Yo Is This..?

Kristin: Welcome to this week’s episode of “Yo, Is This Racist?” podcast. Also, let’s welcome our guest, Pam! Pam brings us a personal story regarding one incident of her many encounters with racism.

Pam: Hey everyone. It’s good to be here.

Kristin: So, since no one knows Pam, I’ll give you a little bit of a background on her. Pam is a middle-aged, African American woman. She has worked in the local school system’s school nutrition services for 18 years. Let me clarify a little- by local I mean Rowan County, North Carolina.

Pam: Thanks, Kristin. Indeed, I have worked in school nutrition services since 2002. Since then, I haven’t worked in the same school. I’ve worked at high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. The story I am going to share with you involves a middle school in the eastern part of the county. The geographic location is a key factor as well because it seems as if the county is segregated. The eastern and western parts of the county have a very low Black population.

Kristin: Ah, yes it does. I’ve definitely noticed that. Especially since my upbringing was in the eastern section. Well Pam, I’m ready to hear your story and I’m sure our listeners are, as well.

Pam: This particular incident happened in 2003. That day, as I said, I was working in a middle school. I was working on the serving line; you know, serving food to the students. I had just finished serving a class, so my line was empty. The other line still had students in it. So, I waved for some of those kids to come to my line. I mean, our job is fairly simple, get the kids through the line as fast as we can so they have time to eat. However, the boy that was paying attention to me and saw me wave, turned his head and ignored me.  His teacher, who was in line supervising her class, says to the back half of the line, “From Nicholas back, y’all go over to Miss Pam’s line.” Nicholas turns to his teacher and responds with, “I ain’t letting no n***er touch my food.”

Kristin: What?! That is insane. So what happened?

Pam: Well, the teacher immediately took him out of the line and he went to the principle’s office. I’m assuming he got suspended because I didn’t see him for a few days. The next week, I got a written apology from him explaining why what he did was wrong and that he was sorry.

Kristin: He should have been made to apologize to you face to face.

Pam: Yea, you’re right. But, it is what it is.

Kristin: So, this is not a question of whether or not this was racist. This was for sure racist. And this coming from a middle schooler. So, the boy was between 11 and 14. So why do you think he said this, Pam?

Pam: I think for young children, this is a reflection of their raising. It’s what they are around and it’s what they are exposed to. I mean, how else would they learn something like that?

Kristin: Absolutely. If you had to give me a definition right now of racism, what would it be?

Pam: Geez, you put me right on the spot!


Pam: If I had to give a single definition, I would define racism as a learned concept that allows a person of a certain race to think they are better and too good to associate with people of another race.

Kristin: You say single. Why?

Pam: I think there is no one single definition. I think racism is a multitude of experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. The definition can be different from one person to another based on these things.

Kristin: Very true. Okay I’m Going to go back to your story and the boy’s punishment of a probable suspension and an apology letter. This incident occurred 39 years after the Civil Rights Act and 40 years after MLK Jr wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I think we still see racism in America in part because of the “white moderate” MLK described. Yes, there are laws in place for racial equality and a punishment for this type of behavior years ago would be nonexistent. However, there is obviously a lot of racism in America still- whether direct or indirect. It seems to be a cultural thing for people in the South. I feel like an establishment for education, such as the middle school, should be instilling in these kids acceptance of others and a lot of other things that I won’t get into right now. For me, this is where the white moderate falls into place. Just because white people don’t deal with racism and inequalities, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. They can say, “Racism is bad,” however, is that all they are going to do? Teach the children factual information and show them how being Othered impacts people.

Pam: I think being “blind” is a real problem, like you said. If racism were impacting a white male or someone like that who doesn’t necessarily have any obstacles, this would be a problem and there would be a solution.

Kristin: Well, I could go on and on about this. However, we are running out of time here. Pam, it was great speaking with you. I’m glad you came on the show.

Pam: Me too. I hope everyone can just look at how they are presenting themselves around their children and be a good role model. If you hear something unjust, say something. Don’t let it just go in one ear and out the other.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was established in January of 1957 by group of black ministers and leaders in Atlanta, GA. Their objective was to end segregation in all forms by using nonviolent and economic actions. The SCLC contributed to many major Civil Rights activities including the Albany Movement, the Birmingham Campaign, March on Washington, St. Augustine Protests, the Montgomery March, Grenada Freedom Movement, and the Jackson Conference.

While many blacks supported the group and the movement, they were still governed and controlled by whites. Most of them had white employers and landlords, and they could not afford to risk getting fired or evicted by actively supporting the SCLC. However, black churches were run and controlled by blacks and offered black ministers a voice into the SCLC and the Civil Rights Movement without fear of their direct superiors. It also gave self-employed blacks a voice in the movement.

The goal of the SCLC was to plan and support nonviolent methods of desegregation in the South. In February of 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as the group’s president, and it was also run by a board of elected members. The SCLC was described “by one member as ‘a bunch of Baptist preachers,’ and by another as “a movement, not an organization.” (Fairclough, 2). The group was founded in response to the protest movements in Montgomery, Tallahassee, and Birmingham. It included primarily black ministers.

The March on Washington was one of the most notable events throughout the Civil Rights Movement. It was held in August of 1963 to advocate for civil and economic rights of blacks. The SCLC assisted in supporting the protests held and fought for new legislation to get rid of segregation. During this march, King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he painted a picture of what he hopes the Civil Rights Movement will result in.

In 1967, King gave a speech, “Where Do We Go from Here?” at the SCLC conference. In his speech, King called for the ethos of the group to be rebranded. According to Werner, King’s speech, “reinterpreted the trajectory of the SCLC’s accomplishments; articulated the ‘character’ of established SLC principles; and reconstituted the ‘dwelling place’ of the civil rights struggle.” (Werner, 110).


Works Cited:

Adam Fairclough. (1986). The Preachers and the People: The Origins and Early Years of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1955-1959. The Journal of Southern History52(3), 403. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.2307/2209569

WERNER, J. B. (2017). Building a “Dwelling Place” for Justice: Ethos Reinvention in Martin Luther King Jr.’S “Where Do We Go from Here?” Rhetoric & Public Affairs20(1), 109–132. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.14321/rhetpublaffa.20.1.0109

Ewell Reagin. (1968). A Study of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Review of Religious Research9(2), 88. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.2307/3510055

Selma to Montgomery Marches

This post was written by Evan Matthews, but I goofed and added you all to my personal u.osu blog instead of the class one (oops), so I’m reposting for him here. -CT


The march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 was not simply one march, but a series of three marches, and after the third time, the people who were peacefully protesting the racism and injustices still occurring in our society finally made it to Montgomery. The first march took place on March 7th 1965 and ended the same day with the name “Bloody Sunday” given to it when an estimated 525-600 protesters left Selma on the way to Montgomery and were stopped by law enforcement and harassed, beat, which hospitalized seventeen people and injured over fifty others. The second march took place two days later on March 9th 1965, and was nicknamed “turnaround Tuesday” this being the first march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, a restraining issue was ordered for 2500 people in the march to not stop the march from taking place until further hearings could be held regarding the situation at hand. Finally, on March 21st 1965 the masses were assembled and the march was allowed to take place, Dr. King and the protesters arrived in Montgomery three days later on the 24th with an estimated twenty-five thousand protesters.

It’s interesting how the Selma to Montgomery march took place in regards to the trials and tribulations the protesters went through. In Dr. King’s letter from his time while he was in Birmingham’s jail he explains a part that caught my attention. That part is the point in his letter where he explains why he chooses to use peaceful protesting as his way of showing the corrupt systems in place that something needs to change. He used these protests and direct action because they create tension and force the agitators to confront an issue that they refuse to negotiate on. Dr. King stated in his letter that the purpose of direct action is that “it will create such a crisis-packed situation that it will inevitably open the doors to further negotiation” (King,#2)  whether that be immediately, or further on down the line.



History.com Editors. “Selma to Montgomery March.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 Jan. 2010, www.history.com/topics/black-history/selma-montgomery-march.

“Selma to Montgomery March.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 27 June 2018, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/selma-montgomery-march.

“1965 Selma to Montgomery March Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 27 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/2013/09/15/us/1965-selma-to-montgomery-march-fast-facts/index.html.