We were taught to be racists in casual and subtle ways. The perfect story
to illustrate this statement is the following true story, often told by my Mother in a
dramatic way.
My Mother was a typical Southern woman of the upper middle classes
raised during the first quarter of the last century. Her family, long on history and
heritage, chose badly their side during the Civil War and lost a fortune following
it. In her youth she was a dead ringer for the actress Clara Bow. She was proud
of her Southern heritage. She was her generation’s storyteller and her stories
reflected that cultural pride.
One story she repeated in her syrupy voice concerned how an unknown
relative, or, mourner, stole her Grandfather Downing’s 14k gold KKK lapel pin
during his funeral visitation at Milward’s Funeral Parlor on North Broadway,
Lexington, Kentucky, when she was a little girl. The sticky fingers plucked it right
from his lapel as he laid on a white satin sheet and pillow in his mahogany coffin.
She always ended the story stating that the pin had been promised to her upon
the death of her Grandfather Downing, and how she felt cheated by the act with
the theft of jewels being a hard life’s lesson for a child to learn.
Louis Zoellar Bickett
March 20, 2016

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