I live in central Texas where Texans are known for being polite. We usually smile and wave to one another on the streets as we cross paths. We say “yes, ma’am” and are kind to our elders. We hold the door open for each other and help one another out when we’re in trouble. We act like neighbors with one another. That all seems nice and genuine, until you realize, if you’re not also playing along with this little facade, then you’re going to become a target for exclusion.
I’ve lived in a few places around the U.S., and people being rude to your face can be very aggravating, but I think that would be better than someone being polite to your face and then trying to get you fired behind your back for saying the wrong word. Someone shoving your arm as they walk by is rude, but someone actively getting your entire community together to talk about how you “don’t belong” and they begin discussing different ways to get rid of you might be a little worse.
Cliches thrive in the south. There’s not as much to do in a smaller town as there would be in a busy city. People in small towns like to get together and gossip about everyone else in the area because they all know who they’re talking about. Everyone knows everyone, and when you don’t fit in with this group, you will become an outcast. They will do everything within their power to make you feel unwelcome, and then when you still won’t leave or you cause problems for them, they will do whatever they can to arrest and imprison you.
Here are 3 iconic examples:
- Consider for a moment, the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. I know, this isn’t a real-life example, but the message in the novel is relevant. Most of us have read it in school, but if you have not here is a plot summary. I know that this novel is targetted more towards racial issues, but it’s obviously still a huge example of exclusion. The author consistently points out how different older characters in the novel judge other characters. Their children aren’t allowed to talk to other children because their family is considered “trash.” A few people in town do whatever it takes to make sure an innocent black man is put in prison, even after all the evidence has shown otherwise. He is different; therefore, he must be punished.
- Another example would be in Tulia, Texas. This town was first established as a place where everyone could move and help work on farms. They still had the town segregated so all the black families lived on one side of the train tracks and all the white families lived on the other. They expected the economy to boom, but once machines for grazing were invented, all of the black community was unemployed. Then, they couldn’t get any work because no one in the community would hire them. They were damned to their side of town where they were judged.
The community decides they want to do something about the “bad side” of town so they hire an undercover cop who creates a bunch of false documents about the black members of the city. The cops arrest every young black man and women living on that side of town. They evidence is mind-blowingly clear that it was all falsified and no one witnessed any of these claims from the cop. So his word had more merit than an entire community. The jury sentenced these poor young adults to 25 years in prison.
A lawyer hears about the wrongdoing in Tulia and decides to help these people. They are finally released after it being pointed out to them that all of the evidence was false, but the white community still wouldn’t admit they were wrong. They even said things like, “Well, they found a loophole on this one, but they’ll be back in there because they’re just scum.” Nobody in this town had any real reason to suspect that side of town as being a bunch of criminals besides the fact that they were different. And they will ignore every instance of this being pointed out to them.
- My last example is Making a Murderer where a man and then later his nephew are both convicted for a crime where there was very little hard evidence that they had done it. The law says “without any reasonable doubt,” but they were still prosecuted because the jury didn’t really care if the evidence was sound or not. They jury was a bunch of people from a small town where everyone talks to one another. They were going to convict him no matter what becase he was different and didn’t fit in. Multiple people even said that during the filming of the series. “They didn’t fit in.”
There are endless examples of this happening. My basic point is that the south isn’t really that nice. We’re all polite to one another, but that’s only to make sure you don’t make any enemies. Luckily, I live in a bigger town where there’s a much larger population and I’m not forced to act any particular way, but I’ve experienced it first-hand in many situations while growing up in different parts of Texas. You say the wrong thing in first grade, and you’re sitting alone for the next five years. You say the wrong thing at church as an adult, you are blatantly ignored by everyone at service that next Sunday. We have issues with dirty politics in every form of business whether it’s in the government or privately owned. We are not that kind.
Know any other examples of blatant exclusion from the community where people’s lives have been ruined? Have you experienced this first-hand from your own community or any groups you tried to join?