Shrimp and Grits

shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits. A Charleston Specialty.

“Racism probably had something to do with it, but I think the kid was crazy,” Kyndel Payne of Beaufort says. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the confederate flag.”

And there it is. The way this issue will be rationalized away… no racial issues here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, this happened because of mental illness.

This is just one man’s opinion, but it represents everything, maybe the only thing, that I hated about living in the South.

We had been warned. It was an incident that lasted only minutes, but it was so very telling.

My husband had accepted a job assignment in rural South Carolina, well north of Charleston. He went ahead of us to scout the area for housing. We had done this often before.

As he visited the construction site, he stopped at a local mini-mart, a small store in a “good ole’ boy” neighborhood.

There was a black gentleman, maybe in his 50’s, that was waiting in line to check out his purchases when my husband walked in.

The shop owner, a middle-aged white man, looked directly at the black man in line and said, “Move aside, boy” and waved Jim to the front of the line.

He moved aside.

More shocked than surprised, Jim had trouble finding the right words. It was clear that the owner was not going to wait on the “boy”. He paid for his item, apologized to the man in line, and quickly moved on.

RT_confederate_flag_south_carolina_capitol_jt_150620_16x9_992

Still Flying Over the Capitol ?

What the hell ? This was the 1990’s. And what was he dragging his family into for the next few years ?

The decision was quickly made. We were moving closer to civilization. We were going to seek housing in a 20th century world, even if it meant he would have to drive an hour each way to work. And so we did.

Another sad note… the shrimp and grits photo is from a site promoting tourism in Charleston.

I intended to use it in a food post, praising its glory and documenting the first time I’d experienced the dish in a restaurant not far from the site of the Emanuel AME Church.

What has transpired in the last week has left me heartbroken and mostly speechless.

This is my attempt to begin that important conversation. More to come.

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37 Responses to Shrimp and Grits

  1. This event has been haunting me for days. If you haven’t watched Jon Stewart’s take on it, look at it online. It’s heartbreaking. It’s unacceptable. You’re right about the importance of this conversation. Long overdue.

    • Hi Debby. I wrote and deleted 3 different posts on the Charleston church massacre. Mostly, I wrote in anger. That would not have helped anybody, just allowed me to vent. I did see Stewart’s post..it was heartfelt, painful to hear, but so real. Thanks. ❤️

      • merrildsmith says:

        I came here by way of Debby’s blog post. I also wrote about the shootings in Charleston in my last blog post. I just finished reading the novel, The Invention of Wings, and it just made me think that this is not the type of history that should be repeating itself.
        I also agree Jon Stewart’s video was absolutely heartfelt and real.

      • Thank you Merril. I’ll be happy to seek out your post. We need all the voices we can get in this debate. It surely can’t hurt, and may actually lead to some understanding. ☺

  2. Erika Kind says:

    That is a shocking story! I can’t believe that at that time people still behaved that way… and problably still do.

    • Yes, indeed, they still do. Don’t be completely fooled by the “show” of hands across the bridge. There are many there who dream of returning to that Plantation era. I’ve been stewing over my thoughts for a week now.

  3. Amy says:

    Wow, you really summed it up well. I am glad you are opening up that conversation. It is hard to believe all of these things are transpiring in this day and age. It breaks my heart. Thank you for your honesty.

  4. George says:

    Hard to believe that type of blatant discrimination still exists but sadly it’s not surprising.

    • I grew up in a town that was a stop on the Underground Railway, George. Escaped slaves settled there, found work in the steel mill, blended into that 1800’s society. I grew up thinking that civil rights issue ended in the 1960’s. I was wrong.

      • George says:

        We were all wrong, even thinking it’s better now. It’s still obviously blatant in the South, based on your experiences but it’s all over. It’s just less obvious in some parts of the country. Sneaky racism. I remember thinking in my early20’s that we would never see an end to racism in my lifetime. I hoped I would be wrong. But there’s too much hate, too much mistrust and ignorance, too many people who look for reasons to continue this distorted view of life. We’re all guilty of this as a society, black and white, rich and poor, young and old. Maybe one day our children or grandchildren will live in a different world. We can only try and help them get there.

      • I’m concerned about some of our youth, George. I live in an area where there is rising interest in white supremacy groups, even neo-Nazi’s. There seems to be a backlash since Obama was elected. God help us. Thanks for chiming in !

  5. As an outsider to America, it’s culture and politics (and I frustratingly don’t get to vote, of course), I am dismayed and depressed by the rinse, recycle, repeat approach to these terrible, tragic, shocking events. Obama’s exhausted demeanor when speaking about it said it all really. He’s been here too many times before and nothing changes.

    It irritates me to my core that mental health becomes the scapegoat each time. This is not about troubled individuals but about a troubled nation. The UK and other nations have the same proportion of the population with mental health challenges yet don’t have the same rate of these mass killings. Nowhere near. Yes there’s a debate to be had about the difficulty mentally ill people have accessing support and treatment and yes there’s a debate to be had about screening of people who have access to weapons but a) there’s not enough meaningful, productive debate on those issues and b) there’s no decent debate on the weapons themselves.

    Again as an outsider, the clinging to constitutional rights as justification strikes me as crazy. It’s as if everyone is in denial that interpretation of documents and laws has to evolve with time in order to apply to current contexts. So there’s that. Then there’s the self-defense argument which statistics don’t bare out as being a protective factor so much as a danger. But denial continues. Because too many people love their guns.

    I also think that political funding needs to be addressed. Lobby groups hold too much power and sway. Gun laws won’t change until the flow of the money changes.

    Then we get to the motivation of the gunman. There are racial tensions in many countries but America is still struggling to move past legal, institutionalised, rubber-stamped racism within living memory. Those scars are far from healed. Times like this it’s clear it’s a gaping, open wound. While apartheid in America might have ended, segregation has not in too many places. Different labels get placed on it – ghetto, poverty – but it’s a continuation of the same problem and its root cause is racism.

    I’ve been appalled to see the impassioned defense of the confederate flag. It’s bizarre to me, just bizarre. It’s denial again. And then at the same time people are claiming that Obama’s use of the N word in an interview about racism is a disgrace to the office of the president – an office once held by several men who owned slaves but apparently didn’t disgrace it in doing so – and probably many of those attacking Obama for that are the same ones defending the confederate flag. It’s just crazy to me.

    I think I could live in America for decades and still not “get it” when it comes to how issues of race, gun laws, inequalities, and political funding are handled. If I ever become a U.S. citizen it will be so that I can vote because evidently I have a lot of strident opinions.

  6. Thank you Laura for the post and Van for sharing it. I’ve lived here my whole life and don’t get it. It’s irrational even from the inside. Makes me want to scream in frustration, or move somewhere that isn’t spiraling into madness. I love the mental health approach because 3/4 of Americans would have to give up their guns! Will that happen – never, which is why its such a convenient excuse. My brother was shot in the head and killed. There are few Americans who don’t know a murder victim.

    My husband is African American. When we married in the 80’s, I was warned! “Think about your children.” That’s exactly what I was doing by marrying a fabulous father and friend. We have no desire whatsoever to step foot in the South. Why risk it when there are so many other places to visit without the pall of racism hanging so blatantly over our heads. Gah! I’m off on my own rant! Apologies. 6:00 in the morning and I’m all fired up! Ha ha.

    • I get it, Diana, I have been livid. I see some of the comments praising all those supposedly Christian white folks holding hands and singing songs of unity with their “brothers and sisters” and I just want to gag. It’s all for show, and just so much bullshit. Their economy is very dependent on new industry coming into the state, and there’s a major tourism factor…they stand to lose a lot of Yankee support. They smile sweetly and take your tourist dollars and talk about you the minute you’re gone. No, it’s not everyone, but far too many are still fighting that Civil War and handing their bigotry down to generations.
      I’m so sorry about your brother, I can’t imagine what it takes to come to terms with that kind of violence. And you’re right to stay above that Mason Dixon line. Fired up ? We all need to be. Thanks for sharing. 💕

  7. Jay says:

    It’s hard to know what to say and it’s hard to admit that this is still such an ingrained problem that doesn’t just exist along the fringes – it’s allowed to exist. And things like that damned flag just remind us that it’s okay. It’s gross.

  8. Pingback: Stop. Just. Stop. Stop Saying These Killings Can’t Be Stopped. | talesfromthefamilycrypt

  9. I’ve been following this story with great sadness and a lot of confusion. I can’t seem to wrap my head around how someone can have that much hate. It’s not just that he killed these people but that the killing was done after he was befriended by the victims and treated with decency and respect.
    About 20 years ago up here in Alberta I worked construction on a massive grain elevator. The company in charge was an outfit from Iowa so the superintendant and the foremen were all American. The casual way in which they used the N word and how they referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks” was truly jaw dropping. And upsetting. Alberta, and perticularly Edmonton, is almost completely comprised of people from somewhere else and we have every colour of person imagineable. Of course there is some racism here as there is everywhere but it is limited. Great post.

    • Thanks, John. I wish I could defend what you’ve seen for yourself as a sample of the “Ugly American” attitude and bigotry. I wish my experience showed that they are in a minority. Sadly, that is just not valid, and that is what we need to fix. A gargantuan task, but it has to start somewhere. Thanks for your perspective. 💕

  10. Yep. Racism is evil. I hate hate. Those shrimp and grits, though, look tasty!

    • I know, Kitt, the ones I had in Charleston the first time came with cheese grits and grilled shrimp, but with a homemade light BBQ sauce on the side. Sounds like a weird combo…but was amazing !!

  11. lbeth1950 says:

    Thank you, van. I will post something in response to this.

  12. I wrote a passionate response to news of the Charleston massacre but didn’t post it because – well, I’m an outsider, and what right do I have to judge? But Laura’s comment has given me courage. I agree with everything she said – it was everything I wanted to say. To me, the bottom line is so simple it beggars belief that the American people don’t rise up and demand it: no guns = no gun massacres.
    I realise to implement the policy wouldn’t be simple at all – again, for all the reasons that Laura put so eloquently. And I realise the motivations for massacres vary, but those are separate, deep-seated issues that must be dealt with separately.
    In the meantime – no guns = no gun massacres.
    When he was in Australia in 2013, Larry Pratt, President of the Gun Owners of America, was unimpressed by the absence of Australian massacres since the introduction of new gun laws in 1996 – achieved, I should point out, by both sides of Parliament agreeing that something like the Port Arthur Massacre must never happen again. ‘We’re not interested in being like Australia,’ Mr Pratt said. ‘We’re Americans.’ Does this imply that massacres are a cherished part of the American way of life?
    But then Mr Pratt also stressed the importance of gun ownership ‘… so that the Government is mindful that there’s only so far it can go and the people can protect themselves against tyranny.’
    Not exactly a ringing endorsement of American democracy

  13. markbialczak says:

    There are black people and white people who live below the Mason-Dixon line who love each other Van, as you know. The six years I spent living in Maryland from 1977 to 1983 was spent with many. And it was marvelous and freeing and felt natural. But when we met the others … how awful. That it exists today, the hatred and ignorance … I can hardly fathom the deep-seated roots. I rode in a car in Orlando, Fla., with my college friend and first-newspaper colleague who had gone on to work at the Sentinel who had been pulled over for driving black. I was truly scared that the policeman was going to do something awful. Then he saw me in the passenger seat and let us go. Thank you for this post to keep the discussion going.

    • Oh, the dreaded DWB. I’m sure it happens all the time, especially if a nice/luxury car is involved. Chris Rock documents and tweets about his pull-overs. I had a hard time coming to this post. I deleted a few that were just too angry. I have my own take on all this…just watching to see how things evolve in SC. Thanks, Mark ☺

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