Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rufus continued.......(not really)

I just put your name up there, Rufus, so that you might think you ought to read it.

I'm only going to tell the story of a single incident, which relates to the days of segregation and "deep, philosophical discussions about it".

When I was about sixteen (circa 1954), I ran across one of my old colleagues from the caddy pool. We were both working in town at that time, and only went out to caddy sometimes when we didn't have anything else to do. I can't remember his real name, if ever I knew it, and I just barely remember what he looked like. We simply called him "Sonny", but I really don't think it was his given name.

At that time, I'd become sort of interested in racial relations and education, so I was asking Sonny about his school. It became obvious to me that they were not given exactly "equal" educational opportunities.

One of the things Sonny said as we were talking was "Did you ever meet Hilliard?" My answer was, "Maybe so, when I was in the fourth grade, the principal of the 'colored school' was introduced to my class". Sonny said, "A large man?" I said, "Yeah, that must have been him".

I think that Sonny and I both were somewhat disillusioned, because yesterday, I Googled Hilliard High School, Bay City Texas, and found the obituary of Asa G. Hilliard III. Only a little is on the WWW about his father Asa G. Hilliard II, for whom Hilliard High School was named, but I could find no connection to Bay City. I'm not sure that there was time in the life of Asa III to have lived in Bay City. Check it out. If Hilliard III was only three years older than me, then, if the Hilliards had lived in Bay City, it would probably have been better known when I was a kid.

The Hilliard family must have been very well educated, from what I read in the obit. And, of course, we see in history many examples of learned blacks throughout most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, leading to the present time.

I think when I was growing up, the blacks were tagged with "shiftless and ignorant", not because they wanted to be that way, but under segregation, their potential was limited. The Hilliards were a good example of the fact that 'colored folks' could be industrious and well educated, but, in those days, "what was the point", in the mind of the average black person? They had to make their living in the "white man's" world, and live in an isolated area among their "own kind".

Things are not perfect, nuthin's perfect, but they're much better now, and I hope they'll continue to get better.

I'm afraid that this is probably another "draft". I will probably return more than once to update this. I very rarely think I've said everything to my satisfaction.



Anonymous said...

Hmmm...my favorite uncle who just passed aways name was...Hilliard Lee Tanksley Jr....coinkadink...I have a cousin "Ignorant" and "Shiftless"... but they choose to be that way...back in the day...prejudice was the way of the day...white was right...brown hang around...black step back...and take that...with a shuffle and a smile...Times they have a chenged...but some prejudice is still around...but not so much in the "H" household...Truly enjoyed your blogs...Rufus

Willie C said...

Thanks, man! I'm surely glad to have proof that you're really reading these things.

Prejudice is a weird thing. I don't think it happens the same for everybody. I also think everybody has them, even me. It must be "human nature". I'll bet, without a doubt, you have some of your own.

Out of habit, I almost always seem to form a lasting opinion of someone within about the first five minutes. That's just wrong! Someone once told me, in response to my saying "I don't like ..... because.....", that, "you can't dislike a whole person because there are a few things about them you don't like". That helped a lot.

I think, by definition, prejudice is "forming an opinion (by jumping to conclusions)". Everybody does it, I think.

I know, from my own lifetime of experience, that it takes me a lot longer to warm up to somebody who has a "soft and doughy" look, or who "puts on airs". We seem to have a natural tendency to simplify our opinions.

How did this conversation get to prejudice? Oh! I guess you started it. I didn't mean to emphasize it. We both know prejudice hits both (or shouldn't it be "all") sides of the color line. It's human nature, man. And doesn't the Bible encourage us to overcome "human nature"?

Wullie C

Willie C said...

I meant to say, "Willie C".

Dyslexic fingers, you know.)