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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

I’ve really never understood why we white folk have always called folks of other colors by the moniker, “minority.”

Oh, yeah, I know that most of the U.S. states, throughout their history, have been populated by more whites than any other color, with a few notable exceptions. But in the world at large, whites have been in the minority for a long time.

South Carolina, that bastion of tobacco as well as a strong slave state, may hold the distinction of being a majority black state for longer than any other – since 1708, or thereabouts, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

What that means, of course, is that the invading forces of white people, who apparently were more numerous that the native Americans who already lived here, quickly established themselves as the “majority” race and the bosses of the block wherever they landed, but definitely in South Carolina mighty early on.

And since our white forefathers did not consider the Negroid races to be human, and imported blacks to the U.S. in huge numbers, the whites hung on to that “majority” status because, put simply, we didn’t count the black faces.

Also of black-majority status, dating waayyy back, were Mississippi and Louisiana, according to an entry in Wikipedia. The entry did not include a beginning date for those two states, possibly because South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies. The other two were johnny-come-latelies.

But the point of this ramble through history is that the U.S. is about to become a nation in the “majority-minority” category. This means that, for the first time, white folk will be in the minority in the U.S. of A.

According to the Wall Street Journal, so-called minorities made up more than 48 percent of the U.S. population in 2008, so the switch to minority-majority status may already have taken place. But that’s not because the black population is outpacing whites in terms of having kids. It means that Hispanics are outperforming everybody in terms of coming to the U.S. to find a better life.

They also have big families, statistically speaking, and since being in the U.S. means they have higher incomes than they once did, chances are good that their birthrate has risen here, when compared to their countries of origin. Not too sure on that one, though.

Anyway, this is something that has been freaking out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other right-wing groups for decades. Because once the “minorities” become the “majorities,” the thinking (if that is the right word for this process) goes, there will be hell to pay by the new “minorities,” meaning white folks.

Now, this kind of paranoia is of a particular stripe, I believe. It assumes that the other races are as mean-spirited, as violent toward other ethnic groups, as the bigots in the white population.

I don’t think that’s true. I grew up among the heavily black population on the south side of Madison, Wis., and the only prejudice I noticed was in the form of physical superiority – the black kids were a lot tougher than me, and a few of them liked to prove it every once in a while.

But at the same time, some of my buddies in the black community were among the toughest in the group, and they let it be known that anyone who pounded on me would risk a pounding of their own.

So, even though I was in the minority for the first eight years of my school life, it didn’t seem like any big deal to me. I should add here that the worst bully I encountered in Franklin Elementary School was a white boy and my neighbor.

I was a shrimp of a kid until I was about 12, and as such was a natural target for bullies. On top of that, I couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut, and my verbal retaliations to the beatings tended to enrage the white bullies (yes, there were more than one) into further violence.

By the time I was a teenager living in the working-class Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., I had learned to use my fists and my feet with equal skill. But in Maryland, once again, the bullies were nearly all white boys. There were blacks and Hispanics in the schools I attended, but they were the “minority” and they kept their heads down and their hands in their pockets while at school.

Outside of school, though, they were more friendly to me than the white gangs, never retaliated against me because I was a honky and a hippie, and essentially acted a lot nicer than the white greasers who dominated the school.

So, for my book these white supremacists are just a bunch of frightened white guys worried that their historical behavior might come back to bite them in the ass.

And even though they might deserve it, I doubt that their nightmares will come to life.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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