One person's thoughts may change the world
I was born in 1961. Born before the landmark Civil Rights Legislation that help to begin to right the world for Black people in America. The other day, I was privy to a conversation in the locker room in the gym, and a guy was talking about his “early days”. He is 66 now, still, in my opinion, fairly young, but, he has seen a lot, including sharecropping. Sharecropping is what replaced replaced what we once referred to as slavery. Here is an abbreviated definition:
Sharecropping is a system of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on the land. Sharecropping has a long history and there are a wide range of different situations and types of agreements that have used a form of the system.
Sounds legitimate in a lot of ways. A land owner needs his land worked, goes into partnerships with the labor class to get it done and shares the profits appropriately. But, as with anything, the land owner soon found a way to loan or issues a line of credit to the worker thus starting the rudiments of, perpetual debt. The sharecropper, once entered into this process, found himself owing the owner year after year. So, this gentleman in the locker room told this story.
“I picked cotton since I was 7 years old. I didn’t know any better, I just thought that was the way it was, I never complained, and never knew of any other kind of life. As I got older though, I began to see how exploitative it was. We use to work from sun up till sun down. I saw my father bale 14 bags of of cotton, a big hall for one day. Now a bale went for about 500 dollars back then. Now multiply that 500×14 is 7000.00, which was a lot of money. My father was paid 700 dollars for a fulls day work for that, barely 10% of what was going to be made on those bales”.
Interesting I thought. Classic example of exploitation, and this was in 1965. How were you ever going to get ahead, when you were only paid 700 dollars for your fruits of labor in that Mississippi sun? The irony is, this story was overheard by me, 50 years after Civil Rights Legislation. But, that’s only a small sliver of what I’m writing about. I had a small Civil Rights moment, and it occurred last year, while sitting with other coach’s at lunch at football camp. The team as well as the coach will go unnamed. I felt compelled to write him this letter a year later, as a teaching moment for him. Sadly, it won’t be. He’s too old, to change, and too narrow minded to get it. Here is the email that I sent to him the other day:
Last year in 2013 around football camp time, you lamented about a time you went down to Memphis, Tennessee, back in the 1964, and spoke of going to a hotel where the young man at the front desk spoke very eloquently that they don’t allow “Nxxxx” in to there hotel.
Then you looked at me and asked a question, to which I could not answer, because I was only 3 years old at the time, saying, “Was it really that bad?”.
Well, if you’re head is still in the sand, last week, and for that matter, the whole month of June there were countless documentaries about what happened that lead up to the Civil Rights Amendment, to the Constitution of the United States of America, which occurred 50 years ago.
What the amendment did was help alleviate the ability of someone who may use their influence – Governors, Mayors, police chief, and business owners, etc…, not abuse their powers to enforce their racism and bigotry, and to end the practice of separate but equal. If you need a more recent reference, similar to South African Apartheid. That was very bad as well.
You think or thought that I had a problem of your use of the “N” word, to which was not the REAL issue. The real issue was your ignorance to the world around you. To ask someone of my intelligence that question was an insult. My brother, sister, and myself are the first members of my family who were not born under, or grew up under Jim Crow. How could I, son of a civil rights activist, coach with you?
In closing, I have no confidence that you will look at the above websites to provide you with, nor will you get what this email is all about. But 50 years ago you were ignorant to what was going on in the Constitutional Republic which you live in, and you never educated yourself to the real world around you, TO THIS DAY. The only thing I can say to you at this point is:
YES IT WAS THAT BAD, AND WORSE THAT YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE….
Keep all that in mind the next time you try to recruit a black kid to come to play football at XYZ….
This individual had just been named head football coach, and at his age, I could not believe his ignorance. Needless to say I quite the following week, not willing to submit myself to someone who had such a narrow view. I could go on, the subsequent meeting I had with him before I left could have easily ended up in the street. I had to get that out of my system. I was only holding on to it because I had an issue with a person who’s ignorance was deplorable. Even if you’re not Black, the Black experience in this country should be somewhat known to you, if not when the Civil Rights Era passed right in front of your eyes( if you were alive), or at least educating yourself to the plight of others around you. It’s called empathy to which this person had none.
I have many more important Civil Rights Moments, but I chose this one, because in 2014, ignorance is unacceptable…
Peace Mickey Fickey….