Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I had a great-aunt who was in almost all ways a sweet and kind person. When she was in her 80's, she talked about going to visit the old people in the nursing home nearby.

She was also a racist.

When my uncle came back from WWII, he started a candy store in Chicago. It did well, and he ran it until the late 70's. They lived over the store, originally in a middle class white neighborhood. Like much of the inner city, the neighborhood deteriorated. The mostly middle class whites moved out, and poor, mostly blacks moved in. They started having problems with bums and panhandlers, and the store was robbed at gunpoint several times. They still had a good business, mostly selling to the families that had lived there in the 50's and 60's who would come back for their traditional Christmas and Easter candy. Finally, they decided to sell the business and retire to the suburbs. The best offer they had for the business including the building and the fixtures was less than they made from it in a year.

My aunt rarely (if ever) met middle-class blacks. From her point of view, the blacks moved in, chased the whites out and everything went to hell. I tried once to explain to her that the problems were economic and not racial--The blacks I knew from my small town were pretty average. Some of them decent, some of them nasty, but in about the same proportions as whites. She was polite about that, but not convinced.

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