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 â€” 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.