Sometimes a White Sheet is Just Laundry: Slow, incremental creeping toward justice

Being committed to civil rights, and living in a hyper-segregated area, I am used to seeing the ravages of racism. A drive a few blocks from my home leads to a dividing line where a new town was established, requiring a change in state law to deprive a particular city of its right not to have new municipalities created within a three-mile buffer zone of its boundaries. A few more blocks takes me to a new dividing line, where suburban white flighters demarcate the area of their specially-created town that is no longer lily-white enough for them. A few blocks more, and I see the area they classify as “changing.”

These lines are not subject to imagination–the economic ravages of white flight bear out in census data and economic reports. In contrast, other images are subjective. On a recent drive through the (all-too-purposefully) “white” area of my city, I saw white robed figures and burning objects. Convinced I had just seen a KKK rally out of the corner of my eye, I persuaded my companion to take another pass around the block. He protested, himself having seen a wedding. Our second pass proved he was correct: it was a beach-front, summer wedding, replete with white attire and tiki torches (months before the latter took on a sinister meaning). Willing to laugh at myself, I realized my perceptions sometimes do not bear out.

In the middle between subjective and objective are the social attitudes that shift with time, even if the shift toward equality (much less equity) is a bit too glacial for my taste. Near my home is a pizza place bearing the name of the staunchly “white” neighborhood in which it sits. I do not particularly care for the place–its name and the fact new branches are located in white-flight areas leave me uneasy. To make matters worse, it is one of several establishments that has long refused delivery in my predominantly African-American city. An owner of another pizza place, located in the same intentionally-isolated pocket of the city, bragged about her refusal of delivery service to my neighborhood–on the grounds that “they” would pull a gun and shoot her delivery drivers. I have previously written about my inability to get basic services like pizza delivery.

Soon after my post about lack of delivery services, I began noticing delivery cars in my area. I was tempted to believe someone had read my blog. I was also skeptical that a hate-based practice dating back twenty years would simply give way overnight. However, the delivery cars (with magnetized signs bearing the name of the pizza joint) continued to show up around my area. Leary of the never-too-worn-to-pull-out-again comments from racists and dreading another hate-filled exchange, I continued to eschew the pizza as well as the new service. I anticipated reluctant and limited service to my area, an unwarranted up-charge, or other unfair treatment that has threatened to infect my view of normalcy for over twenty years of living in my city and its surrounds. Circumstances collided: a hungry friend delivering and setting up my dryer, the need to supervise a high-spirited dog, and limited time led me to try the delivery. There was no up-charge identifiable as associated with my neighborhood’s demographics, and hot food came–with a smile–within an hour.

Perhaps change–real, gooey, delicious change–is nigh.

May the woman in the shoe fare as well.