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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Black History Month: The Black Migration North

As we are winding down Black History Month I am enjoying the events brought to campus to honor the black experience in America. Although I find myself in high demand this month, almost as if some folks are sitting around pondering black history month and then have an epiphany “Let’s call Cookie, she is black!”, I do enjoy the month because as an historian  ( I still like the an, even though a historian seems to be more common usage these days) I like it when anyone talks about the past.

Not surprisingly since it is Black HISTORY month, most of the lectures, panels, talks, films, etc. deal with the past. This also defuses at least a little bit, some of the tension involved in talking about race. No one, or at least no one I have ever run into personally, is going to defend either slavery or Jim Crow, at least not openly. We do have, of course, those Neo-Confederates who try to claim that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. Yeah, it was, over the southern states’ rights to keep slaves, or those modern apologists who try to sanitize the evils of slavery and Jim Crow by claiming blacks should be grateful their ancestors were kidnapped because, hey, America is better than Africa!!

But generally, in polite company people are not going to offer the opinion that the men, women and children who were raped, beaten, murdered–by being worked to death, malnourished or outright shot, deserved it.

This provides a fairly unique opportunity for all of us ( except those few toothless denizens of places like Possum Trot, Mississippi )  to be on the same side of the race question for a minute. It was bad, it was wrong, but it is over and we can all rejoice in our progress, hold hands and sing “We HAVE overcome.”

Friday I had the opportunity to attend a talk by the author of the book “The warmth of other suns.” The book chronicles the experiences of three black folks who fled the Jim Crow South to make a life in other parts of the country. They were not alone. Six million blacks left the South between WWI and the 1960s, my parents among them.

Let me say that again, 6 MILLION people pulled up stakes and moved. The basic facts she shared were not new to me, that WWI left the factories of the North short of labor and they began casting around for new workers. At the time 90% of blacks lived in the South and almost all worked at low wage or no wage ( sharecroppers) jobs.  The North was not particularly fond of black people, but they needed hands and legs and backs to do the work of industry.

Blacks saw the opportunity to get away from an environment where they swore in people in court on two different bibles, the regular one and the “colored” one–same text, just that they did not want to chance having a white person, particularly a white woman, touch a book a black person had touched. Seeing the opportunity, they took it. Some of my far rightie friends–okay I lied, I do not have any far rightie friends, have tried to sell the idea that blacks streamed north and west because they wanted to get on welfare and it as easier in cities.Makes great sense, these people were obviously lazy since they had done virtually all of the manual labor work in the South for generations.

The info the author shared that was new to me was that there were three streams of migration. People from east coast states like NC, GA, SC, FL tended to flow to DC, NY, NJ, etc. She told a funny story about how many blacks ended up in Newark, NJ. The black migrants had been told to listen for “Penn Station, New York” as the place that would be the terminus of their journey. Considering the accents it is not surprising that a lot of them heard ” Penn Station, Newark” and exited the train.

The second stream from the middle southern states went to the midwest, Chicago, Detroit, and the third stream from Louisiana and Texas went west to California.My own family did not follow the pattern, darn it. DC is my favorite city, but my parents, although they were from Virginia and North Carolina, went first to Kentucky, where my father had a job teaching at a trade school and then to Ohio where he was able to open his own tailor shop in Fairborn, Ohio. We could not live there, of course, because blacks were not allowed in that era to live in Fairborn, so they settled in Xenia.

Another fascinating fact she shared was the talent pool that poured out of the South to the North, not only bringing facets of southern culture to the North, but allowing opportunities for such disparate talents as Coltrane, Miles Davis, Toni Morrison, etc. Many of the black famous American luminaries of the last century were children of the Disapora. Their parents, or they themselves fled the Jim Crow South where they could not have developed their talents due to lack of opportunity to gain wealth, education and something as simple as music lessons or to be able to check out a library book, and we all would have been far poorer as a result.

At one point all of the black mayors of major cities, Bradley, Dinkins, etc. were children of the Diaspora, all of their families had left the South looking for a better life.

Imagine what it would take to pack up all of your belongings you could take– you would be riding a bus or a train–the back of it until you crossed the Mason Dixon line–and what little money you had and starting off for someplace with a different climate, different language ( English is not the same in the Mississippi Delta as in NYC even now, imagine the difference then) and with different customs. Leaving family and friends, perhaps never to see them again. The courage it took is almost incomprehensible.

And, their need for courage was not over when they reached the north. The urban centers where most of them settled were not welcoming. Many immigrant populations from other areas of the world, Eastern Europe, Ireland, were not happy to see what they viewed not only as  members of a lower caste, but competition for jobs, and as a corollary, perhaps additions to the labor force that would drive wages down. Race riots were not uncommon and blacks were often the targets of beatings, lynchings, and having their home destroyed by fire.

And, the South, realizing what was happening, they were evil when it came to race, but not stupid, began to try to make it as hard  to leave as possible. Having depended on black labor for hundreds of years they were not going to let them go easily.  They arrested people on train platforms attempting to board trains for the North–no reason, just to make them miss the train and confiscate their money so they could not buy another ticket.

Some towns even waved trains on through, leaving blacks standing on the platform clutching what were now worthless tickets for a train disappearing in the distance.

In Xenia the Keys family had to walk out of Mississippi with the clothes on their backs. They had fallen victim to one of the primary tactics of the Southern landowners. They simply cooked the books kept for sharecroppers so that at the end of the growing season they tenant owed more than he earned. Local governments passed laws making it illegal to leave the county owing money, that meant the Sheriff would arrest you if you tried to move. Many people, like the Keys had to sneak out under cover of darkness to escape this modern version of slavery.

So, as the shortest month of the year winds down, I invite all of you to join me in celebrating the strength, courage, talent, accomplishments and spirit of black folks. What we have endured and how we have continued to rise is truly inspiring. We have our issues like all groups, but on the whole we are a fantastic people. I am both pleased and proud to be black, I only hope I can hold up the standard!.

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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Intransigence of Poverty: The myth of the meritocracy cripples us all

I went to a great talk today by a colleague, one of our history professors. He has a new book–go buy it, called ” To Right These Wrongs.” The book is basically about how the war on poverty was waged in North Carolina in the 1960s, how Governor Sanford led the effort, how North Carolina was able, unlike Mississippi and Alabama, to at least attempt to set aside white supremacy and recognize it as a barrier to economic growth for all people.

He had fascinating statistics including the one that 40% of North Carolinians in 1960 lived below the poverty line, which at the time meant they earned less than $3,000 a year for a family of four. By battling Jim Crow and economic disparities at the same time the state was able to beat back poverty for a large segment of its population, both black and white.

As the professor said, keeping black people uneducated and poor had the residual effect of making wages low, you could get them to work cheap, but that also meant uneducated, poor whites had to work cheap too. White supremacy preached that even though they were poor the white people were at least white and should therefore support the rich white people in helping to oppress the blacks. It is an old tactic, one used by the slave owners to get the poor whites of their era to support slavery. We have something similar today, of course, not the slavery, but folks voting against their own self-interest.

The war on poverty was, according to him making strides and flourishing until the  race  riots of 1967 when the media and those against the War on Poverty  initiatives started by LBJ, were able to put a black face on poverty and oppression and link it to “bad behavior. There were further attempts, particularly in the Reagan years to dehumanize poverty, to make it something sinful or evil that the poor themselves were responsible for.

Of course, they mainly are not responsible. Here is a quote from the book:  ” Poverty is political. It arises from neither accident nor simple misfortune, but is instead the product of an inequitable distribution of power, wealth and opportunity.”

Wow!

In other words, if as I said in the discussion following the talk, we Americans do not give up our love affair with the Myth  of the Meritocracy, we will never solve problems like poverty. Americans continue to insist that the cream rises to the top. That people who have more deserve more. They are superior in some way. Not everyone, of course, espouses white supremacy, but we all have a bad habit of pointing out the deficiencies in the poor rather than the deficiencies in our society when we begin to discuss poverty. We talk about them making bad decisions, having too many kids, being lazy, etc.

The professor, teaching at an elite school, asked his students when they raised some of the issues about poverty and large families, asked them how many children they thought people who received welfare had typically. They answered 4, 5, 6 or more. When he informed them that the average size of a family that receives welfare is 1.9 people, smaller than the average for most families that do not receive welfare they were amazed. Going further he asked them how many of them had a summer job last year. Virtually all of them raised their hands. He asked them how they had gotten their jobs. Virtually every one of them said a family member of friend of the family had gotten them the job. They were then ready to talk about inequities in power and privilege. As a mea culpa I will admit that I have  gotten my granddaughter a summer job at my college–a gig many of our students would like to have, the past two years.

So, as long as we are sure poor people are poor because they are somehow inferior, not as smart, not as ambitious, not as clever, the wrong color, then poverty will be with us. Sigh.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tales of Xenia: Valentine’s Day at Lincoln Elementary

 

 

When I was in elementary school, back when the earth was cooling, we made a big deal of holidays and celebrations. I think that is probably the genesis of my propensity to decorate, celebrate, and grab any reason to have a party, a tea, a reception or just some fun. Of course we celebrated all the regulars and in ways I am not sure that are still familiar to school kids now. How many of you remember planting marigolds in paper cups at school, tending them carefully and giving them to your mother for Mother’s Day?

If the teacher ( or school, I am not sure who paid for it) was feeling rich we would have a day in April when we would line up dirt and paper cups and plant small plants–marigolds were the favorite, probably because they are cheap and hard to ill, in the cups. It was always fun and we took it very seriously, making sure the dirt was just deep enough to keep the plant upright, but not so deep that the plant did not fit.

If times were hard, you got seeds in February rather than plants in April. That meant a lot more work. Making sure the seeds were buried to the appropriate depth, watering the seedlings carefully so you did not kill them,etc. But whichever way, we always had a windowsill full of marigolds by Mother’s Day.

Our mothers would pretend to be delighted with this annual offering, and I know my mother always planted my plant in the flower garden with great ceremony after Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s Day, however, was not about maternal or any other kind of devotion. It was a combination competition and social networking sans computers. In the early grades, say up to 4th or 5th, it was a matter of two things. How nicely you could decorate your Valentine’s box and how many valentines you received.

The Valentine’s box was a shoe box that had been covered, generally with red construction paper. Depending on the teacher we either dedicated a few art periods to the creation of our box, or the instructions were sent home to make one.You were to tape the box itself together and cut a slot in the top large enough to receive a valentine. Because valentines varied in size the slot had to be fairly large. This sometimes led to accidents where the slot actually was too long and split the top of the box in half. My mother lost a lot of shoe boxes on the altar of Cupid.You were then to decorate your box and put your name on it.

Either constructed at school or brought in from home, the Valentine’s Box was carefully scrutinized and judged by your classmates. The boys, especially in those lower grades, feigned disgust at having to make one, and contempt for the entire exercise. I noticed, however, that none of them failed to make a box of some description, although not surprisingly, their boxes tended to be much less ornate than those of the girls.

Because we had not yet adopted the idea that children’s self-esteem is fragile in our school systems, there were no rules that everyone had to give everyone a valentine. We would place our boxes on a specified table or desk and students would file around very seriously depositing valentines into the boxes of the children they wanted to give a valentine to.

Then after some ceremony–usually some telling of the story of St. Valentine, some punch and cookies or cupcakes, everyone was free to retrieve his or her box and go back to one’s desk and unpack your loot. If you had been careful in the construction of your box you could do this without destroying your design. Most kids, however, simply ripped off the top and dumped the valentines out on their desks to be sorted through and read.

We were allowed to read the valentines, exclaim over ours and our classmates’ haul, laugh at the funny ones and make smooching noises at the sappy ones. Looking back over a few decades I am sure there were some children who did not get many valentines or who did not have the money to buy valentines period. I do not remember anyone not having a Valentine’s Box or getting any valentines, but I do remember kids getting few valentines and I remember the pecking order. If your valentines were homemade that was considered tacky, if they were store bought that was better, if they were a specific character like Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, they were the most expensive kind and you got the most social capital for those.

As we got older and Valentine’s Day began to mean more than just candy hearts and construction paper, the boxes were still in use, but the competition to make them special was accelerated. By 6th grade the girl’s boxes were decorated not just with construction paper, or with construction paper at all, but with fabric, artificial flowers, lace, ribbon, pom poms, you name it. And the competition to get the most valentines was brutal.

Close count was kept, with the ultimate coup not being getting one from everyone, but getting one from all the right ones, the popular kids! Careful tallies were kept to see if you got one from certain kids and what that meant was that you were socially acceptable. The kind of valentine you got also meant something. If boys gave you funny valentines that meant they did not consider you eligible for the role of girlfriend. The opposite was not, however, true. If girls gave boys funny valentines that was often the sign that she thought he was rather cool.

The ultimate was to get one of the valentines with the request “Be my Valentine.” That was serious romantic mojo for a 12 year old. This was often reinforced by the little candy hearts with writing on them. If you got a valentine with that message and then, when candy was being doled out, if the author gave you a candy with the same message it was as good as an engagement ring….well maybe a promise ring anyway.

I will never forget the first Valentine’s Day that I got not only a “Be my Valentine” card and candy, but a necklace with half a heart on it. The other half, I was informed was going to be kept by my suitor. I was delighted and sure that I could hear wedding bells, see the picket fence and needed to start picking out kids’ names. He was my first boyfriend, Eddie Mc had moved to Xenia and started at Lincoln School and we were not sure about him because although he was black he had green eyes.

I went to my first dance with him in 6th grade and thought I was the grownest thing in the world. My parents had taken my first dance seriously and we went to Dayton to Rikes and bought a white dress ( I think we might have all had to wear white dresses) with spaghetti straps and a full skirt. I thought I was surely going to be the belle of the ball. Eddie came to pick me up, remember I lived next door to the school , and we walked very formally up the long sidewalk and into the school and on into the gym which had been decorated for the dance. It was a magic night, and I’ll always remember Eddie. He went on  to become an attorney, unfortunately in the midst of a nasty divorce his wife shot and killed him.

Valentine’s Day brings up good memories, and some that are not so good. Hope yours is romantic and dipped in chol

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What in the X#$@ happened to the News?

Is it me? I admit that sometimes I feel that I am in the Land of OZ or have fallen through the rabbit hole, but in a time when we have millions of people unemployed, civil unrest in Egypt, houses being foreclosed on like never before, public school systems under siege and young college graduates unable to find jobs that do not require asking about one’s penchant for fries, why in the hell are the news broadcasts full of interviews with grade B television actors and the latest perils of people like LIndsay Lohan?

Please raise your hands if you care if she goes to jail or not, is exiled on an island or not or is sentenced to clean floors with her tongue or not. When they devote five minutes on the morning shows recapping her escapades and speculating on her punishment I have to think that the end of our civilization is near.

I am now going to engage in dinosaur talk about the old days. Back when I was a young woman we had journalists like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. I cannot imagine Cronkite announcing who won on “Survivor”, let alone interview the sole survivor. He would have felt it was beneath him, and it would have been. He was a journalist, not a person paid to make up news from the actions or antics of irrelevant people who happen to have good publicity agents or shows on the same network.

When the news came on when I was a young woman it was NEWS. Something that was happening that a lot of people might find relevant. If you tell me you find what someone wore to an awards show relevant you can stop reading now—-what am I saying? If you think most of what is shown as news these days is relevant you probably cannot read!

I know, I know, the dumbing down, I would call it the moronic overhaul, of the news is blamed on CNN and other 24 hour news channels and shows .The theory is that the news channels have all the news that is news all day, so the other news shows, only on for a few minutes a day, have to have news they might not cover. Add the internet and people can find news anytime, the 6 o’clock folks have to have something to catch your attention.

But really people, showing that grandmother in England whapping would be robbers with her purse every hour for two days? Sure it was cute the first time I saw it, but by the time I had seen it ten times I was rooting for the bandits to knock her down and take that purse! Newsworthy? Maybe in the area of personal interest stories or local color, but the news shows are so poorly done now they are not only showing things that are not newsworthy they are showing them repeatedly.

I have what will no doubt be a really ignored suggestion. On the evenings where nobody has shot someone in the neighborhood, no planes have fallen from the sky, no fights have broken out at a hockey game, no kittens have gotten their heads stuck in a peanut butter jar, no cars have piled up on I-40 ( or I-75) can we have an investigative spot in the place of what starlet is sleeping with whom, taking what drug, having a baby without benefit of marriage or skinny dipping in mall fountains?

How about examining why America has a higher infant death rate than some third world countries, why so many teenagers still decide to take up smoking–even though we know what it does, why some people continue to hate other groups of people, why men continue to wear ties and women continue to wear mascara ( imagine an archeologist thousands of years from now. “The men put these pieces of cloth around their necks and tied them for what reason? Was it a sexual display to attract a mate, they seem to have come in a lot of gaudy colors?” or ” The women used to take these wands with black grease and run them across their eyelashes? Why? Was it a cultural ritual of some kind? Did the women with the eyelashes that looked most like a spider’s legs attract men? Have more job offers?”) or some other mystery. Perhaps why football teams who win the toss now always defer and start on defense? Makes no sense–do not bother to write, I know what they say, it still makes no sense.

Anyway–can we use the “News”  show time to educate if there is no news? I know Americans are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, I know this. I was core faculty at a research conference last fall in DC. The other faculty were from Harvard, Yale and Stanford. When we went out to dinner the first evening after the proceedings I brought up the subject of the dumbing down of America and lamented that I was afraid that 70% or so of Americans were not in danger of being sought out by MENSA. ( I admit there were adult beverages involved at this dinner). My colleagues looked at me and told me I must be a cockeyed optimist if I thought it was only 70%.

I blame the News.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Xenia Tales:Black History Xenia Style

I often wonder if some of the white folks in Xenia have any idea of how many brushes with black history they have had over the years due to the proximity of Central State University and Wilberforce University, either voluntarily or accidentally. I think most black people who live in Xenia or Wilberforce have some concept of the historic nature of the place and the many, many famous people who have either matriculated at or visited one or both campuses.

Let’s start with Wilberforce, which is is the older of the two. The history of the school is, in some ways, a snapshot of the American race landscape. The Tawawa Springs, a hot springs resort, was for rich white folks, and located in what is now Wilberforce in the 19th century. They sometimes brought their slaves with them ( if you have not read the book Wench, this is good time. Rosi has it at Bluejacket Books I think).

After the springs dried up, the resort fell on hard times. At the same time some southern white men–plantation owners, who had fathered black sons, were looking for a place out of the south to educate their duskier progeny. Enter an academy for black males born on the wrong side of the blanket as the British say.  The school was, of course, supported by slave owners money, so in some ways it was ironic that some black people were being beaten, raped and generally abused to make the white master rich, who would then send some of his ill gotten gains to the school for the benefit of his black son. Of course, the cover story was that it was owned by the African Episcopal Church. Complexity is one of the constants in race and race relations.

After the end of the Civil War, when the white plantation owners no longer had money due to the fact the South lost the war, let me repeat that for some of you Neo-Confederates, the South LOST the war. Anyway, the AME Church with the help of the Abolitionist William Wilberforce, took true charge of the school and Wilberforce University was truly born, actually it was probably Wilberforce College first. In the 1940’s a philosophical split developed on the campus and those who did not want to be associated with the AME church facilitated a split, Central State would be a secular, state supported university and Wilberforce would remain affiliated with the AME church.

All kinds of black luminaries have visited Wilberforce University and Central State. The two schools also have a long list of distinguished alumni, anyone from Leontyne Price to James McGee the first black mayor of Dayton, Ohio, not to mention me! I had the honor of knowing Dr. Charles Wesley, who was, at one time the president of Wilberforce University, then the president of Central State. He was an internationally known scholar. Read about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_H._Wesley

And yet, the two schools have never had any kind of traction with most of the people of Xenia who are not of color. It is a puzzlement. I would think that race and race relations had evolved by this time to the point where anyone would want to see famous people who were brave enough to venture to southwestern Ohio, even if it was on CSU’s campus. I have seen everyone from Stevie Wonder, Poncho Sanchez, Bill Cosby, Colin Powell, Mohammed Ali, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, every educator you can think of black and white, and virtually every entertainer of any kind you can imagine.When I was a child I went to a tennis match on CSU’s campus to watch  Althea Gibson play.

Charles Young Jr. , who was a friend of my father’s, was the son of Colonel Charles Young ( http://www.buffalosoldier.net/CharlesYoung.htm) a famous and much decorated man, his house still stands in Wilberforce on Rte 42, it is the big white house on the left if you are coming in from Xenia, between Stevenson Road and Wilberforce-Clifton.

A lot of people are wondering if we still need Black History Month. If we live in a society where some folks will not come four miles, even to interact with history making people, then perhaps we need to expand it to two months!

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Xenia Tales: Things that make you go hmmm

Xenia is in many ways, as I have stated before, a dichotomous society. It is both the very model of a small midwestern town and an almost complete anomaly.

But it was  generally a good place to live and to grow up in most ways. The nastiness, racism and classism, etc. were kept enough in the background that it took getting older and being more aware of human beings and their behaviors to realize. Xenia has always had a confusing relationship with its black population there is no doubt about that.

The Civil Rights movement and integration and the other changes in society that swept the country in the 1960s were muted in Xenia. Besides the demonstrations outside of Geyers Restaurant for not serving black people, which were mainly led by the white students from Antioch College, I do not remember a lot of civil unrest in Xenia at all. Yellow Springs, although smaller,was much more of a hot spot for social justice than Xenia.  We were not folks who were up on national trends, or at least we did not emulate them.

I often told my college classes I did not get to participate in either the free love or drug cultures of the 60’s because by the time they reached Xenia I was married with a child, and mothers in that era, simply did not do that unless they wanted to be the object of public scorn.

When I was growing up in Xenia it was a bedroom community in the true sense of the word.White people  and black people in Xenia worked at the factories in Dayton, Frigidaire, Delco, Chrysler, NCR,  or Springfield, International Harvester, or at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, fondly called “The Field.” Black people might also work at either of the two historically black universities, Central State or Wilberforce. I do not remember white folks working at either college until about the 1970s.

So we had two societies, primarily separate, but still cordial to each other and still able to pull together when required to defend Xenia and Xenians. I think I have mentioned before that when I had a stint as an editorial writer for the Dayton Daily News I was fascinated that my columns, usually about race and generally pretty condemnatory of my home town as far as racism is concerned, were almost universally loved and lauded by everyone, including, ironically some of the very people I was writing about. After all I might be a difficult black woman, they seemed to feel, but I was one of theirs, a XENIAN!

There was much more of a sense of community in Xenia it seems to me, back in those earlier days, even if the town was fairly rigidly segregated. I often wondered how people reconciled what happened in the factories they worked in or the Field where blacks and whites must have interacted and at least been on speaking terms and what the dynamic in town was. I remember people complaining that white folks they worked with would not speak when they ran into them at stores or on the sidewalk in town.

It happened to me only once. I was in high school and walking downtown when I saw a group of white girls I knew from school. There were four of them and three had their noses pressed to the display window of a store, the fourth one was facing in my direction. She saw me and quickly turned her head. About that time one of the other girls turned and saw me and waved and spoke. All four of them came up to me and we chatted, but I never forgot the girl who was not sure she should speak to one of her classmates because she happened to be black, at least not until she was reassured by her white companions that it was okay.

Black people did not work in stores in downtown, but they did work at Greene Memorial Hospital and there were always a few black faces–not very black generally, it seems the lighter you were the more the county wanted you–at the county courthouse. I remember Viola Ward working there in the basement, not sure what she did, but she was my church member from Zion Baptist–she always impressed me by how mean she was, not sure why.

We had the occasional black policeman. Mr. Robinson who lived around the corner from us was one of the first I believe. I think his duties were confined to the East End. I do not remember a black Sheriff’s Deputy except a few who were deputized to work at the county fair.

I wonder often why the taxpaying blacks in Xenia did not raise hell about the fact that both the city and county refused to hire black folks–actually I think from what I can see it is still true. One of the many mysteries of life in Xenia, but surely not the only one.

Being a typical small town meant rules were made and enforced based on privilege, sometimes it was racial, sometimes it was economic and sometimes it was simply knowing the right people. My father was a lifelong Republican–there I have admitted it–like many black men of his era. Even when it became obvious that the Republican party had abandoned the black people in favor of the racists–read up on the Southern Strategy adopted by the GOP in the 1960s– my father stayed a Republican. Why? Because the GOP has always dominated Xenia and Greene County and he got favors, like a summer job with the Ohio Department of Transportation each year for my brother when he was in college.

In the spirit of full disclosure let me say that I was on the Democratic Central Committee in Greene County when we had a Democratic governor and my son Michael also got annual jobs with ODOT as a fence inspector when he was in college. But then I really am a Democrat! After all black folks voting Republican is like chickens voting for Col Sanders. But I digress.

In some ways I feel like Xenia has been and to some extent still is in some kind of bubble that insulates and isolates it from the rest of the world. There are still attitudes about a variety of things there that I doubt you could find anywhere else. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, but they are all uniquely Xenian. I guess there is some comfort in that. We all would like to believe we are truly unique in some way and being from Xenia, the largest town in the world that begins with X ( or is that just a myth?) certainly makes one unique. The main thing it has done for me is to help me realize how many different guises wonderful people come in, and how few are actually a waste of protoplasm. Don’t get me wrong, there are some folks who have no purpose other than serving as a bad example, but they are mercifully a small minority, both in Xenia and elsewhere.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Childhood, Race, Social Justice, Xenia

 

Technology thy name is abomination!

We, my husband and I, have been blessed and cursed by the technology gods this week. It all began as a money saving strategy, which should have told us to begin with it would be doomed. We have never been folks that money liked to linger around, I think it is allergic to us.

A couple of years ago I decided that my contribution to my college aged granddaughter would be to pay for her cell phone each month. Now, lest you think I mean a cheapo $49 a month phone service, bite your tongue. Not my grandddaughter, nooo, she has a Blackberry with all of the accompanying bells and whistles. She did not like the company I was with, which I will call TM so her service is with AT, that meant no family plan, free calls between each other, etc.

So, when our service contract with TM  expired I figured we would just go to AT and get a family plan. Sounds simple, I mean they are advertising it all over the airwaves! I began the adventure on Wednesday of last week, calling the company, picking out phones ( we got iphones and I am afraid of mine, I think it is plotting to overthrow the government or at least is plotting to do me in) and setting up the service to start on Monday. I called TM, and after a tearful goodbye with a truly mournful young man named ” Jason” who tried his best to talk me into staying with his company to the point of offering everything short of nightly foot rubs, canceled my service with them effective, when else, on Monday!

The phones arrived in all their glory on Friday. I had not been able to keep my phone number, since I started my granddaughter’s service in Ohio where she is going to college and I live in NC. My husband could keep his because it was an Ohio number from back in the halcyon days when we had a commuter marriage–I will write about how marvelous I thought that period was in a future post, fortunately he does not read my blog.

Anyway, my iphone was hot boxed and ready to go. Right out of the box it began to take over my life. It pulled down my AOL mail, asked me how I wanted it to look, sound, make calls, answer calls, offered to type for me from voice commands, it made itself almost indispensable within hours. After I took it to my IT folks on campus on Monday it could now update my calendar, contact anyone on campus if I just type in ( or speak) their name, it is like having a servant in your purse or pocket.

My husband, since his phone number was the same, had to wait until the old TM “ported” his number over to the new AT.  We watched his phone expectantly, waiting for some sign or omen and nothing happened. He called AT,  I called AT and still nothing happened.

In the meantime we had decided to change cable companies–again a money saving deal–and go with the same company that had provided our new cell phones. The appointment to install was today. We also decided that since nobody calls our home phone but people wanting us to support starving marmosets in Tunisia or to buy new windows, we were going to do away with a land line like our younger folks were doing.

Sounds good, new phones, new cable, no home phone, we were going to be hip! The problem started with the installation of the new cable. Seems the old cable company likes to cut some crucial wires to your house in order to make installation by another company harder. A three hour installation turned into a day long adventure.My poor husband was being held hostage by the cable gods.

In the meantime I am at work wondering how things are going at home. Trouble is hubby’s cell is not working and since they are installing the new stuff we no longer have a land line. Communication is no longer possible. All I could think of us what happens if I get home and there is no land line, my husband has no cell and we have no cable. The prospect was dire.

Fortunately, when I came home( early, I could not concentrate wondering what horrors awaited me) the installation was nearly finished. That was the good news. The bad news was that our large 8 year old television in the living room took one look at the new fancy system and promptly turned up its tubes and died. So, we have the small television from the guest room in the living room. I think the the new system is wonderful, but I have to get up from the couch and go closer to the set to actually see much.

The further good news is that I am getting more exercise whenever there is anything on television I have to read or look at closely and that we probably watched too much television to begin with. The further bad news is I have already caught my husband scanning Best Buy ads online. So much for saving money.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized