The only other time I ever heard that phrase was when I lived in Illinois. It was used to refer to the rocks that would get stuck in the dredging equipment on the Mississippi and Illinois (and possibly other rivers, but it was only when I was living by those rivers that I heard it used).
And it was not just obviously racist on the face of it, but everyone knew it was racist. How do I know? Because the fuckers who would use that term in front of black children would not use it in front of their father.
Funny thing, that.
Anyway, I just bring it up because I was reminded last night what a racist shithole parts of the greater Peoria metropolitan area are and because I already see this story is getting a lot of “Well, it’s Texas, what do you expect?” comments from people.
The Butcher and I were trying to explain Midwestern racism to his Kentuckian friend-who-is-a-girl. And it’s hard to really get at, because, on the one hand, when we were growing up we lived in communities that had maybe one black family, if that, in them. So, it wasn’t like you heard people calling black people “niggars” all the time, though people certainly threw it around the way they also threw around “fag,” to mean someone who should be treated like an outcast.
But let’s just take Peoria, for a second. If you went today to Peoria, Illinois and went to a fast food restaurant or a Walmart or a grocery store that wasn’t in a black neighborhood, even though black people make up almost twenty-five percent of the population, it would be very unusual for you to have a black cashier. I’m not saying it wouldn’t happen. But it would be unusual.
Even when I was up visiting my cousins in Battle Creek (18% black), I could drive around town and see black kids at the park or playing in their yards. But no one was serving me at McDonalds.
College was literally the first place I ever met a black person who wasn’t a minister friend of my father’s or the child of a minister friend of my father’s, with the exception of the two toddler brothers of one of my high school friends.
Now, obviously, things are different in the suburbs and the city.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say here exactly, except that, yes, things are fucked up here in the South. But there are also a lot of people who are busy shifting attention to the South and away from their own bad behavior, which is also fucked up.