Learning to resist white racism
Norwood does not think his parents were prejudiced against white people, but they did teach him that "'the white man is a bugabear.'" They also taught Norwood to stand up for himself, urging him not to step off the sidewalk for a white couple and telling him stories about a family member who mocked a Klan member.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
BG: Do you feel that your parents taught you racial prejudice or racial tolerance?
RN: I feel that, I don’t know what you want to call it. Our parents taught us, “You better watch out or the white man is going to get you. The white man is a bugabear.” But I couldn’t say that my parents were prejudice. They were more cautious of the surroundings. I remember coming home from the grocery store one day with my father. Me and him were walking. I got ready to step off the sidewalk because this white couple were coming down the sidewalk. Then he held my hand, he said, “You don’t step off.”
Then I remember the story my momma told me about my uncle, her brother. He did not fear white people. As a matter of fact, he almost, like, tried to start something with them. She would tell me about this time, this white man, member of the Klan, and he knew it. He would go in there and make jokes about, “Where’s your sheet?” and stuff like that. Another time, my momma was telling me that the police chief was accusing him of running white liquor, bootlegging and stuff. My uncle replied, “Place your order so your wife can have some.” I’m really glad I go to know my uncle because there was no fear there. This man, when I talked to white people, black people about him, this was a man with no fear. He was teaching us, “Don’t be afraid.”
So we were never taught to hate anybody.