Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Foolish words

Words can cut in ways we don’t always intend. While stationed in the deep South in the ’60s, I decided to look up some relatives who lived on Kuhn Street in Biloxi, Mississippi. While my wife and I were trying to find our way, I thought to ask for directions. A young black woman walked down the sidewalk, so I pulled alongside and asked her where Kuhn Street was. She never slowed, never opened her mouth, never looked in my direction.  Had she looked at me, she’d have seen not a malicious person, just a foolish innocent. How many times had that woman been mocked?

We found Kuhn Street on our own, just a couple of blocks away. We had a pleasant evening playing cards with my relatives, who were cordial to us Yankees.  I sensed that the friendliness would last as long as we didn’t discuss race or politics.  When one of them made a passing reference to “darkies,” we ignored it in part because we were their guests and in part because we felt like foreigners. Also, I felt quietly embarrassed over my thoughtless request for directions.

8 comments:

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Innocent mistakes can cause all sorts of problems. I know it probably wasn’t funny at the time, but it makes a fun story now.

Ruth D~ said...

Interesting memory. Two different worlds.

Kelly said...

Times have changed but unfortunately a few still have their prejudices. I feel so glad that my children are brought up in a more tolerant world and I hope their children's world is even more kind and tolerant.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I can imagine how uncomfortable you felt later. That's a mistake I sure wouldn't want to make today. Might get you smacked up the side of the head.

Helen Ginger said...

Even innocent mistakes can plague us years later. Oh, to have a time machine and go back to change the past. We can't though. We do learn from our mistakes.

KK Brees said...

Thanks for sharing, Bob. It shows your true nature as a caring person. It's so easy to make a mistake when you least intend to offend. Had the young lady known where Kuhn Street was, she probably wouldn't have been offended. Ya never know.

Christina Rodriguez said...

Sadly, you don't need to look very far to find racism today. Because I appear white (I'm not), folks say some really embarrassing things around me.

Holly Jahangiri said...

What an unfortunate street name! Probably pronounced "kern" - after all, "Kuykendahl" (equally unfortunate, if you think about it) is pronounced "kirkendahl."

The CAPTCHA code, below - "prowns" - that would be pronounced "prawns," right? I'm getting hungry, now!

Air Force, Bob? :)