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Black ‘Em Out Day

Many people on campus today are wearing black in support of the Jena Six.

I’m reminded of my high school days in Greenwood, Indiana. We often had “Spirit Weeks” to support the football team with different dress-up days. One time we had something called “Black ‘Em Out” day. Everybody was supposed to wear black.

One guy thought it would be funny to come in blackface, with a doo-rag, to look like a “mammy.” One of his friends got wind of this and thought it would be even funnier to come dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The amazing thing was, to get the robe, all he had to do was reach into his closet and pull it out.

Both boys were sent home. They may have been suspended. I don’t know. A picture of the boy in blackface was published in the yearbook.

I remember Greenwood as a mostly white community — almost completely white. According to the 2000 census, that’s still the case. Greenwood is 96.54% white. The African-American population is 0.44%.

Greenwood is a suburb of Indianapolis, which is 25% black. The only thing separating Greenwood from Indianapolis is County Line Road. So how to account for the disparity? How does Greenwood stay so very white?

I never heard of nooses hanging from trees there, but I do remember when the Klan handed out leaflets at the Greenwood Park Mall. That certainly sends a message. But I believe that event and “Black ‘Em Out Day” were just the tip of the iceberg, overt examples of a racial hatred that is mostly under cover.

Eyes are focused on Jena, Louisiana, today, as thousands converge in what may be the largest civil rights protest in recent memory. I think that’s a good thing. Racism must be confronted.

But I’m also given pause to think about the town where I grew up, and to reflect on the fact that racism is not limited to Jena.

Published inPolitix


  1. steph steph

    hiya…they were discussing this on bbc radio 5 last night….so it is getting international coverage. the bbc aired an hour long program about the jena 6 a while back…i watched with my jaw in my lap and my heart very heavy…
    your nola girl in london

  2. Terri Terri

    I would not say that Greenwood has increased in US diversity but in recent years I know there has been a growth of international communities (especially people from China and India) within Greenwood especially amongst some of the new developments and subdivisions.. However it is interesting that the history of racial issues in Martinsville are still often talked about (partially, in the last 6 years there was some discoveries related to some hate crimes in the 60’s), The talk about Martinsville and its reputation always concerned me..

  3. Jen Jen

    I lived in an area of St. Louis we called “The Aryan Refuge”. In recent years the KKK wanted to to Adopt a local highway, and KKK was painted on overpasses. Not an easy place for the black kids bused to this community for school. Obviously, we never felt comfortable where we found ourselves living.

    It is so much more pleasant to live as one of a small minority of white folks on this black island. I feel very comfortable and mostly accepted. What a change. When I watch the Jena coverage it makes me so sad. It seems nothing will every change around this issue.

  4. Jessica Jessica

    I would caution against making the insinuation that an absence of blacks in particular from a town indicates the area is racist. While Greenwood has a lower percentage of blacks than Indiana as a whole, it has a higher percentage of East Asians than Indiana as a whole. I live in Greenwood and a large percentage of my neighbors are Indians and Arabs (and indeed, some blacks). I get along very well with them and so does everyone else as far as I can tell. The presence or absence of only the black demographic is probably not a good litmus test for determining whether or not an area has racist motives.

  5. Jessica, it’s not so much the absence of blacks as the presence of the Klan that is alarming to me. I’m not saying Greenwood is a city of racists. But those “bad apples” do give the area a bad reputation.

  6. Lee Lee

    Living in Btown my whole life, I never realized there is that much hate still around. Growing up, I did notice a lot of KKK “behavior” but nothing serious. It scares me to think that it’s really around. One bad apple can ruin the bunch. CNN had tons of coverage regarding the Jena 6, and I was shocked. All over a tree? Why must the simple things always be thrown out of proprotion?

  7. wii wii

    Why would you wear black to support criminals? I enjoy and read your sit quite often but I am astounded that you would support these criminals. They broke the law.

  8. KC KC

    Indiana is most certainly still a home of the KKK and sadly to many are proud of it. In 2002, I sat at a class that is given by the government (FBI) to police officers around the country. I was there with a “Gentlemen” who was an officer for the Indianapolis Police Department and lived in Greenwood, IN. This ‘officer’ proudly displayed on his hand his KKK membership ring and his two co-workers though not displaying any overt racist memorabilia seemed to exhibit no discomfort in the presence of such behavior.

    Either he (and possibly they) thought that the rest of us would not be offended by such a gross display of racism by a sworn peace officer or he thought that as police officers we were so ignorant of racism that we wouldn’t recognize such an open display.

    Either way I feel sorry for the citizens of Indiana, most specifically Indianapolis and Greenwood, forced to deal with that level of ignorance and stupidity in their communities and more seriously in their law enforcement communities.

    I feel sorry for all the cops across the nation that will suffer a mark against their good name every time one of these clowns does something to give evidence to police racism.

    God bless us all or is that God save us all?

  9. stevo stevo

    My family was probably the only Panamanian one in Greenwood. Me being half white, I didn’t get harassed by any means. My grandpa also recalls getting KKK propaganda passed out to him while he was working at GM. The reason towns like Greenwood, Greenfield,and Greencastle Indiana are named like so is to reflect the symbolism of the grand dragon of the KKK.

  10. […] that turned into murder, holds a certain sick fascination for me. I mentioned only last week how I went to school with Klansmen. But there’s more to it than that. The victim was a from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where […]

  11. […] in detail here, as I’ve written about all this before: How my grandfather was a Klansman, how I went to high school with Klansmen. Despite growing up north of the Mason-Dixon line, I grew up in a virtually monocultural suburb […]

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