Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Microstory 1728: Jim Crow

Your Honor, my name is Jim Crow. My first name is not James or Jacob, or anything like that. It’s actually Jim. My parents were named Beckett Crowley, and Geraldine Devlin. When they got married, instead of my mother taking my father’s last name, they decided to shorten it to Crow. When they had me in 1984, they named me Jim. Believe me when I tell you that this was no accident, nor coincidence. My parents are two of the most racist people I know, and they knew exactly what they were doing. They believe in white supremacy, and they believe in segregation. They may even believe that all black people should be exterminated. They’ve hinted at such evil thoughts on more than one occasion. I literally witnessed them spitting on a young black girl just because her family wasn’t around, and no one could stop them. When I was a child, my mother told me a story she made up, about how the people of Africa so displeased the Lord that he glued dirt to their skin, and forced them to live in filth from then on. Their skin isn’t black, it’s that there is actual grime all over their bodies. I never bought into it, obviously. Had I grown up during the actual time of segregation, I might have seen no other choice, but I developed my sense of right and wrong during the 1980s. My relatively small city in Maryland was not at all without its racism, but I had something that some people in the past did not. I had Star Trek. I remember seeing Whoopi Goldberg on The Next Generation. Here was this black woman who had standing on the ship...who people trusted, listened to, and cared about. That very night, as young as I was, I thought long and hard about who my parents are, and what they were trying to teach me. I made a conscious decision to reject their hatred, and come to my own conclusions. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of informing my parents of my intentions.

They started to punish me. They withheld dessert, and when that didn’t work, they took away my dinner, and when that wasn’t enough, they stopped letting me have water. They eventually realized I was going to die if they didn’t do something, so they changed tactics. They developed their own Jim Crow laws. I was allowed to eat, but I had to make it myself, and I had to find somewhere else to do it. An old lady lived next door, so she let me use her kitchen. I did try to explain to her what was happening, but she was senile, so she barely understood, and never remembered. She introduced herself to me every day. She wasn’t abusive, but about as racist as my parents, so I didn’t want to spend much time over there. Still, she had a bathroom I could use too, which was nice, because I wasn’t allowed to use mine anymore. Basically what my parents did was show me what it was like to experience segregation. I can imagine the non-racist parents of a racist child doing the same thing to teach them a lesson, but my parents didn’t see it that way. They figured I would grow tired of the restrictions, and finally admit that it was both easier, and better, to be white. Of course, their methods only enforced my conviction that they were completely wrong about everything. When I was seventeen, they started to see that they were losing me, so they maneuvered the legal system, and had me declared unfit for independence. I was a ward of the state for the last twenty years under false pretenses, and it has taken me this long to get out. That, Your Honor, is why I’m only now getting around—as you put it—to changing my name. I haven’t been allowed to until now. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to grant me this.

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