Mr. Hipster grew up in a liberal household on the West Coast surrounded by people of every creed and color. He loved The Jeffersons. He loved Sanford & Son. He also loved Moonlighting and Cheers. Point being… well, there is no point other than to say he had no preconceived notions about black and white. Never was uttered a negative word about anybody based on race or religion. Mr. Hipster’s mom was an equal opportunity bird-flipper when driving. She didn’t care if you were white. black, brown or green, she’d give you the finger quicker than you could say “L.A. freeway shooting.” His father was practically a socialist.
So, what the hell is he talking about now? Fuck off, he’ll get to it…
The plan was to rent a house in LBI (Long Beach Island, NJ for all of you non-residents out there) with some friends for the week. He’d done it a couple years ago, and everything worked out wonderfully. He was excited to get down there and relax. He walked into the kitchen of the rented house and immediately began drinking. He checked the place out. You had your typical wall of plastic lobsters and fishnets. The furniture was decidedly quaint, and the wall decorations chintzy in that shore house kind of way. The pickaninnies sitting around the giant slice of watermelon obviously fishing for catfish was a… what the hell is that?
He shits you not. There was a display on one of the counters of a group of young black children sitting around a fishing hole, several of them eating watermelon. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the owner of the house had embellished the already offensive display with her own flourishes, including a couple extra pieces of wooden watermelon and signs. Mr. Hipster almost did a spit-take (although these things rarely happen in real life.)
“You think that’s bad,” said one of Mr. Hipster’s housemates, “You should see what we stuck in the closet earlier in the week.”
And there it was. A goddamn mammy with a basket full of cotton. Everyone in the house did what everyone does when confronted with something completely obscene: they burst into hysterical fits of laughter. It was much the same reaction a professor at Syracuse University got so many years ago when he held up a book full of fisting photos by Robert Mapplethorpe. Just the shock of seeing something so ridiculous in New Jersey in 2002 sent spasms of embarrassment through every white bone in his body. Notice our mammy is a Boston Red Sox fan. If there wasn’t a more ironic picture…
After shaking their heads and drying their tears of laughter and shame, the mammy was quickly escorted back to the broom closet where she belonged. The housemates spent the next couple of days wondering what kind of complete asshole would leave this archaic symbol of everything evil sitting by their fireplace. What if one of them had been black? Granted there probably hasn’t been a person of color in LBI ever, but there are plenty of city folk that come down that way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the fast life. What a great welcome.
The saddest part is that in order to get their deposit back, the housemates had to leave the house exactly as they found it. This meant taking the mammy out of her hiding space and returning her to her place of prominence next to the fireplace. It might have almost been worth losing their deposit to leave a nasty note warning the Krauses that this kind of shit doesn’t fly anymore.
Maybe Mr. Hipster is naive, but it saddens him to know that there are still people out there who think this is okay. Sigh.