With all the talk about being prejudiced, I thought I would tell you about a truly prejudiced man I once knew. I first met him when he was in jail. I had been overseas with my parents. My mother was introducing us to all the members of her family. She had a brother in jail, and she took us to the jail to meet him. His name was Jack. He was one of my mother’s younger brothers. He was in jail because at 17, he had been with a group of guys who robbed a liquor store. The other guys insisted that Jack had been the one who held the gun, and that was what got them out of prison and landed him there.
Jack didn’t understand so many things in life!! When he got out of prison, I was 19 years old, dropped out of college, and staying at my grandmother’s house so I could work in a factory, and he had also decided to stay there and get a job. He described himself as “the black sheep of the family.” He got a job as a welder and was really proud of how much money he was making. He had been married before he went to prison, but his wife slept with another man while was in prison and had a baby by the other man, and he refused to go back to her.
He spent a lot of time at bars playing his guitar. He was a popular performer. He liked taking girls to motels to sleep with them after he went to the bars. He said he didn’t bring them back to Grandma’s house to sleep with them because of respect for me. However, one morning, he brought one of them to home purposefully to meet me after he had slept with her in a motel. I couldn’t figure out why he went back on the idea of keeping the women away from me.
One day, Grandma had made dinner for us. Jack, Grandma, and I were sitting around the table having dinner, and Jack was bragging about what he had done at the bar. He said a black man had come into his bar, and he beat the guy up and told him to get out. He said he couldn’t believe the gall of a black man thinking he could come into his bar. I spoke up. I told him it was wrong. I told him you don’t hit someone just because of the color of their skin. He looked at me very seriously and said, “Are you a women’s libber?” like a woman wanting liberty was something bad, so I just told him I wasn’t a women’s libber.
I went to church every time the doors were open. I was the only one in the house who went to church. I came in one day, and Jack was raking Grandma over the coals. Grandma was sitting in a rocking chair ringing her hands and crying her eyes out. Jack was screaming at her that she needed to go to church with me because she was old and it wasn’t that much longer before she would be dead. I asked him about himself, and he said he didn’t need to go because he was still young. At one point, he tried to talk me out of going to church and go to the bar with him instead, but I refused.
Jack was always mad at the cops. He felt harassed when the cops stopped him to make sure he wasn’t carrying a gun. He was on parole, and he kept a gun in the glove compartment of his car.
Living in that house with Jack in it was a nightmare. I ended up quitting my job and going back to my parents house even though there were no jobs there.
Later, after I went back to college, I heard some terrible things about Jack. He had threatened to blow my parent’s house up, and my dad had stayed up all night long guarding the house in fear that Jack would show up with dynamite. Another time, he invited one of my cousins to go to the bar with him, and afterward, he didn’t care that he was his niece, he tried to get her to go to a hotel and sleep with him. She had her head on her shoulders and refused.
Another time, the family was having a party. They were at one of my other uncle’s houses. He kicked my other uncle’s dog off the porch. My other uncle said something about it, and Jack went after him. There was a big brawl in the yard, and one of Jack’s many women had to go to his pickup and get his gun to separate them.
Once, I had a month off of school, and I went home to spend it with my parents. Jack had moved his trailer in next door to my parents. He had been beating on his wife because she wore shorts. He told her that I was respectable, and that I would never wear shorts, and he wanted her to be respectable. He beat her up for putting on shorts. If he came home from work and she had been sick laying on the couch all day, he beat her up because she hadn’t done any housework. He had finally gotten a wife, but he was always beating on her.
He wanted to be “respectable” so bad! He owned a bar, and he went to the bar one day and announced he was going to turn his bar into a church house. He was just so mixed up! I guess I might of tried to help him, but I was several years younger than he was and scared of him. When he beat up the black man, it was just an excuse to beat someone up. He liked beating people up. It really didn’t matter to him that the man was black. He just realized there were people in the room that would support him because the man was black. He wanted to beat on someone.
I wonder what he would have said had he known the younger generation of our family has figure out that we are part black. A fourth cousin told me he and his brother did a historic research of the records of our family. We are descended from an American slave from Africa and an American president, Thomas Jefferson. They had a child, and when he went into politics, they were told not to take their child with them because the baby would never be accepted. They left the child with a Cherokee family, my family. Some other cousins who didn’t know anything about this study did a genetic testing of their blood, and they were amazed when they learned that they had ancestry from Africa. This is why Jack had such curly black hair and also why I have such curly black hair. America is a melting pot. What Jack did made no sense at all. The next time you look at a good person and begin wondering if they are prejudiced, they probably aren’t. The kind of people who are prejudiced make no sense, like Jack.