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Racism and Good Manners

Updated on August 21, 2017

I was going to write this as a letter to the editor of our metropolitan newspaper, but realized that I might get more thoughtful and insightful comments from HUB readers.

In light of recent outrageous, unacceptable, and deadly behavior in my beloved South, the lessons of my childhood have returned in haunting, capital letters.

My mother raised me to believe that there are only two kinds of people on earth, where she believed you made your own Heaven and Hell. There are NICE people and then there are NOT NICE people. Period. End of lesson.

Dealing with the not nice people is the problem. Avoidance is the best strategy, but good manners, ingrained as early as possible, serve as a safety net and can help get you out of many a sticky situation. Being polite, treating others as you would like to be treated, controlling anger, and realizing that all actions have consequences are top on the list of what to do when interacting with difficult, unattractive, and dangerous persons.

My father forbade any interracial dating and yet we always had black (or colored, as our help preferred to be called) nursemaids and household help. This was an ironic situation, as the most loved and precious part of our families' lives were the children, and they were entrusted to gentle, loving, and properly strict black hands. If a household helper had to bring a child to work in the summertime, he or she was never isolated, but was included in our play. (This was a rare occurrence).

We were threatened with severe punishment if we were ever rude to any helpers or did not use good manners and say please and thank you. The N word was taboo and four-letter words were simply not part of our vocabulary. I had my mouth washed out with Ivory Soap for saying 'shut up' to my sister.

As we grew out of childhood, we did not always follow our parents' guidelines, but we at least had a foundation on which to base our behavior and our subsequent beliefs. I still feel strongly that there are only NICE and NOT NICE people in our highly communicative and networked world and try to act accordingly. Violence is not an option.


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