"100 Years Ago (1909)
OWENSBORO, Ky. — Twenty-five girls in the bottling department of the Glenmore distillery walked out Saturday afternoon and refuse to return to work because Steve Poole, a Negro, has been appointed government storekeeper. It is expected that the owners of the distillery will petition the government to remove Poole to avoid further trouble."
The above old news story from 100 years ago was taken from the "History Column" http://www.courierpress.com/news/2009/nov/28/baby-face-nelsons-bullet-ri... in the on line edition http://www.courierpress.com/ of the Evansville Courier & Press, and it got me to thinking.
I grew up poor. My wonderful father worked hard as a part time oil field worker / farm hand / commercial fisherman /whatever else was necessary, but despite his best efforts, our large family was always on the bottom of the heap financially. Until I was old enough to earn my own money, at about 14, I never had "stylish" clothes, and shoes were something that you wore only in the winter time and were very proud to possess. In the first few grades of school I was not the poorest kid in my class, but I was one of the poorer ones, and I worked in the school cafeteria to pay for my lunch. I still clearly remember the bitter hurt of being mocked and bullied by the older children from richer families for wearing hand me downs or ill fitting clothes or old fashioned outfits that were not in style. This was all made worse by the fact that my family lived in a rented tar paper shack directly across the street from the school in Griffin. Our ramshackle home, always in evidence to my school mates, was also a source of material for the bullies from the richer families who took their sport in taunting and or physically abusing younger and weaker children who were from poorer families. Because of these things I did not find childhood to be too much fun once I became of school age.
The upside of the above story is, that because of the punishment I received for the great crime of being poorer and weaker than some others, I learned early on to work hard to get things I wanted, like new denim jeans or nice shoes. Between 12 and 14 years of age I began to mow lawns and do farm labor, and have paper routes and sweep out at the Griffin Pool Hall and walk around picking up soda bottles for the refund and to clean fish for the local grocer and to do all sorts of other odd jobs to earn money for nice things. By 15 years old, I was able to lie about my age and get a a job on an oil field rig of a type called a spudder, and from that time on, until I was drafted into the Army for Vietnam, I was an oil field hand, working on spudders and pulling units and rotary drilling rigs, and always having enough money for nice clothes and good shoes and a lot of other things that caught my eye.
Being taunted and bullied for being poor taught me to work hard at any job I could get, in order to get the nice things for myself that I was taunted and abused for not inheriting as the "nicer" children had done. That lesson has stood me in good stead for my life, and because of it I have always been able to do whatever was needed to earn my daily sustenance. A very good thing for me.
The down side, if indeed it is a down side, of being taunted and bullied for being poorer and weaker than other older children from richer families, is that it has given me a life long bad attitude, not against those who inherit wealth and or privilege, (I wish I was one of them) but rather and specifically against those who feel superior and more entitled than ordinary people, simply [u]because[/u] they [u]have[/u] inherited money or position or a business or something. I am chronically on the side of the underdog, and quick to take offense when self appointed Big Shots with no accomplishments in life, other than inheriting something, seem to feel that they should get to go to the head of the line, not because of what they have earned for themselves, but because of what they have inherited.
This bad attitude of mine was made worse during the Vietnam war when those who were born wealthy or politically well connected were exempt from the military draft because of their inherited money and privilege, while the sons of the poor were sent to Vietnam. That in your face injustice brought me great personal rage, and still today I am quick to rile when selfish people expect special privileges simply because of inherited position.
I strongly believe in aristocracy, but I believe in an aristocracy of merit and accomplishment [u]not [/u]of inheritance. This is a side of my personality that many people do not find attractive, and that has caused me to have to fight a lot of battles in my life.
The old news story from 1909, about the whole work force of the local factory (all white persons) going out on strike because a black person was newly employed at their place of work place, got me to thinking about how ill natured and combative and short tempered I [u]would [/u]be if I had been born a black person in America, and consequently had to have suffered all of the abuse and mistreatment that black people here have suffered here, especially here in southern Indiana and Kentucky. I think my head would explode from the stress of it. I salute all black people who do not go postal and explode in rage from the strain of the heaped up insults and indignities put upon them here in America.
If, just being poor and not having the "right" clothes as a child, and the accompanying abuse from the richer kids because of that, has effected my personality as much as it has, (and it truly has) how much more profoundly would I be effected if I had grown up suffering with all of the abuse heaped on African Americans, just for [u]being[/u] African Americans? I can not even begin to imagine how bitter and hurt I would feel from the experiences that almost all black people have grown up with in this country.
Is it better today than it was in 1909? You bet it is! Is it still bad? Yes, it is.
When I hear my fellow white Posey Countians flinging around the "N" word and chuckling over cruel "jokes" told about our fellow Americans of African heritage it just makes me cringe with pain. When white people feel superior over black people, and entitled to better treatment, simply because they "inherited" white genes instead of black genes, it is no different than the richer kids of my youth who felt entitled to bully me because I was born poorer while they were born richer. It is all the same thing, just on a larger scale, and all of it is going to effect everyone involved for the rest of their lives, just like it has effected ME.
So, when you hear people around you using hateful racial slurs and calling other people ugly racial names and telling terrible jokes about the peoples of other races, think about it a little. Think about what I have told you of my bitter memories, and how they [u]still [/u]effect me, and remember that you are not doing the ignorant spreaders of racial hatred any favors by being silent when they spew their hate, you are just allowing them to remain ignorant, and allowing them to spread their destructive ignorance to future generations by infecting impressionable younger folks around them, younger folks who might wrongly think it is alright to follow their example. I suggest that all ordinary people make a point to correct the ignoramuses who offend common decency by repeating words of racial hatred, and that we correct them loudly and clearly and very publicly. It is the right thing to do, and it is the responsibility of a good citizen.
If, our wonderful country is to survive, then this sort of hatefulness MUST end, if not for moral reasons then just for purely practical reasons, because we are far past the point in America where ANY racial group is going to stand still for sitting on the back of the bus, or being denied education or good housing or for having their children scared for life by ignorant name calling or bullying done by stupid people who feel "entitled" because they have "inherited" white skin.
I [u]hope t[/u]his steps on somebody's stupid toes around me, and makes them a little bit ashamed for their outdated racism, and I also hope that more and more ordinary people will join me in refusing to be silent when ignorant people spew hate and hurt with racial prejudice, regardless of how much money or social position the ignorant hurtful loud mouthed bigots have inherited, and to me, it seems like here in Posey County, it is the local Big Shots who are most frequently guilty of racial hatred, (you know who you are!) because I seldom hear ordinary people committing these offenses against harmony and peace and good order.
Ron Nesler...[i]Posting from amidst a REAL aristocracy, of ordinary people that is based on ability and accomplishment NOT on inherited money or position. [/i]