RACISM HASN’T VANISHED Race remains a heated discussion in Pensacola. Usually it’s buried deep and only surfaces when someone dares to promote a program that might help the minority community. Mayor Ashton Hayward’s proposal to pay for a disparity study that would help create initiatives to help minority-owned businesses created such a furor.
When I wrote on my blog of this City’s dark past in dealing with minorities, the response was vitriol. How dare I bring up lynchings, segregation and discrimination. I was repeatedly told that racism no longer exists in Pensacola. Really?
Earlier in the week, I spent over an hour with a well-spoken African-American woman who was in her mid-40s. She told me how she had objected to a black skeleton being hung with a noose around its neck during Halloween at her workplace. She had been raised in Monroeville, Ala. and listened to her grandparents talk about blacks being lynched. The skeleton really disturbed her, and she asked that it be removed.
Eventually the decoration was removed, but later she found a small decapitated skeleton left on her desk. No one was punished. No investigation was done. She was told to get over it. When she didn’t, she was fired.
Another worker for one of the top employers in town came to me. He talked about being passed over for a promotion to supervisor for a younger, less-qualified candidate. He was told that the other workers would not work for a black supervisor.
A black minister was driving home from Tallahassee with his family. It was late and raining. When he pulled off Interstate 110 and headed to his house, he was pulled over. Though he identified himself as a minister, he was made to get out of the car and stand in the rain. No ticket was written.
A friend shared with me his most recent brush with racism. Late on a Friday afternoon, he was visiting friends downtown at Hopjacks. He saw a car pulling out of a parking space on Jefferson Street. He waited and pulled into the space once the car left.
The car didn’t drive off but waited for him to get out of his truck. The driver, a white woman in her late 50s or early 60s, rolled down her window. She shouted, “You people want everything for free. Why don’t you pay for your own damn parking?”
He offered to give her a quarter, but she drove off after dropping her racist bomb. He was completely flabbergasted.
These are only four stories. There are dozens more that people silently endure. Some will argue that African-Americans can be racists, too. They will talk about reverse discrimination. And they will do nothing.
I admire Mayor Hayward for stepping up and refusing to accept the status quo. We can’t improve our city and its race relations by ignoring the problems.
We have to continue breaking down barriers and creating bridges that celebrate the diversity of our community.