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Back in the Day...[Sensitive]


fdelano
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Two hefty black men ran an ice delivery service

back in the days when the poorest white person

was seen to be superior to the most successful

black person. Even poor white folks could afford

to hire a black woman to wash, dry and fold their

laundry.

 

In the mill village, we didn't know we were poor,

because everyone around was the same. We would

chase the ice wagon to grab scraps to chew

as if they were ice cream. The black men used

large scissors-like grippers to carry blocks

of ice, chipped to fit ice boxes.

 

They would always bow and thank their loyal

customers who dismissed them without even

a thank you. When I think of those guys, who

were always friendly with the kids who chased

their mule hauled wagon, I hope they made good money.

 

Another black man came by each week with fresh

vegetables at less than store prices. He kept

his wares watered down for freshness. They were

welcome and he made a good living until the local

grocery stores had them outlawed.

 

The saddest of all was a black man with no legs

who had built a platform with skate wheels,

pulled by a goat, so he could sell whatever

abandoned small items he could find.

The goat would butt the hell out of you

if you got close enough, no matter your color.

 

Black people, whom we politely called "colored" let

poor whites feel like slave owners.

In a way, they were, during those days

of "Jim Crow."

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

poweful in so many colors. makes ya wonder.

 

victor

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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  • 1 month later...

Very, very interesting history and perspective. I'm white. I was born here, in 1970, but my parents immigrated to America in the 1950's.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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  • 1 month later...

Hi, I love that you provide this perspective through your poem. I just watched the movie "The Help" last night on TV. I read the book and saw the movie in the theater a while back. It reminded me of visiting my husband's family in the early 60s in Louisiana and being shocked at my observation of his family and their relationship with their "colored" help. I had created this idea in my head that white people in the south hated black people but what I observed was love for the help BUT, not love for a human, more like love for a pet.

 

I don't remember observing this kind of discrimination "back in the day" other than from my father. Growing up in the 40s & 50s in California, I went to integrated schools and no one I knew had "colored" help. There were kids from the "projects" in Richmond who were bused to our high school, who I feared (they were tough) more than looked down on. But there were also a few "colored" kids in my own neighborhood who were the sons of doctors and lawyers and who were certainly on a social par with me and my friends. BUT, I did have a rude awakening when I was going to have a party at my house and wanted to invite a couple of my "colored" friends and my dad told me no "n**gers" in his home. We had some very heated words, I came very near to getting slapped (if he had hit me he would have killed me, he was that angry) and I was grounded for a long time for being disrespectful to my Dad. Consequently I didn't have the party and my Dad and I bumped heads forever after that. We had a whole lot more than just race to argue about but this topic was a boiling point at dinner table conversation on many occasions. The Civil Rights movement was just beginning when I hit high school, it was in the news constantly and my Dad and I were on opposite ends of the poll.)

 

This poem is going to conjure individual experiences to each reader's mind as they read this. Unfortunately "back in the day" is still here for many only more cleverly disguised.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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This is a most interesting piece Franklin: a picture of endemic culture and human nature at work--- yet It has much wider implications. It opens up a historical underlying element left over from days of empirical attitudes; when powerful nations inflicted their values on the world at large. I recall my own upbringing in post war England; where a 'coloured' face was rarely seen until the mid-late fifties and the onset of immigration (mainly Caribbean). All the children in my school till then, were white: Smith, Brown, Green,Jackson etc: and there was I, the white son of French immigrants who, because I had a “furrin'” name, was left 'fighting' for my existence almost daily. Bigotry will always be there; it's just that when skin colour is involved the victims are easy targets. These days because of the EEC. we in England have sustained mass immigration from Eastern Europe to the extent where colour is not an issue, but demonized white 'furriners'--- being exploited for cheap labour, to the detriment of employment for the indigenous population.

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David W. Parsley

Strictly prosodic elements seem irrelevant beside the revelation of personal experience in a context all too familiar, Franklin. It is interesting to see the other personal responses it provokes, probably more to come.

 

I was raised in the northern USA, where prejudice was very real, but did not extend to the virtual slavery I witnessed when visiting relatives in the southern states. What is shocking in retrospect, is how normal, even self-evident, everyone thought this imbalance to be: an aspect well captured in your piece. I was blessed with relatively enlightened parents, as well as a progressive and engaging 5th grade teacher, Mr. Tiemann. Wherever you are, Mr. Tiemann, I owe you a debt of gratitude impossible to retire. As a hiring manager, I have been able to take advantage of that position to redress old wrongs of prejudice and prevent new ones. But the Dream is still ahead of us - the one in which all are judged by the content of their character. Pieces like this help keep the Dream current.

 

Many Thanks,

- Dave

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm gratified by the responses to this bit of one's life. Tink, your comments show starkly the dividing of thinking that caused the merging of honest thought. My own responses now are that we are wrong in continually identifying people by their differences. Even a president who claims to be black, though half of him is what we call white, uses and inflames the controversy that will haunt us until we make it unlawful to discriminate, even to the point of gathering in social groups by racial acceptance. Just think of the loss we will endure when separate cultures cannot exist. No more "Italian" or "Chinese" food, or operas or "fugedaboutit." I know this is all speculation, but much of it is already in practice. I, wisely, would not walk alone on 14th Street in D. C., than a black man would attend a lynching. When I was young and superior to any "colored" person, regardless of age, we all, including those of color, accepted this life as "the way the world was." Hopefully, in a few generations, there will be no thoughts of caste, still a strong force in our society. Don't get a History teacher started.

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A good thoughtful piece that works all the better because it relies on word pictures. The will to discriminate is still alive as we can see from all the talk about illegal aliens and the rights and benefits that should be denied to them -- and to their American-born children. Back in the 1980s there was an amnesty on Irish illegals thanks to Irish-American political clout - they were able to get green cards - but I don't see this happening for undocumented workers from Latin America.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Frank E Gibbard

Hi fd, I forget the preferred name to use I'm afraid. Late to the party I can only add to the commendations for this poem. Thanks for sharing a piece of less than wholesome American pie in that it has the bitter taste of historic discredit of the way things were in treatment of the non-whites. Hard it must have been to witness such indignities as were meted out to blacks in the USA at that past time you write about.

Very insightful, very well described and strong poetry. Frank

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Responses to this bit of memory shows the subject is still, and will be with us for who know how long. I am pleased that so many found an opinion. I still believe that the great majority of caucasians still consider thermselves superior by birth. I wish I had answers. One of my best friends who happened to be "black" died of a massive stroke not long ago. I miss his humo(u)r) and pride and his wonderful voice that led his choir each week. A gentle soul with a spine of steel. Thanks to all for interest in this seemingly unsolvable problem.

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  • 2 years later...
Frank E Gibbard

Just come across this, Paco. I think it is fantastic!!

 

Bren

Odd Bren as you commented 2 years ago I notice, but a piece worth resurrecting.

Frank.

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My memory is shot through with holes. Just as well I'm not on the stand at a trial! I thought the poem was bloody good now, coming at it as I thought for the first time. I probably thought the same two years ago.

 

Bren

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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