Ron’s Time Tunnel: What’s That Smell?

thebrokengeneral

 

I grew up in Cuthbert, Georgia, and although I wasn’t attuned to it in my youth, racial bias and prejudice were interwoven into the “colored” fabric of our lives there. In retrospect, I don’t see how I could have missed it, but as I matured, the signs became obvious.

Going into the Air Force and experiencing the climate of comradery which dominated the atmosphere there, gave me a broader perspective on race relations; being exposed to the fresh air of diversity, made the malodorous and stagnant air of my beloved home, by contrast, even more oppressively obvious.

It’s kind of like working all week at a paper mill, or the chicken plant—whose efflux blankets the town of Cuthbert when the wind is right—then getting off for the weekend; enjoying the comforts and pleasantly familiar smells of home all weekend; then afterwards, going back into the plant on Monday morning.

When you first enter the chicken plant, on Monday morning, the rancid smell assails your now “virgin” nostrils, but after a few days, or even hours, you become acclimated to it. It becomes almost unnoticeable. That’s what leaving Cuthbert; staying away for a while (e.g. the Military) then coming back felt like, when it came to my hometown’s racial climate.

I recall one such instance, in which my father and I had driven to town to get gas at a “filling station” on “the square”. Every small, southern town worth its salt, has a “square”, but Cuthbert’s “square” is more of a “squircle”—a real word by the way—than a square. The “squircle” has thrived for decades under the vigilant gaze of a life-sized statue bedecked in full Confederate Army officer regalia, with all of the accoutrements deserving of such an immortally heroic figure.

As a child, I thought this monument was an image of “General Cuthbert”. I was never told that his name was Cuthbert, neither did I read it anywhere. It just seemed to me that he must be “General Cuthbert”. Why else would he have been given such a prestigiously prominent post?

Since that time, I’ve had an opportunity to read the plaque affixed to the pedestal only to find out, rather disappointedly, that he was not “General Cuthbert” after all, in fact, he was no one, in particular.

Yes! He stood high above the “square”, on a pedestal, surrounded by stone cannons, his stony gaze, unwavering; that is, until “Drunk Guy” drove across the park proper and crashed into his pedestal, thus knocking the old fellow from his perch and sending him crashing, unceremoniously, to the ground below; shattering his “body” into to several rocky chunks.

Some say that guy wasn’t so drunk after all.

Personally, I was glad to see the old guy go down and I don’t think I was alone in my sentiments. To me, the old “General” represented a time of pain, sorrow and oppression for Black people. A time that we’d rather not see “memorialized” so obtrusively and prominently, in the very center of the town that we call home. Now, thank God Almighty, he was no more, OR WAS HE?

Well, as it turns out, the encounter with “the Drunk Guy”, was not the “General’s last stand” for some of the good “citizens” of Cuthbert, in an awesome display of “philanthropy”—obviously borne of some misplaced sense of “patriotism”—thought it not robbery to donate the funds necessary to re-erect that old phallus. Soon another, identical image of the old bastard, forged in the depths of Confederate hell, was brought forth—shinning white and new—and deposited, ceremoniously I might add, atop the moldy marbled plinth.

This, the current incarnation of “The General”, is actually his third. He was first erected in 1894, but he was subsequently, blown from his lofty perch by the “cyclone of 1909”. In his falling, he lost his left hand and was thus, retired to “Greenwood Cemetery”; the final resting place of many of the Confederate dead he’d so proudly represented, for so many decades.

His second “incarnation”, or one MIGHT say, his first RE-incarnation, was in the 1940’s, when the cyclone “victim” was replaced by a fresh-faced recruit, identical to the first one. Then came the “Drunk Guy”!

Something stinks!

But I digress; back at the “filling station”. My father had an “account” at the filling station. If one was “fortunate” enough to have had such an account, one could get gas on credit and pay at the end of the month. Once at the filling station, a young Black fellow sprinted cat-like, up to the driver’s side window of the car and asked, “How much?” “Fill her up”, Dad told the boy. It appears to me now, that all of the “pumpers” back then, were black guys and the white guys ran the cash register.

When my father went to “sign” for his gas, the owner/cashier greeted him warmly, “Hey there Fletcher. D’ja fill er up today?” “Yes sir Mr. White!” my father replied. “Well awright Fletcher, jest sign rat cheer and have a good ‘un now, ya hear?”  the owner/cashier chimed arrogantly.

Here’s what I found odiferous about the situation; why did my father refer to Mr. White as “Mr.” and Mr. White refer to my father by his first name? My father was, at least, as old as Mr. White, an educated man, and a respected member of the community.

Scenes of this nature, unfortunately, were commonplace in those times, but like the smell of the plant—to one grown unaccustomed to its odor—they were especially noxious to the olfactics. Where was the MUTUAL respect?

Let me share with you, a few of my thoughts and observations about racism, racial bias, and prejudice:

• Prejudice judges a person by his/her outward appearance, without regard to what is in the person’s heart or mind.

• Prejudice is the mark of an ignorant mind that perceives itself to be enlightened.

• Prejudice assumes it understands the actions and behaviors of others while having no knowledge or facts about the person or persons.

• Prejudice has its roots in ignorance and breeds ever increasing ignorance.

• Discrimination deprives a person or group of persons of their Constitutional rights of: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

• Discrimination deprives a person or persons of the right to belong to society.

• Stereotyping deprives a person of the right to be an individual.

• Racism is a small-minded man’s way of raising himself above others. He elevates himself by demeaning others.

God does not look at the same things that people look at; people look at outward appearance, but the Lord looks into a man’s heart.

    

     

     

      

     

53 thoughts on “Ron’s Time Tunnel: What’s That Smell?

  1. Hi! Thanks for liking my post on October 6, ’16. I just hit post instead of save so I don’t know if you got most of it. So I hurried and typed the rest. lol. Part of the post is about how we humans are all imperfect. I know that’s right.
    I don’t like racism. I’ve experienced it from the other side a time or two. It’s just an awful way that Satan pits brothers and sisters against brothers and sisters.
    One older girl on our street used to yell out at me, “Who you looking at, girl.”
    I would hang my head and hurry by. Years and years later, a beautiful, tall lady with beautiful skin shades darker than mine walked through a federal building downtown in Upstate, NY. After smiling and admiring her, I suddenly did that ducking my head down thing. I couldn’t believe it. I cast a glance her way and she was mad. I’ll bet she hates racism, too.
    We got separated by the crowd and what does one say after that anyway?
    God bless you. Thank you for the post.
    I went to an inner city church as an adult, and our congregation repented before God for racism in our ranks. The guest preacher was a professor at a prestigious college. He explained how he hated “The Man.” Our pastor was white and he apologized for all the racial stereotyping and brutality. We cried together and we prayed together for mutual forgiveness. What a day. I am about to cry remembering it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful post and poignant memory Constance. That was awesome what happened at your church. If only more of us could participate in moments of atonement and love.

      LOVE conquers all. I firmly believe that. I believe it’s incumbent upon us all, Black, White, Brown or whatever shade one’s skin may be, to nake racism a thing of the past.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tareau Barron

    I like the “Mr. White” reference. In my youth and even today as a young adult, I feel that some racist white folks will try to assert their “supremacy.” It’s a heat check. Letting you know the score or letting you know that they’re in charge. Happens all the time to me here in San Francisco. And even though this is an “alleged” free spirited, inclusive city, the racism is off the charts. Folks hide behind their avatars on social media, might say things like “Ohh this injustice is tragic” But they do not have 1 black or Latino friend. Nice post as always

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Tareau Barron

        Anytime I go to the South I do honestly prefer the blatant and in your face racism compared to the indirect racism here in cali. At least you know who to stay away from down there. Hahahaah

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Did he do it? Oh yes he did!

    Ron, I just had time to really respond. I’ll just say that there are so many overt and covert little gems in this piece that I can scarcely count them.
    But the one that made me roll off the chair was the reference to the “old phallus.”
    I HOLLERED!!!!
    The entire story of that “Random General” totally REEKS!
    But, with that said, it is a story that is so familiar and so dyed into the wool of so many Southern states.

    But there is hope! I can’t help thinking about the events that happened after that act of racial terrorism that took place in June 2015 in that church in Charleston.

    There was one White female representative who literally cried on the legislative floor after giving a very candid speech about the tendency of good Southerners to romanticize the Confederacy. She admitted that there is no way to get around the inherent hate that goes along with that kind of thinking. There is also no way to bypass how hurtful it is to Black people.

    There is just no way!

    In my mind, totems, flags, symbols and statues like random General Whatshisface belong in a PRIVATELY funded museum dedicated to the confederacy.

    NOT in a public place where tax payer’s money is used to maintain it.

    Oh and that Cyclone of ’09? Apparently some folks are too stubborn to recognize an act of God when they see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it would behoove us all to really think about our everyday actions. We may find tiny chinks in our daily comportment that could be smoothed out.

      We must take time to look at “the man in the mirror”, that’s where change starts.

      Thanks Michnavs

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cuz, you eloquently hit that proverbial nail on it’s emmin effin head! LOL

      What makes it soooo bad Cuz, is that, although the mayor is White, the majority of the City Council is Black! Conditioning…

      Private citizens paid for the replacement, but taxpayers pay for the park’s maintenance. One would THINK the Council would…

      I asked one once, why they’d allowed it, she said, “What statue?”

      Lawdy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It has been said many times by many that we should never judge a person on the basis of their appearance but rather judge them on their character…but he way you said it here in your post made me rethink my own judgement too..

    Thanks for sharing this..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it would behoove us all to really think about our everyday actions. We may find tiny chinks in our daily comportment that could be smoothed out.

      We must take time to look at “the man in the mirror”, that’s where change starts.

      Thanks Michnavs

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry as well Van. I’m not one of those people who think that the entirety of a certain set of people should be held accountable for what was done in the past. But I think it’s going to take ALL of us to fix it.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Susan,

      You’re welcome!
      Yeah, I am so proud of my cousin Ron, I used to have to tell people about him; now I can show them!
      LOL!
      He’s an awesome dude and I love him dearly!
      Enough of the MUSH— LOL!!!

      I was reading your comment and I had to acknowledge an important point that you made:
      “It is ironic to me that we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by new technologies on a daily basis and yet we are still living in the past in terms of the way we treat each other. ”

      I am sooooo right there with you on that!

      Some people are doing nothing more than serving people dog food on fine China. Just crazy!
      It’s well past time to upgrade.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I like that Cuz; “dog food on fine China”. Oh and thanks, as always for your support and for allowing me to leap off from your platform into the intelligent, courteous, and friendly waters of your followership.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Ron – what an on point piece! It resonates with the rancorous time we find ourselves living in, unfortunately. It is ironic to me that we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by new technologies on a daily basis and yet we are still living in the past in terms of the way we treat each other. Thank you for this insightful article.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Susan. You raise such a good point. It is indeed ironic that in these “modern” times, the thinking of some people can be so antiquated.

      The mind is awesome, adaptable and flexible. We would not have come so far as “human” race, if it were not. However, some of us deliberately choose to stymie these unique, God given qualities.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Hey Susan,
          Ron is featured here every Friday. If you’d like, you can go into “Categories” and find the “Ron’s Time Tunnel Folder.”
          Lots of good gems there from months back!

          Liked by 2 people

  6. I know that smell…That stench of the chicken plant. The paper mill. The water treatment plant. It’s offensive. Just like “the general”.
    And the way you make your point, is nothing short of genius. I can especially identify with the part about the cashier and his lack of respect. I still see that and it bothers me. Some patients are called Mr/Mrs and others are called by their first name. I feel that our seniors should all be addressed with respect, regardless of their race or social status.
    In 1997, I worked for a state hospital that cared for those with developmental disabilities and mental illness. During my first week at work, a client in a wheelchair rolled into my office. His body was contorted and his head hung to the side. I made the assumption…a biased and stereotypical assumption…that he was not intelligent, based on how he looked. I assumed that if he was a client there, that he was mentally challenged. He sat in front of my desk for a few minutes. I greeted him, but he didn’t answer. I went on about my work.
    Then he turned his chair towards me and said, “Excuse me, Miss. Do you know when the fiscal year ends? The bathrooms in the lobby are in bad shape They need to budget for some repairs.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I’d assumed what I did. He had physical impairments and limitations, but intellectually he was on point.
    That taught me a most valuable life lesson. Never judge anyone based on their outward appearance.
    Great post, Ron.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Tessa, you offered such a touching example.
      I learned that same lesson through a young man that I knew who had Cerebral Palsy.
      Baby, he was burning on ALL cylinders–ALL OF THEM!!!
      But it just took him a longer time to express his thoughts!
      LESSON: Never assume! Just don’t do it!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Agreed, my friend! This client was spot-on all of the time. He was brilliant.
        And you would have thought I’d learned my lesson…but no. I was working in an exclusive senior community (5-star, resort-like) and a man came to tour the building for his mother. He was wearing dirty overalls and looked (and smelled) like he’d just come from working the farm. He was very quiet during the tour and I “assumed” it was because he knew the cost was out of reach for his budget. I even tried to show him options that would save him money. I knew he wanted the best for his mother, and I wanted to help him.
        At the end of the tour, he selected the nicest suite we offered and paid for her first six months with his platinum American Express card.
        And once again, I learned the same lesson. NEVER ASSUME!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Okaaaaaaay! Now that’s a good one. We judge people based on many different things.

          I’ll never forget the time I was working in a hospital and a black man with a jheri curl and a gold tooth came in for outpatient X-rays.
          Did I mention that he had on a track suit with gold chains?
          Well , our receptionist was kinda snooty so she was treating him with very little respect. She never referred to him as ‘Sir’ or anything. I was not working directly with him but I did smile and speak to him.
          Well how ’bout one of the VPs of the hospital walked in, of course everybody then stood at attention. He greeted us, politely, and then walked right up to Mr. Jheri curl and said, “Glad you made it safe Dr. Black!” When you are finished with your procedure please have the floor call my office so that we can go to lunch.”
          YAAASSS!!!!!!!
          Turns out he was a vascular surgeon in a different city!
          Don’t judge!
          Our receptionist, who was white, all of a sudden started catering to the good doctor!
          So she went from not even calling him ‘Sir’ to having to call him ‘Dr.’ He just looked at me and slightly shook his head. He knew I got it!
          Tessa you called it NEVER ASSUME!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. He did!
          This was in ’93 so he shole was Romey Rome! I remember it like it was yesterday!
          Check this out, I later learned that the brother was from TN. Made me think about them TN playas!
          I remember joking with Unc about that. LOL!!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for the read and the awesome response. Thanks for sharing your experience. Its so easy to take something for granted or to make assumptions about a person or thing. I’ve done it so often.

      But, I’ve really put a lot of effort into not making assumptions, whenever possible.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ron,
        You are so right…it is so easy to make those assumptions. And we have all done it at one time or another in our lives. I think you are spot-on…it is about making the effort not to do it. It’s about being mindful and retraining our brains to erase the junk fed to us…to purge that “it’s just the way it is” mentality…to challenge stereotypes and double-standards.
        Again, I love this post. Ironically, I will be passing through the metropolis of Cuthbert in the next few weeks and the general is not on my list of landmarks to visit. LOL.

        Liked by 2 people

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