Friday, 12 February 2016

Politically Oh so not correct

This photo was shared with me on facebook the other day.

It was taken around 1983, when I was a student psychiatric nurse. The raven haired girl next to me is called Judith and she was a country girl from the Isle of Man.
At New Year, when all of the students were at home enjoying their families and friends, Judith was the only person left in the Nurse's home so at the last minute I invited for her to come home with me to Wales to join in with my friends' fancy dress pub crawl.
I rang my parents that a guest would be staying and told Judith to come up with a costume theme with literally a few minutes notice.
She found some boot polish and met me looking like this


Now my parents were probably beside themselves with the fact I was coming home with a WOMAN!  So probably bursting a gut, they sat on tenterhooks for us to arrive with a...." John's bringing a girl home"  being the only in town.
Imagine their faces when Hattie McDaniel walked through the door with a thick and playful African accent.
So good was Judith's make up that Both my father and mother initially thought that Judith was indeed black! And I remember delighting in my father's surprise and  nervousness when confronted by a buxom black mama in his very 1980s living room.
I was 21 before I met a person of colour
My father must have been 50 ( even though the person was was indeed a blacked up farmer's daughter from the Isle Of Man)......how different Prestatyn was in those small town days.





53 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I deleted my comment because you never know who will read these and be insulted or offended.
    I will just say that growing up in the South/US was difficult at times, being from California and living in a segregated South.
    Difficult for people who had not lived that way before ..

    ReplyDelete
  3. I grew up in Northeast PA, USA where anthracite coal was king. Every home had a coal stove in the kitchen, perhaps a coal space heater in the living room and maybe a coal furnace in the basement. It was amazingly warm heat, but very labor intensive to maintain and dirty dirty dirty. I remember coming home from kindergarten so that would be around 1961. My mother cleaned the kitchen coal stove that day, which included the exhaust pipes and flu. She tucked her hair up under a red handerchief bandana and her face and arms were black. I walked in the door unaware of what she had been doing. She ran up to me and said "I'se yo new black Mammy"! I screamed out "No!!!!!" and ran down the alleyway and out into the street where I was picked up by one of the men who hung around the firehall across the street and carried kicking and screaming back home. They were both howling with laughter. I didn't think it was so funny.
    Have you ever seen Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, not the 1950's spectacular White Christmas with Bing and Danny Kay and Rosemary Clooney? In the original 1941 version, they do a tribute to Abraham Lincoln in black face! OMG it's painful to watch. Everyone is in black face, performers, the band, the wait staff, everyone except the black maid/cook/bottle washer and her two little children. There is never a mention of their Daddy. She sings to them "who dun set the darky free? Abraham" OMG how painful to watch. But, we love the original as a whole and watch it every year, grimicing at the blackface. We never watch White Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How things can change eh? Sadly i live in an area which still retains its racest views ...more than south wales , which has much more of a historically accepting attitude to ethnicity

      Delete
    2. Holiday Day Inn is a strange trip into the past, but I think it's a good learning tool. Besides, Fred Astaire dances.

      Delete
  4. A wonderful spur of the minute costume, AND a brilliant test of your parents attitudes ... when we're teenagers (and sometimes even older) we've all got to put our parents to the test sometimes ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That we did..and we always thought ourselves more accepting and suave than god

      Delete
  5. Guess who's coming to dinner! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the story of your parents waiting to meet this woman and then your friend showing up dressed like that! Haha.

    It's so strange to think you never met a black person until you were 21. The town I grew up in was about 70% African American. We white folk were the minority. The city I live in now is closer to 50/50 I imagine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first black person I met and knew well was a nurse in chester who came over to the Uk in the Windrush immigration, i remember telling her that fact and she laughing about it
      " know me and learn something" she said
      And i did

      Delete
  7. How handsome you look John!...and when I was young I used to love to watch the Black and White Minstrel show...but could never understand why they just didn't use black singers.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Libby, i am the fat faced bloke in the middle not the guy on the right

      Delete
    2. You aren't fat faced. You are beautiful, and everyone knows it.

      Delete
  8. I grew up in the deep south of the US where the population was about 50:50 white:black. My last years in high school were fully integrated, as was university. Fast forward to 1993 when we moved from the deep south to Minnesota and there were hardly black faces; I felt that I was lacking a full dimension from my life. It was a strange feeling. Minnesota has more people of color these days, with most being first and second generation immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Cambodia. Here in Belize, Dennis and I are in an ethnic minority for the first time in our lives. It's not too bad and although there is some discrimination against us it is nothing compared to what people of color have faced in the US and what so many people face very day around the world. Regarding political correctness - we humans need to learn to laugh at ourselves and to just lighten up in general.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderfully put. When i was in sheffield I loved and felt the benefit of a multi racial staff around me

      Delete
  9. There are no or hardly any black people living in Argentina. We wondered about it and a neighbor said that they were not immigrated there like they were to other countries .. Europeans make up the population of Argentina .. and now Americans :)

    Wilma .. when I graduated from high school in NC .. there was one black student. And he had won a scholarship to college .
    I think football.
    I am so used to a mix of everything .. when we were first in Argentina we realized that it was All white people ! it was like discovering a rare flower when we saw Asians ! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. You were indeed a lovely young man, even if you were the fat faced middle one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. John...the sexy looking one second from the left..that's you I think? handsome and cheeky looking.

    ReplyDelete
  12. John, we only rarely see a black person here in the Dales - I guess some parents up here would still get a chock.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I met my husband to be when we were both working in Antigua. I sent flowers via inter flora when my brother became a dad & the miss spelt card read,
    " Love from Penny and Roody "... imagine their surprise when I turned up with a Scott called Roddy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You are the Elvis lookalike in the middle? No wonder Judith was leaning on your shoulder.

    My son who now lives in Los Angeles was recently asked by his (Californian) wife's wealthy uncle, " Do you have black people in England?"

    (Uncle by marriage I should add. My son's wife is an astro-physicist.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elvis? Hopefully not the latter day, hamburger chomping elvis?

      Delete
  15. I meant to add that when I was a wee girl just starting to go to school, my very first friend was a little black girl named Faith. My mom had to pack snacks for me to share with her every day at recess. She moved away when we were still very young, but I got to see her again once after we had graduated from high school, and it was wonderful! I know that a lot of people think the US South is a terrible, racist place but our friendship was nothing unusual and many people of mixed race have learned to love and accept each other here. The worst racists I ever meet tend to be from other parts of the country where they rarely saw a black person growing up. We've learned to get along and move past it for the most part down here despite our terrible history.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sheltered life? I obviously don't know the meaning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 21 before you met a person of colour who wasn't covered in boot polish - derr.

      Delete
  17. Of course you are top dog in the picture, but do say, who is the lovely fella on the right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His name is mike simms and he's a senior psychiatric nurse in sheffield

      Delete
  18. Yes, this looks exactly like a group of student psychiatric nurses from the early 1980s.

    ReplyDelete
  19. In the photo at the top, I thought you were the fellow on the right daintily holding a miniature bedpan...until I looked beyond him to the nurse sandwich on the left. Like your experience, people of colour just didn't figure in my childhood because there weren't any apart from Tonto in "The Lone Ranger".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember the black guy in LAND OF THE GIANTS i always thought even at the time that he didnt do much compared to the white captain

      Delete
  20. Getting to know people who are different than us, changes us in good ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My parents were not racist they just had no exposure to other cultures...

      Delete
  21. How times have changed. My son is the only white English boy in his college class in London and is in fact in a 'minority' group of people. My first teacher when I started school (in inner London) was black and I remember her for having her daughter in the class whom she favoured!!! It is interesting John that you say 'person of colour' rather than black. I have never known life without seeing or being with black people and I was born back in 1963. Mr Davis (a black man) was a neighbour and could stereotypically be seen on a Sunday morning washing his car complete with string vest, gold tooth shining from a beaming smile and a trilby hat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wanted to include all races by saying " people of colour"
      I hope that was the appropriate phrase

      Delete
  22. Which would have frightened your parents more? Bringing home a black woman or a man?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A man........
      Even worse a black man
      Even worse
      A camp southerner

      Delete
  23. Where I live on the outskirts of Middlesbrough there is hardly a person of any colour other than white. Down in Middlesbrough town centre pretty much 70% of the population are black or asian. I have many friends of all colours but admit to feeling intimidated by ladies wearing the full face covering black gown... silly I know but it gives me the creeps

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think its the fact you cant read them......rather like when someone wears large designer sunglasses, or bike helmets etc

      Delete
    2. About 35 years ago, we lived in married student housing at a university. Many of the students were Iranian. The women completely covered in black seemed as if they weren't really people. They were these black spirits that moved along, and their little boys gave them commands. The little boys frightened me. They often struck out at my son in his stroller. They never actually hit him, but their hatred was clear. It was very sad.

      Delete
  24. ouch; wrong. always.

    but look at my handsome friend in that pix!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I didn't see a black person in person until I was eight. I guess I saw a few on TV, but I don't remember. Probably some entertainers on The Ed Sullivan Show. No black kids went to my elementary school. One went to my junior high. Three went to my high school. And I lived in the home of Brown v. The Topeka Board of Education, the case that the Supreme Court heard and struck down segregation. We didn't have a black person in our neighborhood till I was about 12 or 13. It took a long time for the court case to change anything, or maybe things changed because people stood up and made them change.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  26. I guess it depends where you live, my village had one mixed race family, a friend of my mums. Mum went to school with the lovely man he fell in love with an African lady in ZImbabwe, not the done thing and she had a child, they married had 2 further children that totally integrated in a Scottish mountain village. I grew up with those kids, wrong or not was 1980,s we were so protective, ethnic minority children were unknown, actually to this day is only one non caucacasian family in the village. Today I live in a city in Scotland,see very few colourd people. Guess America different

    ReplyDelete
  27. My father, born in the early 20th century, was a very traditional old-world German-American who rarely commented on social issues. My Southern-Baptist mum was even more silent and more conservative. However. We kids accepted a giant black man who worked with our father as "Uncle Sherman", and my mother welcomed him to her kitchen table as she would a relative by marriage. It wasn't until my parents had passed that my father's elder sister, nearly 100 years old, explained that my grandmother and Sherman's grandmother, who had been born a slave, were in business together as midwives. In an era of home births, they were respected members of both white and colored communities. We treasure a photo of Dad and Uncle Sherman as little lads in matching flat caps and knee britches, looking so much alike, save for their complexions.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Who took the picture? Or was it an early selfie? :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Indeed, the things we all got away with in those less sensitive days. Many little escapades best kept hidden away from today's censorious eyes!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I grew up in New York City and saw every ethnicity there was. We, however, although not segregated by law, were segregated by neighborhoods and I never met or friended a black person until I went to a high school that was an hour away. It changed me and I will always remember what Barbara Flood taught me. We are all the same and prejudices hurt us all.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The look on your parents face must have been delightful . . . Johnny is home with a girl . . . and black too . . .
    I am reminded . . .
    It was the early sixties. My husband was new college grad, first job with the government, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and our first "office holiday party." My husband invited another couple to attend with us. He too was a new grad, and also a newly employed auditor with the Defense Dept., like my husband. We walked in to the holiday party venue to startled stares and confusion. Our invitees were black. It was my first experience with "white bias." They were not "turned away," . . . needless to say, we felt such empathy for our guests. We proceeded like we recognized nothing. We learned later that blacks had never attended events in this location. We never visited there again. We enjoyed our evening much later when we took off for a drink elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  32. That's funny -- definitely not a costume one would try nowadays!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Well Prestatyn certainly had at least one Black family in the 1980s, from about 1971 actually. The Townsend brothers attended PHS with Peter, the elder, now being 50 I think and Andrew 48. Their father worked at the point of ayr coal mine. They had a younger sister Too! Their mother used to be good friends with mine and would chat whilst waiting to pick us up from Bodnant juniors and infants.

    ReplyDelete

I love comments and will now try very hard to reply to all of them
Please dont be abusive x