Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Does it rub off?


I was raised in an age of comparative innocence. I remember going into the Barber Shop near downtown Topeka, Kansas, as a nine- or ten-year old boy, still wet behind the ears as they say, and encountering my first Negro. (The things one remembers! And only because I happened to call for a haircut appointment this morning.)

Anyway, I walked into the barber shop, an all-male bastion in those days, and dutifully sat down to wait my turn in the chair. My attention first turned to the conversations going on among and between the six or so patrons in the chairs lining the wall of the little one-chair shop. After added a word or two to my growing vocabulary of cuss words, I turned to study the black shoe shine “boy” plying his trade in the corner, snapping his cloth and bantering with his customers. I doubt that I had ever before been in the same room with a black person. He was a complete novelty for me, and finally curiosity overcame my shyness. I stood alongside him while he buffed a pair of brogans for a customer. He looked around and gave me a big smile. I reached over and touched his arm. “Does it rub off,” I innocently asked, looking at my still white pinky?

Now what is wrong with that? In the 1940s the answer would be nothing, just an amusing story for Dad to pass along about his son. Today, some 70 years later, the answer might be a bit more complicated. Sad, isn’t it?

Bleeding Kansas

From the Kansas Historical Society, I learned that:

Kansas entered the Union as the 34th state on January 29, 1861. Less than three months later, on April 12, Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederate troops and the Civil War began.

…Before the war ended, the federal government issued several calls for troops, asking Kansas for a total of 16,654 men. More than 20,000 “Jayhawkers” enlisted, however, and the state contributed 19 regiments and four batteries to the Union forces.

And from Wikipedia I was reminded, as I no doubt had been taught in Grade School, that:

Bleeding Kansas, Bloody Kansas or the Border War, was a series of violent political confrontations involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery “Border Ruffian” elements, that took place in the Kansas Territory and the neighboring towns of Missouri between 1854 and 1861. At the heart of the conflict was the question of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free state or slave state. As such, Bleeding Kansas was a proxy war between Northerners and Southerners over the issue of slavery in the United States. The term “Bleeding Kansas” was coined by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune; the events it encompasses directly presaged the American Civil War.

Congress had long struggled to balance the interests of slaveholders and abolitionists. The events later known as Bleeding Kansas were set into motion by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854, which nullified the Missouri Compromise and instead implemented the concept of popular sovereignty. An ostensibly democratic idea, popular sovereignty stated that the inhabitants of each territory or state should decide whether it would be a free or slave state; however, this resulted in immigration en masse to Kansas by activists from both sides. At one point, Kansas had two separate governments, each with its own constitution, although only one was federally recognized.

Dave, a Johnny Reb at heart


One Response to “Does it rub off?”
  1. Leslie says:

    To think I almost went my merry way without seeing this sweet story of innocence of 1940s Kansas “back in the day”. I’d like to think that even in this harsh politically correct world we live in that children still get a pass for their innocent questions. I can say that when I’m out with Katie and children stare and seem curious about her, it just seems natural to me, no offense taken. I usually just tell them Katie has down syndrome and it means she doesn’t know some things they know. ( or I let their Mom’s explain what DS is.)

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