So I’m watching the 4 Little Girls documentary and one thing is sticking out to me. Near the beginning, of the movie both white people and black people are describing Birmingham back in the 50’s and 60’s. The difference between the descriptions is extremely telling.
The white folks brushed over the blatant racism of the time. They didn’t mention the KKK and the only violence they mentioned was union violence. One even said it was a nice place to live.
For the black folks it was one of the first things to come up. They talked about segregation. They explained in detail how they had to tell their children that they couldn’t use a water fountain or eat at a certain lunch counter because they were black. They talked about how their houses were fire bombed because they were only black family in the neighborhood. They talked about how a neighborhood was named Dynamite Hill because white folks bombed it damn near everyday.
This to me is just another example of how directly racism affects black folks and our daily lives but it doesn’t touch white folks at all. White people have the privilege of viewing the past as this beautiful time. They can look back at the 50’s and 60’s and see only the good and fun times. It doesn’t work like that for black folks. We have to live with the images of dogs and fire hoses that were capable of stripping the bark off trees being turned on human beings. When we look at the past, we see black bodies hanging from trees and crosses burning in lawns. We see fire bombed houses and segregated restaurants, water fountains, buses, taxis, and bathrooms.
Take what you will from that. It’s just something that I find very interesting.
White folk have the privilege of believing there was ever such a thing as “The Greatest Generation” without a hint of irony.