As a child, I grew up having the opportunity to hear my grandfather’s stories. I must say that at that age, I could not fully grasp the significance of what my grandfather was sharing. However, it was not until years later, after he died, that I started to understand what he was telling me.
My grandfather was originally from Batesville Mississippi in a time where racism, inequalities, and injustice were the norm. He was the oldest of six children. I can recall and hearing stories about how his parents were hard workers, and always tried to do their best for their children. His parents were sharecroppers. I can remember him telling me that the white man who owned the land was often harsh and unfair. He described how his parents got sick of the white land owner accusing his family of not paying their money, which prompted them to pack up their family and move to Memphis.
My grandfather described how moving to Memphis allowed his parents to become homeowners, which was a very big deal given their past living conditions in Mississippi. He described his parents’ feelings, as well as his feelings of being free and more importantly having their own.
In addition, my grandfather often talked about his military days. He was in the PFC Army, and fought in World War II. My grandfather had to work side-by-side White Men, even though whites treated his race wrong. He described this as a very complicated task, but he did what he had to do. He talked about how he came home and married my grandmother, bought his first house, and had his six children.
He mentioned frequently, dealing with white men harassing him. My grandfather described feeling so much hatred and heartache. He emphasized how he wanted things to be different for his children and grandchildren. He claimed that is why he was so hard on his children. He wanted them to be independent people. He did not want them to depend on no one, especially not the white man. My grandfather wanted fairness and equality for everyone. He instilled to his children that they would experience racism through out thei lives. He emphasized education and good jobs.
I believe my grandfather told me those various stories as learning tools. He wanted to show that becoming independence is a great factor to have. He showed that despite his feelings or attitudes, he did not let those affect his job or mission. More importantly, my grandfather allowed his experience shape his parenting skills. He described how living in the south helped him become the person he was. I believe his stories helped me understand how his past helped shape my family today. Overall, my grandfather was a great man, who did not let his struggles tear him down. His past has allowed me to understand the south and understand my family’s attitude.
In this time and era, one would think that a city like Memphis would be on one accord in trying to make the city better. However, it is my opinion that this city is just as backwards as it was many years ago and there are still a lot of attitudes and mentalities stuck in that time period. I argue this because of the many issues, attitudes, and stereotypes the city of Memphis face today. For example, the school the merging of the two school systems has created a variety of chaos and true colors have come out to the open. I would think that most people would want equal opportunity for children in this city. However, that seems to not be the case. I live in Bartlett, and a lot of my neighbors were showing their support for a separate school system. These people had signs in there yards and this issue was often the topic of discussion in the neighborhood meetings, as well as town meetings. It was from my understanding that my fellow neighbors wanted a separate school district because this consolidation meant equality education. It meant that even more African Americans were moving in, in my opinion. There was not an elite Shelby County Schools, it was now together. Memphis City schools now had the same chances and resources as Shelby County School Students.
Another issue that bothers me is the crime rate here in Memphis. Every day, there seems to be someone being killed, robbed, or beaten. It amazes me that so many people result to doing things like this. Most people would say that it is mainly the African Americans killing other African Americans, and I would definitely have to agree with this statement. I am not sure why these types of crimes keep happening. To me, it shows that a lot of Memphians are still not where we are supposed to be as a whole. It indicates a lack of compassion, a lack of education, and a lack of morality. Where are the role models, where are the community leaders, where are the programs? It is my belief, that this city is to busy worried about irrelevant issues instead of what really is going. It is sad situation.
I am not exactly sure what will it take for Memphis to become one. I am not saying that Memphis has to be perfect because nothing is perfect. All I want for Memphis is for it to be a better city. I want better attitudes, equality schools, and a drop in crime rate. I want positive Memphis mentalities, but until then Memphis makes some kind of change, this city will always be in a cycle of the same issues.
As I sit and reflect on the issues within the south, inequality and stereotypes automatically come to my mind, especially right here in Memphis. As an African American female, growing up in the suburbs, with mostly whites, gave me a firsthand experience. For example, I can remember driving around Bartlett. I do not have the most up to date car, but I do have a clean record and never gotten a speeding ticket. I have had the experience of police following directly behind me for a long amount of time. I have even been stopped a few times for no apparent reason. I have not been the only person who has experienced these type of stereotypes. My boyfriend drives a very nice car. He was sitting in a parking lot, waiting on his friend to come home. The police decide to come around and start questioning him. He asks for his license and proceeds to question him. The police ask questions like, do you have anything in the car that should not be there. He even asks my boyfriend to step out the car. Another police officer pulls up and starts to search the car, where they find absolutely nothing. My boyfriend tried explaining to the police that he did not do drugs or anything illegal, but they had they own image of him in their head.
These two situations show that stereotypes are still alive today, specifically here in the south. It indicates that African Americans are still suspected of any and everything. In my particular situations, the police had no reason to be following me like that, but I believe that the fact that I am African American in a white area, in a older car gave them the idea that I could be doing something against the law. In my boyfriend’s situation, he was innocent, but like me, he’s an African American. However, he was in a newer model car and still got harassed. I guess young black men cannot drive nice cars without doing something illegal, as stereotypes put it. It angers me that the south has come so far, but still possesses attitudes of the past.
Inequalities have always been an issue in the south. It can definitely be seen in Memphis and its surrounding areas. I attended Shelby County School, where we had nice books and all of the computers were Apple brand. However, in my volunteer work, I noticed that in a Memphis City Elementary School, its barely even nice books or up to date computers. As you drive through Memphis and Shelby County, you can see the differences in the roads and buildings. It just shows me that there is a difference. There is not equality in schools or within this city in my opinion.
Hopefully, one day these issues will be solved, where there are no stereotypes and everything is equal for everyone. Maybe the south will be a better place some day.