Mahoney Baloney and Other Hate Crimes

I never saw an African American person in the flesh until I was a teenager.  I was a camp counselor and one of my charges was a little black girl.  I found myself torn between trying not to be prejudicial one way or the other.  But I didn’t know how to feel, how to be.  Up to that point, I had only seen African Americans on television or saw them in pictures in a more patronizing way as poor and distant objects of missionary efforts.

It wasn’t that our farming community was racially segregated.  It was just the way of things.  There were Dutch, German, and smatterings of a few other European nationalities, but mostly Irish and English.  I had things in my life that held absolutely no racial meaning for me, but now I wince to think of them.  And my children tell all their friends (loving to make me squirm) that their mom called filbert nuts nigger toes and played a dodge ball kind of game, yelling, “Hit the nigger, get a cigar!”  I didn’t even know what “nigger” referred to.  It was only a child’s game, like hopscotch or French and English.  In my last year of high school, a husband and wife teacher team were hired at my school.  I never had either of them for a class, but I would see them in the halls.  I wanted to feel neutral and accepting, but I didn’t know how to feel.

When I went to college in the States, there were many more black students, and I started acclimating more to racially mixed environments; but when a black student asked me out, I was thrown into conflict again.  What did I really think and feel.  I struggled with being patronizing in an attempt to prove I wasn’t prejudiced.  Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to say, “No, I don’t want to go out with you because I don’t like your personality, and you act like a jerk!”  With my history and exposure, I did not have a chip in my brain that made sense of the racial tension and prejudice in the world.

As one author that I read wrote, pertaining to the intensity some groups feel toward hate speech, they “just don’t get it.”  I didn’t get it for a long time because of ignorance and lack of exposure; the idea of hate speech was not even on my radar.  My closest idea of hate speech was probably when a classmate in elementary school stole my paper hat that named the local Conservative running for office.  His name was Mahoney.  My mate (I’m not naming you Eric!), running through the school yard with my hat, yelling, “Mahoney Baloney, Mahoney Baloney!” put me in tears.  I think the tendency today is similar to that experience.  It was a long time ago.  The country was young.  Let’s just all get over it and move on.  Why be so sensitive?

The legacy of slavery in the formation of this country and in her successful economy, the betrayal and decimation of the Amerindian population, the theft of much of the Southwest from Mexico in the name of Manifest Destiny is not something to get over as easily as a child’s name-calling and teasing.  Some call the founding of this nation Christian, but when exactly did all the founders think and act explicitly as Christ-followers?  Was this before or after slavery? There is much to appreciate in their legacy, but also much to question.  I would opt for truth in all things; and I would hope my label Christian would really mean following in the steps of my Lord.

Though the descendents of the perpetrators cannot be held responsible for crimes and injustices they did not commit, we can all seek to have a better understanding of the violation of personhood these crimes have inflicted.   Public national apologies become more political rhetoric than anything, but if individuals seek to walk in humility, casting aside the arrogance that the past is now meaningless, and if we truly seek to speak of others in the same respectful way that we would like to be spoken of, we will have moved a long way toward racial reconciliation.

About apronheadlilly

wife and mother, musician, composer / poet, teacher, and observer of the world, flawed Christ-follower
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18 Responses to Mahoney Baloney and Other Hate Crimes

  1. Thanks for this, Lilly. My son is half-Caucasian, and he didn’t know he was “black” until he was in junior high school. I raised him to place his identity in his faith rather than his skin color because I know racial problems will continue until there’s a new heaven and earth. The past is definitely not meaningless, but instead of letting it keep me down, I’ve chosen to be inspired by how far America has come since her days of slavery, be thankful for the opportunities available to me that were nonexistent to my ancestors, and work as hard as I can to help others do the same. By the way, my mother also called those nuts “nigger toes” … which is a whole other post! I hope you have a lovely and blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Thanks so much for your response. I think it started coming home to me more when I was studying about the takeover of Mexican lands in the Southwest here. As a Canadian, I had not really paid much attention as to how that was handled in US history. And in homeschooling my kids, much of the resources I was using strained to whitewash some of the abuses. I think as believers, we must own the fallenness, not excuse it, and ever press on to not repeat the sins of the past. And you are so right: Till Jesus makes all things new, we will struggle, but Lord, help us to be earnest in trying to be and act like kingdom people! Blessed Thanksgiving to you!

  2. K. D. says:

    Despite growing up all over the country in an Air Force family, I do not recall ever having spoken to an African-American person until I was in 8th grade (and living in England). A boy who turned out to be fun and quite popular rode the same bus that I did. But he was a rarity, even in the Dept. of Defense schools I attended. There were a number of African-American students in my final high school, in Tucson, AZ, but I never really found any friends among them. It wasn’t until years later, when my children were in grade school, that my husband and I actually had friends who were “black.” I’ve wondered sometimes if I just didn’t try hard enough to make friends with those of other races whom I’ve encountered all these years. My parents were always welcoming to anyone who needed a home-cooked meal and were far from home–I remember in particular an Indonesian Army officer and another captain from Thailand, so I was certainly fascinated to meet foreigners. (As I am to this day–and in my job here in TX, I have met many wonderful people from all over the world.) But it just seemed like we never knew anyone African-American, in our neighborhoods or schools. Thank goodness, my children have made friends of other races. But I think you’re right that “exposure” can remove a lot of the mystery of understanding people of other races and cultures. How wonderful it will be in heaven, when no one will care what color anyone is!
    P.S. I remember people calling Brazil nuts “nigger toes”, not filberts (hazelnuts).

  3. tootlepedal says:

    It is interesting to read what you say. I would imagine that your thoughts on the founding of the modern country of the USA are not generally spoken out loud. I reflect on much of the history of Britain with less pride and I would hope more realism than many of my countrymen.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I guess every country has dark places, as does every community, family, and person. We are all in process, so we must give each other that, as well. But authentic living is what I want to aim for in recounting the past and in planning for the future.

  4. SR says:

    This is really a good post. I am from the south where prejudice runs on both sides of the fence. I raised my children to be different though. One time they had a sleep over and I thought I had the United Nations sitting in my living room:>) I had every race, creed and color in there, but it was great.

    That is where we begin to heal such things as this. In our own homes and in our own lives. God Bless, SR

    • Thanks! When we lived north of Atlanta, we were a little suspect, but when our neighbors found out I was Canadian, that was far enough North. 🙂 And hubby was from CA, and they said all the nuts and bolts rolled to CA. As long as we weren’t from NY, we were OK. Times change, thankfully.

  5. Can I simply say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what they’re talking about on the internet.

  6. Reblogged this on Apronhead and commented:

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Just bringing out an old blog out of the woodwork for re-airing.

  7. reinkat says:

    What you have to say here is so important that I hope you “bring it out for an airing” again sometime.

  8. As my husband’s ancestors were Puritans who arrived 18 years after the Mayflower, he has studied a lot of the earliest US history. And I recently read a write-up on Thomas Paine, which mentioned his good friend and fellow-thinker G.W. and these men never professed a belief in the Bible or a Bible-based Christianity. A survey taken just after the Revolution showed that only 7% of Americans were regular Sunday service attenders. I’m guessing it was after the evangelism of Jonathan Edwards that Americans started to regard themselves as a Christian nation (in the concept we hear about today.)

    • We will be Christian nations when all people act as true followers of Jesus. Hmm. Could happen. Almost did in the Welsh revival. But I’m thinking heaven will be a closer approximaztion.

  9. this is lovely, personal and seeks understanding. thanks for sharing, ms. lily… 🙂

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