In the Weekly Standard profile, Barbour marvelled at the fact that Yazoo City’s schools were desegregated without violence, unlike in many other towns in Mississippi. But for Mangold, whose parents were both physicians in Yazoo City, another local institution is in the forefront of his memory of that era: the hospital.
Built in the mid 1950s with federal assistance, the Yazoo City hospital was, at the insistence of the local White Citizens Council, a whites-only facility, Mangold says. As a child, he had the nighttime assignment of answering the back door at his parents’ home, where they had their medical practice (whites came to the front door, blacks to the back). He would often see black residents with grievous injuries requiring emergency care — but they had no where to go.
“There was no hospital in town where blacks could go. They would have to go to Jackson 40 or 50 miles away and many died on the way,” he says, adding that this state of affairs lasted for years.
Further, his parents became pariahs in town and their business was damaged because they had resisted the White Citizens Council petition that the hospital be whites-only.
“Threatening phone calls, dead cats on the lawn and other acts of intimidation combined to run my father out of town for two years,” Mangold wrote in his letter to the Clarion-Ledger.
The idea that this selective amnesiac could be president is a deranged fantasy held only by people who don’t realize that even racists think saying everything was okay in the South in the 50s for black people is possibly a bridge too far. When your fellow good ole boys are saying, “DAMN, son,” it’s maybe time to shut up. Go sit down over there, Haley, on the bench next to George Allen and Trent Lott.
This story (and this one, which is amazing) is also interesting for a reason we talk about here a lot, which is: There’s this bullshit narrative that everybody thought racism and gaybashing and sexism and discrimination were just hunky-dory and then along came Martin Luther King and political correctness and it all harshed our white buzz and we woke up to how we really shouldn’t treat women and minorities like dogs anymore. Thank God for the magical year 1960 or whatever, when we all figured out that we’re all human beings just by flipping the calendar!
There’s a tendency to talk about things as if the simple passage of time was what accomplished change, as if the drastic alteration of laws and attitudes was just inevitable, instead of the result of decades and decades and decades of pushing and pushing for more and more rights, more openness, more decency, more humanity. There’s a tendency to talk about all of this as if it just happened, rather than having been made to happen by people who suffered greatly for it long before the TV cameras showed up.
And for quite a few people, this kind of behavior was NEVER okay. Quite a few people never were racist, sexist, homophobic assholes who needed their minds changed by the passage of time and the sight of lots of other people coming to the conclusion that their fellow human beings were exactly that. Those folks don’t get enough credit.