“You guys know what, and you’re not going to believe this. I read in the New York Times online paper that for fifty years White folks in a small town in Ohio wouldn’t let the Black folks in the Black community in the county have running water. Man, this was in the North in the twenty-first century. Can you believe that shit?” I was just a little agitated.
“Hell yeah, I believe it. I been telling you dummies that racism ain’t dead. Jim Crow, he still alive and kicking, and not just down here in the South.” Alvin was cutting Roscoe Jenkins’s hair. He owns one of the funeral homes in town.
Jabo refused to believe it. “Man, you readin one them blog things and you believe it.”
“It wasn’t a blog,” I said. “It was a news story by a reporter named Claire Suddath about a Black community that the Water Authority, County, and City refused to provide running water for fifty years, fifty years, man.”
“If you want to know if segregation is still prevalent,” Roscoe liked to use fifty cent words, “there’re two places to see it, in church on Sunday and in the cemeteries. I don’t handle the funeral of White folks, and I bury youall in the cemetery on (he named the street).”
Ever the optimist, Leroy, shook his head. “Things’re gettin better. You guys just don’t want to admit it. Youall ‘member when we couldn’t live in this part of town? Now we can live anyplace in the city.”
“Leroy,” I put him straight, “we live in this part of the city because the city tore down our neighborhoods to build the coliseum. Hell, they had to put us someplace.”
“What did those folks do for water?” asked Roscoe.
“They couldn’t sink any wells because the coal mines had polluted the ground water. So, they caught rain water to wash clothes and stuff.
“You sure it was in Ohio?” asked Jabo.
“Yes,” I replied. “The Water Authority provided running water to White folks who moved next door to a Black dude who had been denied running water. The Water Authority claimed no one from the Black neighborhood had ever requested water from the city. More precisely, they said it was for lack of demand that the Black community hadn’t been provided with running water.”
“Like I always say,” said Jabo, “we can’t win for losing.”
I continued my report, so to speak. “Black folks sued and won ten million dollars. Just like down here in the South, the authorities in the town blamed outsiders for their troubles, claiming there was no discrimination.”
“Old Jim Crow ain’t dead but we done put a big hurt on him, baby.” Alvin announced.
A statement with which we all agreed with a loud “Amen, brother.”