Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Story of Color

I lived in Florida a few decades ago. Cranky had been appointed restaurant reviewer for The Orlando Sentinel, which sounded good enough to make us pack up and leave California for a while.

Sure, we were dubious about plunging ourselves into a whole new culture, and we arrived with prejudices. Those drawls! Those Dixie attitudes! Yeah, we were prejudiced against the white people (and we're white).

We made the best of it, though. We bought a house in Winter Park, a cutesy, snobby town of well-to-do smug folks. Oh, but it turned out there were black people in Winter Park, too. Shoved off into a pretty much segregated part of town. Totally segregated, actually. A friend of ours wanted to buy a house in that enclave, and her real estate agent refused to show her any.

Cranky and I liked to escape our smug neighborhood and go exploring. Sanford was a town or two away, and we found things to do there. There were definitely no gated communities in those days. Once, I stopped at a yard sale in Sanford and bought a green Depression glass measuring cup. It cost me two dollars (though the sellers had surely gotten it for free in a box of detergent back in the 1930s). The identical cup goes for about $30 these days on eBay. But such a special color.

We found a great restaurant in Sanford, Mother's Kitchen, where they made killer fried chicken. Right after you placed your order, you could hear the cook in the kitchen, hacking up a hen. Whack, whack, whack! Nice place.

In fact, Cranky decided to make Mother's Kitchen his first review for the paper. It would be a daring choice, picking a place outside the metropolitan miasma of Orlando and its toney environs. But the food was good, and Cranky wanted to make an impression.

Immediately after his review ran, the paper got a letter from a very angry reader. It would never be printed, it was so offensive. The writer had visited Mother's Kitchen, after "your reviewer bragged that place up," she wrote.

She was furious to discover that Mother was black. The whole restaurant was staffed by black people, though patrons of all colors were lovingly welcomed. Mother was a saint. She was also pastor of a church she had founded, and people felt really good in her care.

Well, not that toad who wrote the letter. "I almost went in there! It's a place no self-respecting white woman would go. You'd better keep an eye on that man."

Seems that, even today, things haven't changed enough there.


Hungry Dog said...

Ugh, Florida. I mean, California has problems too. Race problems. But at least it's not Florida.

Upside of that story is that sweet Mother didn't have to serve that piece of garbage.

Zoomie said...

Sadly, that kind of thinking happens all over the world, but it is most depressing here where we pride ourselves on our ideas of equality. My best friend in second grade at Pearl Harbor Elementary was a black girl named Jackie Baker;the class bully, a white kid, socked me in the stomach for being a "n****er lover." It starts early and, sadly, is indelible, at least once it is learned.

cookiecrumb said...

Dog: That's such a good observation! mother didn't have to serve that toad. :)
We were glad to get away from Florida after three years, though I had made some really good friends there.

Zooms: Pollyanna me, I just keep looking for the good in everybody, and sometimes it's just not there. I feel a book coming on.
Sorry about the punch in the gut. I woulda punched him back; that's the way I was.

Greg said...

My cynical side says prejudice might be part of human nature. :(

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Yeah, that could be an explanation, but I don't see the evolutionary advantage to it. Or maybe it's to your advantage to be an a-hole, and I'm missing that gene.

Zoomie said...

I want to read that book. And, I'd have punched him back, too, but I couldn't breathe.

cookiecrumb said...

Wow, he hammered you. Poor Z.

Zoomie said...

Yeah, but I got my revenge - the teacher saw him and he was sent to the principal's office. Does that ever happen any more?

cookiecrumb said...

Zoomie, yeah, I was hoping you snitched on him, but you didn't have to, and that's even better!

Zoomie said...

:-) The little bassted!