My Father as “Racist”

HoboRailby Anniel   5/1/14
“Those people get cold and hungry, too.”  •  My father was a young man during the real Great Depression. He was a “hobo” who “rode the rails” all over the western United States, sharing boxcars with other men also in dire circumstances. He drifted from place to place looking for any work he could find and working hard for every penny or handout he received.

He also made life-long friends, both among those who helped him and those he rode the rails with. He and his friends referred to each other in racial terms that are totally unacceptable today, and they thought nothing of it. In fact, they were terms of endearment for his group. Dad was known as “that damned hard-headed Finn,” accompanied by some other more colorful expletives, and almost all of those he knew referred to themselves by their own pejorative racial identities.

Daddy finally found work in a copper mine, married and settled down a few years before World War II began. Times were still tough but with the beginning of the war the depression officially ended and dad found what was considered a defense job as a night shift switchman for the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad. His love of trains from his hobo days was still with him as it became a life-long affair, and he worked for the railroad until his death.

When I was a child there was only one black family in our community and I don’t recall ever seeing them. They were spoken of by the adults we knew in terms that today would be very derogatory, and as children we heard every racial epithet in the book. By today’s standards, daddy and his friends would certainly be considered “racists” by referring to all groups in such language.

Coming from the Depression generation, money was a huge factor in dad’s life. He never wasted a penny if he could help it and he lived by the maxim “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” So when he came home from work one extremely cold winter morning and announced that he had “lost” his winter coat and “broken” his thermos, my mother was Railscompletely baffled and kept trying to get him to tell her how in the world such a thing had happened. He told her to stick to her own problems and just get him a new coat and thermos.

The next payday mom took me with her while, as usual, she went to railroad accounting to pick up dad’s paycheck. One of dad’s co-workers was also there and came out to our car laughing and said, “Henry nearly froze to death when he gave that black hobo his coat and thermos and fed him his lunch.” He also said dad brought the man into the switchmen’s shed to “warm up and hide from the railroad dicks until the train left and then he even helped him get aboard a boxcar without being seen.” When mom told daddy what she had learned he looked embarrassed and muttered, “Those people get cold and hungry, too.”

Since I had never met any black person I had assumed daddy didn’t like them. But what I heard that day left me with a very different perspective about my father.

My youngest brother, Kim, told me about our father taking him to the airport when he left for Vietnam. He said that everyone leaving on the flight had family and friends seeing them off except for one young black man from out-of-town. Kim walked around greeting friends when he realized dad was no longer with him. He found him sitting with his arms around the black kid, who was homesick, lonely and scared. Our father stayed with Kim and the young man right up until they boarded the plane, and then he hugged and kissed them both goodbye.

So, tell me, did my father’s words make him a racist? If so, what did his actions make him? • (6654 views)

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14 Responses to My Father as “Racist”

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words — particularly when the words are merely racial pejoratives that for some people are merely normal usages. But today there are so many books and stories we have to be careful about — and not just Huckleberry Finn. Think of Sherlock Holmes observing that the blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton had “no niggard hand”, and realize that many liberals would cry “Racist!” upon hearing that.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Yes, your father was a racist. A “racist” is someone who doesn’t toe the Progressive/Marxist grievance-based party line. And the purpose of that party line is “black power,” Democrat votes, and to intimidate white people into silence. It’s certainly not about “sensitivity.”

    There’s a good theory concerning racism that I read (and I don’t remember where). It says that racism tends to take off as an established policy when the government gets behind it. But, otherwise, if government doesn’t legitimize it, people will tend to moderate their actions (if not their superficial words) if only because “money talks and bullshit walks.”

    That is, if it becomes government policy for blacks to sit on the back of the bus, few people will go against it — just as the sheeple today will tend to not go against anything governmental because they equate “law” with “right.” But few people won’t sell a product or service to someone because of the color of their skin. Money talks.

    Most people I know love telling off-color jokes. Polish jokes, and worse. And that does not mean that they are racists. It simply means that their ass-cheeks are not puckered tight like the racial grievance mongers of the Left. It’s perfectly possible to tell a mick, kike, wop, or n-word joke and mean no more by it than some good ribbing.

    And that’s what guys do. Maybe ladies are not familiar with it, but guys tend to tease each other and they don’t necessarily mean anything by it. It’s just a way to let off steam and, actually, to gain a certain chummy familiarity with someone.

    Contrast that with the ice-cold relations between the races brought on by political correctness. I’ll take Don Rickles (and your father) any day over Jesse Jackson and other racial fiends of the Left. Good story, by the way.

  3. Anniel says:

    Brad, Love the photos. How did you know what kind of hat my dad wore? My dad’s best friend was a dago who made his own wine and sold it as “Dago Red” until the day he died. It smelled terrible though.

  4. steve lancaster says:

    We often find out things about our parents years sometime decades after they pass away. For the most part, our parents, those born in early part of the century favored actions privately taken and unspoken about to demonstrations in the public. Its a shame that does not hold true today. Anniel, you have a father to that is not just a man to be proud, but a symbol of an age long past.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Anniel’s story reminds me a bit of my father….except for the hobo part. My father was what you’d call a normal American regarding race. He wouldn’t discriminate, but neither would he shy from telling an insensitive joke.

    In fact, he had a long-running private poker club that was definitely multicultural. It had a black, a lawyer, an auto parts store owner, a grocery store owner, and a few other types. And they would trade outrageous barbs between each other over a hand of Texas hold-em and a whiskey. I sat in on a few of those games.

    And had someone recorded those conversations and taken them out of context, the Left would have gotten their sissy panties all in a bunch and hyperventilated. But the poker club guys genuinely liked each other. And when my dad passed on a few years ago, my mother gave the black guy several valuable mementoes from this club (a wall display of rare poker chips that my father had put together and the cherished green-felt poker table that they had all played on).

    Every once in a while, even after his death, this black guy would drop by the house and give us some free oysters, which is one of his businesses. This is life. This is the generally good heart of America and Americans if left unmolested either by the Jim Crow people or the New Jim Crow people of the Left.

    I won’t live my life by the standards of Marxists. I despise Marxists. We need to push back against these fiends every chance we get.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The best way to do so is precisely by providing such examples. As I said in my first post on this article, racism is as racism does. Actions matter in the end, whereas words don’t really matter at all — except for the hypersensitive sorts who live to be outraged.

      And as Patrick Henry might have said: If this be racism, make the most of it.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes, I agree. Actions matter most. But the tragic fact is that all this emphasis on racism isn’t about racism. It’s about power politics. If the Democrats truly cared about eradicating bigotry, they wouldn’t associate with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama.

        But as long as the useful idiots who buy into, and thus empower, this stuff keep buying into white guilt, racial grievance, and (most importantly) racial redemption via genuflecting to this stuff, it will maintain itself.

        It’s no use trying to sell the “people of good will” argument because the people on the Left are not people of good will. They are grievance-mongers. They don’t want racial harmony. Such a thing would be bad business.

        So what we’re left with is places like this where real human beings can act like real human beings instead of the Orwellian mind-numbed robots that define “Progressivism.” They are like the Stepford Wives. They smile a lot, but there is nothing inside. Even worse, as we see with this one guy, even paying off the NAACP and various Democrat causes doesn’t buy you immunity. I would just assume that when you buy protection from the real Mob, you get what you pay for.

  6. A.A. says:

    I thought this appropriate:

    “Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”

    -Karen Marie Mohning

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Karen Marie Mohning was a very smart lady. A word is a symbol and not the thing itself.

      Yet words are what we have to communicate with thus they are used to deceive as often as to inform. I have always found it amusing how people fall for a well written argument even though it may have little to do with facts on the ground.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A lot of people (this is very common among liberals) judge an article based on whether they agree with its conclusion. In essence, they figure that if its result is correct, the argument itself must have been valid.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ll chime in as the third Musketeer: Yes, that’s a nice quote, with some common-sense stipulations necessary. (If we were all silent, how could we ever communicate and thus live our lives?)

      You can read (as I’m sure you all have) various studies that have shown how prone humans are to groupthink. If an authority figure tells someone that a hat is “red” when it’s really yellow, you’d be surprised how many will ascent to the expert’s opinion.

      Such extreme cases make for good anecdotes, and a good laugh. But the real-life cases involve things (words) that are much easier to hide from oneself that “yellow” and “red” are not the same thing. We do that with “justice” and “social justice,” for instance.

      Such is the nature of being a social species. We tend to acquiesce to authority. If we are lived as libertarians wanted us to (all singular, atomized, anarchic beings with little or no acquiescence to a common goal or idea), society would not be possible. But there is a price to be paid for our human propensity to meld ourselves around a common idea. That price, as Jefferson noted, is eternal vigilance. And vigilance is not mindless groupthink. And at the heart of this exercise in vigilance is really living the idea that we, the people, are the final and highest political authority.

  7. Anniel says:

    Brad, I have to tell you how this article’s number of views was driving me absolutely nuts. Why was this article getting looked at so much? I don’t do social media at all and write under a pseudonym. In fact only a couple of friends know I write at all. So when I was cruising around one day and noticed the views, I was baffled. The only person I had said much to was my younger brother mentioned in the article. He doesn’t even own a computer and had to get his wife to find the article for him. We were on the phone one day recently and I told him what was happening with it, top on Google under “Racism” and all.

    He said, “I wrote down all the stuff on it, gave it to all the kids and grand kids, and then our aunts and cousins. Then I went to Colorado and gave it to our friends there. And the cousins in Montana and Idaho. And I ran into some of our second cousins so I told them about it. We had a cousin’s reunion so I passed out the info. I think my dentist read it, too.” He carried on about all the places he had passed it out. All I can think now is how many relatives and friends I have all over the world dropping by your site. I’m grateful to you that I could put this story out. Thanks.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As far as I know, Annie, those hit counts are accurate. I’m going to assume that some of the behind-the-scenes software whose purpose is to make it easy for search engines (such as Google) are working. But, honestly, it’s still all a bit like voodoo to me, as far as what is doing what and why. I’m glad you’re getting a lot of hits though.

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