all professed to be Christians. It just seemed a direct contradiction to what we claimed to be and believe.

 The “coloreds” usually filled positions of butler, hired hand, maid or nanny. They rode to and from work in the back of the bus, unless they walked. It was a different world back then. Racism was rampant. The horror of a man being hung from a tree, simply for the color of his skin, was not breaking news—it was a common occurrence.

 But, that was all back in the 1950s and early 1960s, right? Before JFK took up the cause for civil rights, and Martin Luther King, Jr., began leading marches and preaching about peace among all mankind? Thank God things such as that don’t happen any more? Yeah, well, perhaps you can imagine how pained I was to hear that a fine, congenial young black man was fired from his position with a prominent socially elite club in my hometown. I was told that as he waited on those sitting in the pool area, one of the older members complained he was “ogling the young white girls” who were sunning. This is the same organization that for many decades banned Jews from membership, as well. Yeah, maybe we have come a long way, but it’s obvious we have not eradicated prejudice or racism from America—and that I find exceedingly sad.

 Let’s face it. We boomers have raised a generation who will never know the reality of what it was like back when we were young. Schools, lunch counters, bathrooms—all of society was segregated. I only hope and pray they are being taught these things in school today. Such things as the civil rights movement in America and the Holocaust in Europe simply must never be dismissed as unimportant, much less altogether forgotten. Ironically, during the time of Whitney Houston’s death and burial, I saw the “N” word sprayed all over the internet. We had a commercial back in the 60s and 70s that said, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Reading the crude comments about Whitney only made me realize that just maybe America has not come as long of a way, baby, as we’d like to believe.

 Post note: While I will probably raise the ire of many here (and totally unintentionally), let me make one more statement, for any who may become offended not only at the use of the “N” word, but also at my use of the reference of “black.” You do not see the term “African American” in this post for a reason. I do not refer to myself as Irish American or Scottish American. I am an American. My ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland to America, but this is my homeland. Read the words of Dr. King’s speech. Let’s all become one brotherhood/sisterhood of mankind. I am an American. Regardless of my ancestry, gender, religion or skin color, I am an American, and I have a dream that one day we will all set color, ethnicity, sexual preference and religion (NOT spirituality, but “religion”) aside and see ourselves as . . . “One Nation, Under God – indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

 Carolyn S. Hennecy recently received a certificate as Designated Victim Services Practitioner through completion of a 40-hour course conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida. She is recognized nationally as an expert survivor spokesperson on domestic/intimate partner abuse and violence, sexual assault and child molestation and abuse.

 Follow Carolyn on Facebook: CLICK HERE or on Twitter @CarolynHennecy

  1. I am 75. When I was in my early twenties, this happened to me.

    “Three Nickel Stamps, Please”
    Early one summer morning, I arrived at a tiny post office in a tiny town in Mississippi. It was 8 a.m. I was working for Fredonia Seed Company the summers of my undergraduate college years, each time earning money for the next year. I was there to get a $35.00 money order to add to my daily report before mailing it to the company.

    I walked to the counter to stand in line. Only one other customer was in line, a little black boy who was reaching up on the counter top with three nickels. He then said to the postmaster,

    “Three nickel stamps, please.”

    The postmaster waved his arm to our left and said to the little boy:

    “Move out of the way, Nigger, can’t you see that white man behind you?”

    “Yes Sir,” he said very slowly, first ducking his head, then obeying the postmaster by pulling the nickels slowly off of the counter and moving away.

    As he moved away, I walked up to the counter.

    The immaculately-dressed, uniformed postmaster looked at me, smiled, and asked, “May I help you?”

    “Yes, I have a right to my place in line, Sir, and it is behind this little boy. You may wait upon him first, then you may help me even further.”

    So he did. And then I asked for the money order, received it, and walked out of the post office. Then I made sure I drove out of that town very carefully.

    When I reached the state line, I thanked the Lord again for my safety, after telling him again how sad I felt for the little boy and his family and his relatives… well, the black ones anyway.

    When I reached maturity, I told the Lord how sorry I was for the white ones, too, and hoped that in those forty years, they had learned to feel good about themselves and were getting to know the black ones as equal children of God.

    • Carolyn S. Hennecy says:

      Marvin,
      Thank you from my heart for sharing your story. I am 60. I raised a daughter who raised daughters who are color-blind. One of my best friends is a wonderful, successful black woman who owns her own dress shop. I, too, pray we have come a long way from those days. God bless you, Marvin. Please come back and share any time at all.

  2. DEAR: I JUST DISCOVERED THAT YOU HAD PRINTED THE THREE NICKLE STAMPS STORY IN YOUR SITE. SO, I AM TAKING UP YOUR INVITATION AND SENDING YOU ANOTHER TRUE STORY IT DEALS WITH BULLYING. HOPE YOU LIKE IT AND IF YOU CAN USE EITHER STORIES, YOU ARE CERTAINLY WELCOME TO THEM. X0, MARVIN

    Put up Your Dukes!
    In the middle of the Landon High School playground in Jacksonville, Fl, a group of eighth and ninth graders gathered quickly after classes were over. They had heard through the grapevine that Butch was going to fight someone. Because Butch was a feared bully, they knew he would win and blood would flow but, who was the other kid for today’s match?

    Earlier in the day, a couple of rough boys, who heard that Skippy would not fight, gave him notice that today he would! So, after school, holding Skippy under his arms, the two boys marched him out of the school building and over to the waiting circle of anxious onlookers. Skippy could see one kid drawing a circle in the dirt with a stick.

    In the circle, the boys placed Skippy to stand alone. Soon, someone yelled, “Here comes Butch!” Butch approached, trying to appear to be the angriest, meanest kid, just ready to do battle with anyone who dared.

    “Where is he?” Skippy could hear him asking as Butch approached the crowd .

    When Butch stood inside the circle with him, the crowd got very quiet. Butch had his fists up in front of him and was making loud breathing noises, as though he was just itching to get started and to get this over as quickly as possible.

    “You, Skippy?”

    “Yes,” Skippy answered, looking directly into his eyes.

    “You want to fight me, Skippy?”

    “No.”

    Butch grinned, “Well, you’re gonna! Put up your dukes!”

    Skippy left both arms down, straight by his sides.

    Butch started his loud breathing noises again to show he was just seething. “I said, ‘Put up your dukes!'”

    Skippy looked at Butch and was slightly amused at his noises. Although Skippy’s knees were shaking, he remained calm when he spoke.

    “Jesus said it’s not right to fight anyone.”

    Frustrated, Butch answered firmly, “You’re just chicken. That’s what you are, just chicken! Now, put up your dukes! I’m going to whup you right here.”

    Skippy’s arms did not come up, and his hands remained open. With the same calm voice, he said to Butch, “I don’t know if I am chicken or not, but I won’t put up my dukes.”

    “You not gonna fight me?”

    “No,” Skippy again said calmly.

    “What if I get in the first lick? Whadda ya think about that?”

    Skippy answered, “Maybe you will knock my teeth out, or knock me down, or something.”

    “You think you’ll fight me then?” Butch asked.

    “I don’t know; maybe I will be so angry I will, but let me ask you something.”

    Butch’s fists got tighter and his arms moved closer to his chin. Cautiously, he asked, “What?”

    “Why did you let all these kids put you up to this? They stand here laughing at the mean kid they got to fight the chicken. They don’t have any respect for you, and you sure don’t want any of them to be your friends. They don’t think that you can talk except with your fists, but, as long as my arms stay down, I know you are not going to fight me. You’ve taken too long. That tells me that you fight fair. We need to stop this right now, be friends and let this crowd stop playing with your mind.”

    Butch looked long at Skippy without making a sound – no heavy breathing, no words, nothing. Not once did his eyes turn to anyone else’s. Then he dropped his left arm to his side, and with his right, he opened his fist and, without a smile, he proudly offered his hand to Skippy and said,

    “We are friends!”

    One can only imagine how disappointed some of the troublemakers in that crowd were immediately after “the fight,” or how very proud Skippy was of Butch, or how proud Skippy’s parents were that evening when he told them what happened on the playground after school that day.

  3. marvin purser says:

    I GAVE CONNIE A BOX OF CRAYOLAS AND ASKED HER HOW MANY DID IT SAY ON THE FRONT. SHE SAID,”64.”

    SO I SAID TO HER, “THAT IS HOW MANY I FOUND IN THE BOX, BUT THE WHITE ONE IS MISSING.”

    SHE LOOKED AND SAID, “NO, THERE IT IS. YOU JUST OVERLOOKED IT.”

    I SAID: YOU MEAN WHITE IS A COLOR?

    SHE SAID: “OF COURSE!”

    AND I SAID: “YOU MEAN THAT FOR 50 YEARS I HAVE BEEN MARRIED TO A COLORED GIRL?”

    AND WHEN WE USE TO HAVE WHITE AND COLORED BATHROOMS, AND “WHITE” WAS OCCUPIED, I COULD HAVE GONE INTO THE “COLORED” ONE?”

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