Monday, January 3, 2011
With long-time white journalists like Wyatt Emmerich (Northside Sun) and Sid Salter (Clarion-Ledger) carrying water for Gov. Haley Barbour by excusing away his reprehensible and revisionist remarks about racism in Yazoo City, it is refreshing to see another white male journalist take a different approach. Read Robbie Ward's amazing column in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:
Based on my experience in Yazoo City, the Mississippi Delta and the state in general, I have a hard time swallowing Barbour's nonchalance about racial strife in his hometown during the 1960s. I grew up around men from that era living in Yazoo City who taught an altogether different history lesson.
My grandfather on my father's side would proudly tell anyone who would listen during integration about his disdain for mixing whites and blacks together. He sent his school-age children to the newly opened private school.
"My kids might go to school barefoot, but I'll be damned if they go to school with the niggers," he said repeatedly through the years. While he and others tempered their vehement racial hatred as time passed, no one can honestly suggest that struggles to integrate Mississippi public schools weren't a big deal. In many parts of the state even today, integration never took hold.
I grew up around the constant reminder of race in Mississippi, often from my own family. After my parents divorced, I attended public school in Yazoo City for a couple of years and then in Greenville, another Delta town about a hour from Yazoo City. Of the 115 classmates in my senior class, 110 were black, four were white and one was Vietnamese. Most whites in the Delta still avoid public school. Race is such a factor still in Mississippi that to this day, my parents don't know that I took the valedictorian of my class, a black woman, to the prom.