Jim Crow’s Jig Is Up

by on February 27, 2012 · 10 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul

Photo courtesy of neontommy via flickr.com

There’s a character
from old Minstrel Shows
who went by the name of Jim Crow,
white man in
black face
depicting what he considered to be,
a Negro,
all singy and dancey and grinny,
don’t you know,
but over time
in my mind
I configured the soul
of the rogue playing Jim Crow
as the mastermind
of all the crimes
against my gentes
I’ve seen in a lifetime,
a symbol of all our woes,
morphing into
“The Man”
I’ve come to know:
hateful so and so
who, and it was not so long ago,
his life
to harassing
many a Negro
who was simply going with the flow,
taunting us with other names like
and Sambo
everywhere we’d go.
Oh, that Jim Crow could put on a show, bro.
If he owned a store
it would, I trust,
be called Atrocities R Us.

Talking about how because he simply didn’t like any of us
he had us:
sitting in the balcony at the movies
and at the back of the bus;
eating at places
and swimming in pools where there was only us;
using broken down bathrooms
and drinking from trickling water fountains
meant just for us;
attending schools supposedly
representing separate but equal status;
hanging from trees because
our eyes
had or had not,
as had wasn’t a must,
wandered away from us
onto one of his women who
he didn’t want any where near us;
making a fuss
for the privilege to vote
for those who could truly represent us;
not daring to think about marrying anybody
or being buried next to anybody
or owning a house next to anybody
or throwing grenades
at the enemy next to anybody
who wasn’t one of us.

Jim Crow.
One ornery cuss.
And he’s still very much  among us,
very much alive,
never having been fully laid aside,
ever so slightly,
ever so mitely,
ever so lightly,
but he’s been writhing
and simmering
crippled by the notion
that someone
other than his “own kind”
might want to prosper
and thrive
and live free
and one day he snapped
and starting screaming:
“There’s way too many MESSCANS out there!”
and a Governor
and a Stupidentendent of Public Destruction
and an Attorney General
And he replies:
“Whadda ya mean where?
Here, there, everywhere!”
And SB 1070 now rules the Arizona air,
a form of insanity
almost without compare.

Jim Crow,
Ladies and Gentleman!
Hardest Working Man
in the White Superiority
Sets the tone
for how life goes
for those he deems
less than he,
and he is feeling his Wheaties,
fearing no entreaties,
doing just about anything he pleases
with the what should be
impossible authority
in a so called democracy
to erase a people’s history,
banning their books
and their heroes,
an out and out
attack on a people’s ancestry,
a people’s memory,
a people’s mobility,
and a host of other “bilitys”
like in a theatrical mad scientist fantasy

But this is a Jim Crow
unfamiliar to me,
as in my day
he just reduced my history
to a few words about
peanut butter
and slavery
and Booker T
and I’m not talking about
Booker T and the MG’s
but there were some teachers
at Dunbar, the all-black school,
who didn’t want us to grow up
as fools
and hipped us to the tools
we needed to know how to use
to segue from our community
that was rarely ever in the news
into that larger one filled with
folks colored in caucasion hues,
the “real world” in many views.

There was no obliteration
of our heroes,
of our stories,
as we spoke
of them softly
yet reverently
and soulfully
and we sang
our anthem:
“Lift Every Voice and Sing, till earth and heaven ring
ring with the harmonies of liberty…”

So Amigos mios,
my fellow Brown
Brothers and Sisters,
I’m with you all the way
and I especially want
to high five all the
pachucos, y vatos,
y chicas, y ese’s
that I’ve known in my day
and say:
Hey, we’ve got Jim Crow’s ass now, baby,
and I don’t mean maybe.
The eyes of the world are on Tucson,
eyes crossed in confusion,
wondering “What the hell is going on?”
And what’s going on
is we’re in the spotlight
with our children at the head
of the line,
is that not both powerful
and sublime,
singing a new song,
spittin’ a new rhyme,
sporting a new look,
exposing Jimmy
on facebook,
taking him to court
where he’ll be all

But what’s up is:
His jig is up!
Jim Crow’s Jig is up!

Photo courtesy of neontommy via flickr.com

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar dorndiego February 27, 2012 at 10:49 am

Big Ernie telling the truth is like watching
the sun come up, again. Jim’s for sure dead
because most all of us know that he wanted
more than could be given him; there was
never enough for Jim.


avatar Ernie McCray February 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

He is, indeed, one greedy sonofagun.


avatar Debbie Terry February 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

You are so awesome!


avatar Ernie McCray February 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Well, thank you.


avatar Chris Dotson February 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Still light-headed and slightly spinning, having read this aloud for myself and for my young neighbors to hear and to listen (and they shall now carry with them!), feeling the patter, riding wave after wave of intensity and emotion. Great ride, man!
And a greater message.


avatar Ernie McCray February 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Thanks. And what’s beautiful is that more and more people are joining in the struggle for what’s going on in the Grand Canyon state. We will keep on riding.


avatar Anna Daniels February 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Ernie- you are such an incredible wordsmith. What a remarkable history lesson and contemporary analysis that is all music and all truth.


avatar Ernie McCray February 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Just trying to sing it like it is.


avatar rick trujillo February 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Companero Ernesto, (has a good ring to it, doesn’t it?),
We have just dispatched your treatise on the death, resurrection and death of jim crow, to a very good friend, Miguel Angel, in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the other Las Vegas. Lots of history there (including film making, Tom Mix westerns, No Country for Old Men). Miguel taught Ethnic/Chicano Studies at Laney College (a very large Black student population), in Oakland, 7o”s through 90″s. Miguel is/was very well known, liked and respected among Black activist, students and faculty. Currently, he is the director of Casa Cultura, an activista never retires. One of the main events Casa organizes is the annual “I ain’t got no Frijoles, Blues Festival”–huge attendance and getting more and more popular—-your words belong there at the festival, your words will be at the festival, you belong at the festival, as vindication of real literature in the service of honest, molecular level, vibrating, contemporary history. An alliance is in the works, finally…… a gathering of all of us who walked out of Oldavai Gorge, Africa………. you are fueling this happening, Ernesto, Comandante of Words.


avatar Ernie McCray February 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Companero. Si, it does have a real nice ring. thanks for passing my words on to the other Vegas. I’m honored to be in the mix you’ve described at any degree. Gracias.


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