Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Hurt people hurt people"

---David Hooker, a black community-builder, recounting an incident in an Oxford, Miss. bar; from a CS Monitor story Beyond racism: lessons from the South on racial discrimination and prejudice, Sep 18, 2010. (This article is part of the cover-story package for the Sept. 20, 2010 issue of The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine. The weekly is well worth having - subscribe!)

Mr. Hooker, who lives in Atlanta and teaches at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., stepped into the Ajax bar to order some food. A white Mississippian sitting at the bar said to no one in particular, but within Hooker's earshot, "I remember when they didn't let niggers in here."
Recounting the episode, Hooker says he replied, "That was crazy, wasn't it? I remember that, too."
Hooker adds: "He kind of looked at me, like, 'What do you mean? You're not going to be offended?' "
The two ended up having a 45-minute chat that spanned the election of Obama, the Ole Miss football team, and hopes for their kids. "He was asking to have a conversation about race – he just didn't quite know how," says Hooker. "The reason I could hear that as an invitation is because I constantly remind myself that hurt people hurt people – they're exposing you to a place of their own pain."
Times are changing, it seems, though not in the way Northerners might imagine. Willie Griffin, an entrepreneur who moved back South is quoted as saying, "If there's prejudice today, it's more of a class thing than a racial thing."