“Past these Negroes” – ashamed of silence

Emily Raymond,

Several years ago, I’d gone to the supermarket to get a gallon of milk. While standing at the checkout, a young African-American woman pushing her adorable toddler son in a cart joined the line behind me. Moments later, an older couple with heavy Southern accents entered the aisle. The woman’s husband pushed the cart, and she nudged him past us. “Keep going, past these Negroes,” she said, loud enough for all of us to hear. My mouth dropped open in shock as I watched the couple shuffle away. I turned to the woman behind me, expecting her to look surprised or offended, but she didn’t; she just looked terribly sad. I mumbled something to the effect of “I’m sorry you had to hear that,” hurriedly paid for the milk and left the store. To this day, I wish I had done more – found my voice, said to the older woman: “That is very inappropriate and offensive,” or “Would you appreciate such a comment about yourself?” I’m proud to be an American, but not proud of the fact that we still hear those comments made today. “That’s just the way they were raised” or “They grew up in a different era” doesn’t justify that behavior. To the young woman whose name I didn’t ask: I’m sorry I didn’t speak up when I should have. Next time, I won’t be silent.


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