Posted on May 12, 2024

Crackers, White and Colored

Anonymous American, American Renaissance, May 12, 2024

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This is part of our continuing series of accounts by readers of how they shed the illusions of liberalism and became race realists.

For years, until I was about nine years old, I was the only white pupil in my elementary school. This was in a moderate-sized city in the Northeast.

Just to give some perspective from a personal viewpoint, this was during the period governed by Plessy v Ferguson (“separate but equal”) and before Brown v. Board of Education (integration, school busing). I have consulted no reference here, and I am going on pure, dim memory.

I was born in the middle of World War II, while my father was undergoing advanced training in preparation for an all-expense-paid trip to Europe.

In the early part of the twentieth century, the neighborhood I grew up in had been made up of Irish people. Afterwards, it consisted mostly of blacks. (Just about every person I knew was from South Carolina.)

No one I knew had ever heard of Plessy, and even after Brown was decided years later, no one I knew ever heard of that either. While the years of my early childhood roughly coincided with the Truman administration, at the time I never heard of President Truman, although my grandmother did mention President Roosevelt from time to time. Later on, there were some news reports about President Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, and perhaps at one point there was news about desegregation at some state university, but in the lives led by the people around me, those were distant events.

As for the term “black,” during my early childhood, I never heard that word applied to people. It was not until many years later, in the late 1960s to my recollection, that the people around me began referring to themselves as black (“Black is Beautiful”). Until then, they said “colored,” and that is the term I would have used to describe my schoolmates.

I remember referring to them as “colored” only once, however. One day, out on the sidewalk across the street from my home, a playmate of mine, who was black as were most of the kids I interacted with, said, without any hostility, “You a white cracker.” I did not know what he meant (we were both maybe eight years old), but I recall replying, “You are a colored cracker.” Neither of us took offense, but I wondered what he must have heard around his house.

My father, while an intelligent person (Army infantry officer in WWII and well read), had never to my knowledge heard of “Civil Rights.” He would, however, regularly host “movie nights” for me and some of the colored children in the neighborhood in our parlor, where he would play old silent cowboy movies borrowed from a camera store. (In our house, which was probably built in the early 1900s, we didn’t have what we called a “living room.” Instead, we had a rarely used “parlor.”) I still recall the whir of my uncle’s 8mm projector and seeing all the dust floating around in the air revealed by the projector.

At school, we used the “Dick and Jane” books to learn how to read. Our teachers were, for the most part, Irish; I recall thinking how most of their last names began with “Mc.” I do not know anything about teaching reading, but those books were terrible, and I blamed them somewhat for the poor reading skills my classmates exhibited. In any case, I think those kids were picking things up more from hearing than reading.

Around that time, television was just coming in, and while I do not recall watching the show at that time, my schoolmates began talking about what they called “The Long Ranger.” I talked about it that way too, until one day I happened to pick up a cereal box. On the back were details of some sort of contest, and for the first time, I saw that the character was the Lone Ranger. In that way, I sort of taught myself to read.

I did not see or hear of crime. I felt safe, and my parents did not seem to have any qualms about my being out and about in the neighborhood. The police van, however, was a common sight. Adults called it the “Paddy Wagon,” but the kids in the neighborhood called it the “Pie Wagon.” I never saw any criminals or witnessed any crimes, however.

In the late 1950s, the government began proceedings to condemn our family property by eminent domain for the purpose of building what were called “projects.” My mother and I used to joke that we had grown up in a neighborhood so bad that they tore it down to build a slum.

The neighborhood remained fairly stable into the mid-1960s, when things began to change. I recall one particular incident that seemed to represent that change. One night, around 1964, when I was working at a part-time job at a nearby liquor store, I heard swearing. As I looked up, I saw one of the customers slice the face of another customer with a knife. I knew both of these men, both were black, and I still remember their names.

Not long before, I had seen the guy with the knife standing around on a street corner with a bunch of other men. The men were wearing overcoats and fedora hats. In my memory, the knife-wielder resembled the boxer Sonny Liston, if Liston smoked a couple packs of cigarettes a day and drank a substantial amount of Seven Crown whiskey. I walked over to where he was standing, facing away from me, and bumped into him. He had lightning reflexes and whirled around with a right fist aimed toward my stomach. His fist actually touched the button of the coat I was wearing. As soon as he saw that it was me, he pulled his punch and gave me a hug. A short while later, I saw him slice a guy’s face.

During the Martin Luther King riots in the 1960s, the liquor store was looted and flattened and went out of business. And a few years after that, the projects that had replaced our home had deteriorated so badly that they themselves were torn down.

The tone of the neighborhood had changed forever.

If you have a story about how you became racially aware, or about your firsthand experience with race, we’d like to hear it. If it is well written and compelling, we will publish it. Please feel free to use a pen name and send it to us here.