Roman empire cartographers marked unknown or poorly-explored areas on their maps with the legend HIC SUNT LEONES. (Here, there be lions.) English-language cartographers, when dealing with a similar situation, used the phrase we're more familiar with HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS. This post is about a different kind of undiscovered country, but it's not Hamlet's either. [For my friends who are not Shakespeare fans, DEATH is Hamlet's "undiscovered country."] It's a dangerous locale of the mind. Lemme share this story with you.
There are many wonderful things I could say about growing up and living in New Orleans. It is a unique city and culture. I'm grateful for many of the things I experienced there which became essential components of my core personality.
Unfortunately, along with the wonderful things, there are some less-than-wonderful things about that microculture. Several less-than-wonderful things. Numerous less-than-wonderful things. And those things still exist to this day, despite the fact that it is not 1953, before Brown v. Board of Education, or 1963, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I was blindingly, painfully reminded of that today during a phone conversation with my old pal Bob, who still lives in New Orleans, when he told me this story. He and his girlfriend were at a local jeweler's she likes to frequent, despite the fact that they know this guy continually says shit like "Hitler died two years too soon," implying that he would have solved the "Jewish question" if he'd only been granted a couple more years on this good earth. Asshole.
But that's not the bad thing I'm gonna talk about in this post, as you may have guessed from the title. I know, I know, it's terrible and it does deserve a rant of its own but this particular post is about something else. And don't ask me why Bob and Anita continue to do business with this guy. I didn't have the heart to ask Bob that question.
This post is about the discussion they overheard between the jeweler and another customer, a comfortably-well-to-do looking, middle-aged woman.
Ending a lengthy rant about the Kenyan-born, socialist, Muslim terrorist who's currently occupying the White House, etc., she shared with the jeweler the fact that she's the principal of a public junior high school in New Orleans and she just hates having to deal, day in and day out, with all those damned pickaninnies. And, just by the bye, her husband is a judge and sees nothing but "those people" coming through in an endless stream.
Well, she didn't complain about the Jews, at least; but OMFG!
However, before y'all lose heart, let me hasten to add that there is a silver lining in this cloud of willful ignorance and banal evil, a gold nugget dredged from this foul fen of malignant meretriciousness, a handful of emeralds cut from this racist Roc's gizzard, a happy ending you can't get from this Whites-only massage parlor; and it's this.
When I shared this story with my family, MJ and Chloe both looked puzzled, then asked, "What's a pickaninny?"
Oh my! Sweet sigh. And my anger over this evaporates into the silt-laden river of The Past, despite the fact there is clearly a modern Temporal Teabagger Tributary. Nonetheless, I declare this a clear Hope for the future! My children don't even know this word. It may still be 1953 in some places and some hearts, but in most of the U.S. there has been progress since those evil days.
Here, there be sane humans. Phew!
P.S. I Googled for images related to "pickaninny" to add some visual flair to this post. They were all just too vile to consider. Let's all just forget this word. The sooner, the better.