I'm going to tell you a little story, one that I don't discuss usually and surely not with anyone outside the small county of Jackson in the state of West Virginia.
Jackson County, WV has two major towns, small as they are, they are surrounded by even smaller villages. The folks from the small villages came into the towns of Ripley and Ravenswood for any major purchases and to attend high school. Ripley's population was around 3500 souls so you can imagine how small the surrounding villages were.
Everybody knew everybody and some times that was a good thing though I've never been enamored nor felt the need to know everybody around me. I prefer living in a larger town and gaining some anonymity.
The town had one black man that lived on the outskirts of this town. He was known and called N***** George and to this day, when the natives there mention him they defend their right to still use the derogatory description of him by saying "But that's what he liked to be called. That's how HE called himself."
My problem with this is "What did they expect him to do? Rebel? Get belligerent? No. I think he probably just went with it thereby causing him less notice and allowing him to live in some sort of peace there.
In later years I've heard of a few black families that tried to live there. They left.
I can imagine if I had been captured by renegade Indians in the days of tomahawks, hatchets and loose scalps, I would quickly learn what to do to survive. I would be learning to bead moccasins and skin buffaloes, smiling all the while. You could call me honky whitey and I would just smile. Self preservation is a strong incentive for acceptance of many things.
My thoughts might not be what those captives could interpret. It's a matter of survival. I often times wonder if I met George after he moved away, what stories he would tell me. Was he happy to have left after all those years of living on that hill on the outskirts of that town?
Do not misunderstand. I don't think anyone was ever mean to him. I don't think he ever gave anyone any reason to find fault with him. He kept to himself. He walked a lot. From that hill where he lived, you could see him walking into town, through town and to the other end of town every day and usually more then one trip. His head bowed low, eyes on the ground, he had a small lurch to his gait. His clothes were nondescript, a faded brown shirt and pants and rundown shoes on his feet.
I never once saw him stop to talk to anyone. I never saw him in a restaurant nor a store nor with any crowds of people. Why is that? And now when I hear people mention his name and pretend to know how he felt and what he liked, I don't get to hear any real conversations he had with them. Wouldn't someone know him if he was so accepted in that community?
In today's world, George might have been diagnosed as BiPolar. All that walking, back and forth from sun up to sun down might be recognized as something other then exercise. I wonder. He was a town fixture.
When people there speak about him and how he liked to be called "N***** George, I question just what did he talk to them about. I've never heard anybody repeat an actual conversation they had with him. Did anybody learn his history? Where he came from? If he really had friends there in that community, wouldn't they have had coffee with him? Lunch? Sat on the courthouse lawn and whittled along with the other gentlemen of the town?
Of course when his name is bought up, it's always prefaced by the "I'm using his name with the utmost respect....yada yada yada.....And if they are called out on using the N***** in 2011, they justify and assure you that they have "black friends" which is something I have never understood. I say to those people..."Name me a few." They don't expect that and are silent. Knowing names of black people does not make them your friends and if they were your real friends, don't you think you wouldn't have to separate them as to color?
Did anybody REALLY know George?
Another argument the inhabitants of that small town use to this day for voicing to each other "N***** Hill is that the people that had left town and come back, hearing a discussion on the geography there would not know what area was being discussed if the new name of NORTH HILL was used. A flimsy excuse don't ya think? I was just told this today as to why the name is still used for that hill.
My question is....or rather my answer would be to these people...."the hill north of town where the black man lived". I guess that wouldn't work as it wouldn't give the people the opportunity nor the justification to still say N***** Hill.
There are many reasons why I would never move back to that area but the bigotry that lies below the thin veneer in that area is something I could never accept. I've been away too long; been around too many different nationalities and small minds bore me.
Having said all this on the subject of George, I want to also say, the people in that small town were civil if not kind to each other. The parents of the people I grew up with watched over each other and were multiple parents to many. It wasn't a bad place to grow up. I have some problems with how their views differs from mine. Maybe it's all the places I've lived. All the people I've met. I didn't stay in that little town. There was so much more to see and experience and learn about.
Maybe that's the biggest difference.