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Harry E Gilleland

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The Black Experience in Old Dixie
by Harry E Gilleland
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
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A long, thought-provoking, political free-verse poem about Black history in Old Dixie. Based upon my opinion gleaned from history, personal observations living in the states of Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana for the past seven decades, and current events.

Stolen from their African ancestral home
by marauding, murdering bands
of savage slave traders, then roughly
marched in chains to the coast,
put aboard ships in horrific,
cramped spaces to endure
a four-months-long voyage during which
one slave in eight died and became
shark food, the pitiful souls that survived
arrived in their strange new “home”
to be sold to the highest bidder.
Thus was their welcome to Old Dixie.
They would see their loved ones
and friends nevermore.

Generations upon generations of cruel
slavery was their unfortunate fate,
subjected to rape of their women
by their Christian White masters,
worked mercilessly with backs scarred
from whip lashes, deliberately kept illiterate,
housed in shacks, their very life dependent
upon the will of their White masters,
not able to even prevent their family members
from being sold to never be seen again.
This they suffered through two hundred
years, as the South grew rich from
King Cotton grown on immense plantations
made possible only through the labor of slaves.
Slavery was the life blood of Dixie!

The end of slavery with “freedom” for
Negroes was won through a bloody
Civil War. But true freedom was not to be.
The KKK burned crosses, administered
beatings, and lynched by the thousands
“uppity Negroes” who didn’t know
their place in Southern culture. The governing
Whites didn’t allow Negroes to vote,
get a good education, have a well-paying job,
or own a nice house, all through manipulation
of the state’s laws and open, overt racism.
Whites reigned supreme.

Negroes for generations during the late
19th to mid-20th century endured these
injustices or paid the price for daring to
object. Jim Crow was thriving and strong.
Negroes were segregated from the Whites,
got off the sidewalk when a White person
approached, couldn’t drink from the same
public water fountain, eat in the same dining
room, rent a room in the same hotel as Whites,
rode at the back of the bus, and watched the
movie from the balcony. Negroes knew to
shuffle their feet, hat in hand, eyes down,
and speak respectfully to any White
they encountered upon peril of their life.
Separate but equal was the law of the land.
Although separate, it was far, far from equal.

Negroes who went off to fight overseas
during WWII with valor and honor
returned home only to be called “boy”
and warned to stay in “their place”
and keep their mouth shut despite
all the indignities they suffered.
Lord, would this racism ever end?

Came the 1950s and 1960s with
Martin Luther King, Presidents
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and LBJ,
and the Warren Supreme Court,
and the earth moved. Federal
laws and court rulings struck down
Old Jim Crow’s state laws and outlawed
segregation, the denial of voting rights
to Blacks, discrimination against Blacks
in education, jobs, housing, and all
aspects of American life. Victory perhaps!

Southern White racists were livid
and cursed “that nigger-loving Warren liberal
Supreme Court” for its rulings. To show
where they stood, some Southern states
added the Confederate battle flag to their
official state flag so all could see what
it represented flying high over their
state capital. Every Black understood
their message each time they walked
under it on their way into the courthouse
to seek justice from their state. Racism
went underground but never waned,
as it persists to present day in Old Dixie.
Republican legislatures and governors currently
pass laws to impede the ability of Blacks to vote
and refuse to implement health benefits that would
aid thousands of poor Blacks in their state.
Can you imagine Jesus approving of such actions?

Racism is merely more subtle in modern Dixie.
Applicants being of equal merit, LaShequa
doesn’t get invited to interview but Jennifer
does, and the apartment is no longer available
for Davarius to rent but still is for Andrew.
Justice is dispensed unfairly for Blacks
versus for Whites. For the same drug offense,
the White boy gets probation whereas the Black
boy gets jail time. Serving time in prison for
minor offenses ruins the life of a disproportionate
number of Black young males. Racism refined!

After dozens of generations of being called and treated
as being inferior and enduring disadvantages
in education, jobs, housing, and unequal justice,
imagine if you will the lasting effects on the
Black child’s self-esteem and hope for future
success. Yet, today many Blacks through great
personal courage and merit have managed,
to their credit, to overcome the quagmire that traps
so many Black youths. After centuries of historic prejudice
and racism on the part of their Christian White neighbors,
those Blacks who remain trapped in poverty and want
must be awfully weary of smug White racists
asking why have they not done better,
what with “all the government programs and
opportunities provided to them”, as they hear
themselves called “welfare queens” and labeled
as “lazy slackards” and, of course, “takers.”
One can only wonder how many of these Dixie
Rednecks wish that they themselves had been
born Black in good Old Dixie. Hear the silence!

Perhaps the current younger generation
will finally bring an end to the legacy
of racism in Dixie. Perhaps not, as I recall
such hopes being expressed fifty years ago
when I was part of that era’s young hope,
while growing up in Georgia.
Like the disease it is, racism far too often
gets passed from the older generation
to the new in the states in the Deep South
deep in the heart of Old Dixie.
If you doubt this is true ,
remember well the massacre
by a young White Supremacist racist
in a historic Black church
in South Carolina in July of 2015.
Remember the Confederate battle flag
proudly flying over that state’s capital
for decades past for all to see and
bear witness to its message.
Now imagine that you are Black.

Gilleland Poetry and Prose
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Reviewed by Edward Phillips
This is a superb narrative, Harry, told from the point of view that few others have had save only the Blacks who lived it, endured it, and died from it. Save only. My first encounter with a Black was a lady who lived down the street. She gave me peanuts and sang songs and told me stories. She became my best friend. She was such a good teacher that I never had to go through the "hate" stage in order to meet a Black person on equal terms.
Reviewed by Harry Gilleland
Ron, thank you for reading my work and posting your thoughtful comments about my poem. I appreciate your words of support for this piece. It has received a lot of views, but yours is the only feedback received.

It will be a great day, should it ever arrive, when people only see others as fellow humans and don't dwell on the pigment in their skin.

Thanks again for your review.
Reviewed by Ronald Hull
Very telling and timely. I'm a white man from the north, but wish that I had written such a wonderful piece about what I know and have experienced both in the north and in the south.

Racism may not ever be totally stamped out. There are always those who, through their convoluted minds, will think that one race is superior over another. But, in the long run, with intermarriage becoming more and more prevalent and accepted, we will all be a pleasant shade of brown and will no longer think that we may be black for "one drop of blood" but be proud of our DNA heritage like so many are now beginning to find out. Archaeologists and other scientists have found that most Europeans, and not Africans, have 1 to 3% Neanderthal DNA. Neanderthals have always been considered to be a subhuman species. But it is obvious from DNA that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans who came out of Africa and are part of most Europeans and Asians. That may explain some of our brutish behavior.

Thank you for posting this monumental piece. I hope others will comment as well.

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