When The 1940’s is All a Town Has


I’m certain that many will totally disagree with this post. Initially, I thought about not writing it. But then I realized, that’s the beauty in blogging. It’s my opinion and I’m entitled to express it, as I please. I’ve lived in Monroeville, AL most of my life. So it’s a part of me, which is why I feel that it’s fine for me to criticize it. It’s like your family…you can say what you want about them. But when the outsider does it, there will be a huge price to pay.

Before I moved away, I didn’t think there was anything greater than the town. But it’s funny how closed minded one can become, when they’re not exposed to anything else. Having moved to a nearby surburb of Atlanta (Alpharetta, GA), I immediately realized how removed from the world people who’ve never lived outside of Monroeville can truly be.

Each year, our town has a celebration of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, written by Harper Lee, (although the locals know her as Nelle). Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville, and was a very close friend to Truman Capote, who lived here in his younger days. If you’ve seen the movie adaptation of the book, the courthouse scene was filmed in a replica of Monroeville’s courthouse, which they now use to perform the play annually.

Personally, I think that it’s great that we have such a highly recognized author from our town. However, I do think that the town may be a bit insensitive to the subject matter of the book. If you don’t know the story, let me brief you on it. It’s basically about a white woman who wrongly accuses a black man of rape to avoid telling about her abusive father in a town where racism clearly exists openly. The black man is defended by a white man who seemingly isn’t racist. Nonetheless the black man is found guilty and in taking him back to jail, the whites say that he tried to escape and they had to shoot him. Nonetheless, the father of the woman who accused the black man of rape, follows the daughter of the lawyer who defended the black man home and tries to attack her. But Boo Radley, the town recluse who also happens to be the defense attorney’s neighbor, kills the racist father. In the end, they lie to cover up what Boo Radley does, because they say it’s sort of an eye for eye type thing. But the truth to the matter was…it wasn’t an eye for an eye. Let’s consider this…What if Boo Radley had been black, would they have still allowed him to avoid a trial? What about the family of the murdered black man? Did anyone console them. The black man still died and was considered a convicted murderer – WRONGFULLY! What justice is truly served in the end?

It’s pretty painful to write, but I honestly don’t think the town realizes that each time this story is talked about, it’s like peeling the scab off a sore. It’s a constant reminder of the injustice that innocent black people have endured and continue to endure. The story isn’t a victorious story for blacks to be proud of, which is pretty much why most don’t want to revisit nor remember it.

My father was born in the 1930’s and he shared with me those painful stories. I remember when I wanted to rent Mississippi Burning for the first time, and he asked me to take it back. I didn’t understand it then, but I totally understand it now. That it’s a painful reminder of how much we’ve come, but moreso how behind we still truly are.

Marriage licenses stored in books separated by "Whites" and "Colored" in archives

Just last week, my senses were shaken a little when I had to pick up a copy of my parent’s marriage certificate at the courthouse there and the books were segregated, by Whites and Coloreds. You’d think there would be more effort being made to erase those pain laced references. But yet, it’s not a priority to most who are there, because it doesn’t truly effect them. I’ve never been one for playing the race card, and will admit that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. And I have been naive to many matters. But when you see these things coming to surface, it just really reveals how much insensitivity people have.

The story of To Kill a Mockingbird shed light on racism that plagued and continues to plague the south. Sure, you could tell yourself that it’s just a movie or grow thicker skin. But the truth to the matter would be, that would be an easy answer to support the cause of staying the same. Now, I’m sure most will say something about the tourist dollars that the play brings in. But here’s my answer to that. For the tourist dollars that it brings in for that particular moment, how many of those tourists actually see Monroeville as the place they’d like to call home or actually open a thriving business, as a result of their visit.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the conversation home would be something as…”What a nice journey back in time, but I’m so glad to be going home” as they travel back to their diverse cities, countries, and etc. Because they understand that it’s the respect for diversity that truly keeps things thriving, growing…building. It’s that diversity that most Fortune 500 companies look for when they seek to expand and/or relocate. It’s diversity that doesn’t exist in Monroe County…and I’d dare say it really doesn’t exist in the majority of southern states period. Check the statistics, why is it that Alabama, Mississippi and Louisianan are close to the bottom of most lists when it comes to education, income, and just recently child wellness (reference links provided below)?

It’s the lack of diversity that keeps widening the gaps and making it impossible to keep the foundation strong enough to build upon. There needs to be more efforts to include those willing and able to support your cause. Instead of finding reasons to be divisive. It’s a sad situation. I work tirelessly to help support small businesses in several rural towns in Alabama. And I’ve seen first hand, what it looks like when those who have a problem they need solving, reject your solutions, because of your skin color. They’d rather do without, rather than accept the help…

So you see I believe I’m witnessing what happens when the 1940’s is all that a town has. One can only hope that they wake up and realize it’s not really a cause for celebration, as much as it’s a great cause for concern.

Just my Savvy Two Cents….

References:

http://measureofamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/a_portrait_of_mississippi.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/child-well-being-rankings_n_929724.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl4|sec1_lnk3|87510#s332344&title=1_New_Hampshire

http://www.statemaster.com/graph/lif_bes_sta_to_liv-lifestyle-best-states-to-live

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4 thoughts on “When The 1940’s is All a Town Has

  1. Being that I am a native of Monroe County, I would have to agree with you. The good ol boy system definitely still exists there and in the south period. I go home maybe twice a year and that’s enough for me. There is nothing there but family friends and memories. Memories of unspoken racism seldom seen racism yet ever prevalent racism. The industry there is vanishing Walmart is the best thing that came to Monroeville which is good but sad. The job market is at best pitiful, if you don’t leave while you are young you may not make it out. America is suffering as a whole and the minorities are as well. Being African-American with other cultures intertwined makes me a part of several cultures as many of us are. We have to come together and shape our lives and futures and grant the generation after us the chance to see what history really is about.

    • It’s unfortunate that in my opinion, the small town south is going to have to wash up completely, before they realize that the methods they used, was clearly leading them down the wrong path. It does indeed take all kinds to make the world go around. We all have individual talents that collectively could lead to endless possibilities. The job market is definitely poor, much in part because those who have the power to make decisions will have to make their friends upset and fear being cast out of the system they created. I feel your pain and prayerfully hope that their minds and hearts are softened enough to accept the truth, before it’s too, too late. Thanks so much for your comments. And feel free to pass this message along to others.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m from Michigan and live in Maryland now. A real Yankee girl (well, woman–I’m 65)!! I was recently in Monroeville and was hoping to bring a group of friends to see the play and visit the town at a later date. After two days there I decided against it. I mean, the people we met were very nice and welcoming, but there is just something depressing about the town. I hope, hope, hope that someday the town will be revived, hearts will be opened, and all thoughts of segregation will be gone. Your words move us all in that direction.

    • Thanks so much Marilyn, for your comments. It is quite depressing. And the sad thing about it is, that if you can feel it from a visit of 2 days, imagine how those who live in it feel. I am praying that something happens quickly. They definitely need a huge revival.

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