Clyde Foster Hosing Down Marshall Negroes: 1960 bird, wander the streets. The slow process of education seems to be the only hope for improved race relations; this is, of course, unfair to all concerned in the interim, but it would appear to be the only way to avoid mass gang warfare indeed, that stage has sometimes been approached. You’ve got to be taught To be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade; You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught Before it’s too late, Before you’re six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relativeS hate; You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be carefully taught. A few examples will show how “carefully taught” race-hate is in East Texas. I saw an enraged golfer chase a frightened caddy with an iron. His crime? He said “No” instead of “No, sir.” A Negro can buy gas at any East Texas service station, and only the most militant of operators will compel him to fill his own tank, but if he needs his tires checked . . . ? Or when he walks around to the rear of the building in search of a rest room, he findslo! that he is, to his surprise, neither a Man nor a Lady, but a Colored, a third gender apparently; for Coloreds seem to come in only one sexthere is only one room for them. I omitted one major sport from the list of the area’s diversions. This pastime’s rules are rather loose, the equipment consists usually of a car and some sort of stiff, rod-shaped object \(cardboard for the winner and loser are pre-ordained, and the game goes by the alliterative moniker of “nigger-nockin’.” Newspapers are concerned with white news; there is a short column for “Negro Deaths,” and maybe a brief mention on the sports page if the local Negro high school wins some state championship. Any Negroes who inadvertently intrude in a news story are carefully labeled, “Negro.” The constantly smouldering racial enmity briefly erupted in the Marshall sit-ins September 6, 1968 7 the newspaper, that he would make no tried to practice his Christianity by alloweffort to campaign for the Negro vote. But ing two traveling Negro church-members what must be now seem amazing ishe to sit on the back pew was shortly relieved lost ; his opponent was the only incumbent of his job, even after groveling before the to retain his job, in an election generally congregation and profusely apologizing for considered to have been swung by the his inexcusable faux pas. Negro vote. What’s more, the congressional Now, I would be completely unjustified representative from the state’s northeast and rather obtuse if I attempted to make ernmost district has been, for longer than this sort of behavior out as a universal most voters can remember, the energetic thing within East Texas religious circles. Texarkana liberal, Wright Patman. Here These are, of course, extreme examples, but we have the basic dichotemy in East Texas I believe that they do point up one highly politics : the voices of reaction are many relevant fact : that it is not at all unlikely and strident, but they represent only a for such fanatics to attain positions of minority; in electing officers whose funcprominence, and what’s even more alarmtions most directly affect the economy, ing, they have no need to conceal their county commissioners and U.S. representaunconscionable deeds under a veneer of tives, for instance, the votes of the poor respectability ; these are the respectable and of the Negroes may often prevail. . . . people. . . . If East Texas schools come up to na Entertainment? There is some: Long tional standards, then those standards are view has a few nightclubs ; there is a disgracefully low. I found regional standsprinkling over the region of “wet” towns ards very undemanding; during my years or precincts, with road distances usually exposed to the teachings of certainly two, of drunk driving deaths. Bossier City, La., possibly three good teachers. Many of the with its 18-year-old drinking requirements coaches were intellectually superior to, and its stripperies, serves as a handy and considerably more likeable than, most “youth center” for the East Texas twist of the others. It was a common occurrence and acne set. Most dates end up at the few to find oneself compelled to write down to first-run moviehouses. Prostitution is cornone’s teacher, lest she fail to grasp mon enough; one particularly brazen roadone’s meaning. Friends who attended house is hideously painted in the rather apschool in the smaller towns roundabout propriate color known to the local savants have told me that their job was yet as titty pink. easier. Variety is supplied in the larger towns The two colleges in Marshallone white, by annual minstrel shows, usually put on b one blackhave rather good small-time by the local Lions Clubs, whose chief basketball programs and rather limited feature is smutty humor dispensed by smuttyfaced endmen, with racial jokes academic credentials. To be fair, one must high in popularity. “Miss ville” admit that little East Texas Baptist College has raised its standards in recent years, are annual events. There are the standard but it still bears the Baylor-like stigma of amateur theatrical, orchestral, and art being thought of as a “preacher factory,” groups in the area, none of any renown or with considerable justification. importance. One who wishes to express As to religion, the cases I shall mention himself artistically leaves home, as did are, to be sure, extreme, but only in that Kilgore’s Van Cliburn. East Texas has they very graphically present the pervadpeople of talent, it merely does not care ing aura of fundamentalism and traditionabout them. alism in an area which clings to the con Outdoor sports are a strong entertain cepts of the Old South. Somemind you, ment field: rodeos, boating, fishing, huntonly a fewof the products of the afore mg, and golf..There are some lovely lakes mentioned “preacher factory” carry their in East Texas; the country is, in fact, exzeal to the point of fanaticism. I have seen ceptionally beautiful. Lack of resources is a young divine earnestly exhorting a kneel simply not East Texas’ problem; any ing Negress in the Dairy Queen parking trouble it has comes from its people, parlot, while the “DQ Gang” hooted and ticularly the dominant ones. laughed at his performance. I have been approached on the street by one of his brethern and pointedly asked, “Have you RACISM is the chief problem of been saved?” My “Yes” sent him smiling East Texas. It affects every aspect of life, on his way. from religion to economics, from politics Preachers declaim carefully selected to literary fashions. It is a link to the past, Blood and Thunder from the pulpits, ever to the South, to what is traditional and mindful here, as everywhere, of the power unchanging. To undermine the institution and sensitivity of the boards of elders. But of white supremacy would be to scramble conditions can be even more dangerous the whole cultural-economic milieu; all here than in most places. These two things attitudes, all conditions would be necessariI know definitely to be true, as they haply altered. The problem’s complexity is pened within the congregation of which I staggering. What happened in Mississippi was a member when I lived at home: One in 1962 could as easily have happened in Wednesday night meeting turned into a any town of Northeast Texas. John Howshow of naked force between two factions and Griffin’s amazing and courageous book, of the leadershipan “Everyone who’s Black Like Me, could have been set there. with me, come over to this side of the aisle” Characters straight from the pages of sort of affair. And a rookie preacher who Faulkner, mobs from To Kill a Mocking
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