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US News United States: the white minority of Memphis, between heavy legacies and small revolutions

10:30  28 october  2020
10:30  28 october  2020 Source:   rfi.fr

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Une fresque non loin du Lorraine Motel où a été tué Martin Luther King et qui jouxte le Musée des droits civiques de Memphis. © RFI / Carlotta Morteo A fresco not far from the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was killed and which adjoins the Memphis Civil Rights Museum.

When we talk about Memphis, Tennessee, we obviously think of the incredible musical heritage. But in this southern United States, it is the slave past that weighs heavily. RFI went to meet residents of the city's white minority, who are working to put the pieces back together.

From our special correspondent in Memphis,

From blues , soul and rock and roll like you don't hear anywhere else ... You know you arrived in Memphis turning on the radio. “Look, to the right of the Avenue, behind the wall, is Chickasaw Garden, an all-white neighborhood of extremely wealthy people. It's fenced, secure, and just across the street is the East School High School which takes in children whose parents are among the poorest in town. Allie Preston, in her thirties, an executive in a major hotel chain, gives me a tour of the city in her SUV. “From one street to another, you can go very quickly from a safe neighborhood to a dangerous neighborhood, from wealthy houses to slums, from a white neighborhood to a black neighborhood. We don't mix too much, everyone gets together with those who are like them, ”she describes. A visible urban heritage which dates from the time of segregation, but which hides a real evolution of mentalities.

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Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups of are compared. Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America. Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity

Jim Crow laws were state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States .

Shame of the Past

Allie's husband, Preston Battle, is a young lawyer who could have gone to work in a bigger metropolis and made a lot more money, if he wasn't so attached to the development of his city. "Memphis has a lot of scars and we are not done repairing the wounds of history," he said. Within his Church, he is very involved in charity operations, clothing collection and food aid, which he regularly distributes in poor areas of the city. His ancestors, like most of the white elites from here, owned slaves, and many in this millennial generation are well aware and ashamed of that past. His grandfather was the first to transmit a certain sense of responsibility to him: he was none other than the judge in charge of the trial of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, who was shot in Memphis in 1968.

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CRW Flags - Flag of Memphis , Tennessee, United States . Memphis is Tennessee’s most populous city and is at the centre of the state ’s second largest metropolitan area. Memphis grew rapidly with the expansion of cotton growing in the South and because of its transportation facilities by railroad

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One of his high school friends, Erim Sarinoglu, also became a lawyer but chose a specialty that is generally not very popular: public defendant. He works for the county and is assigned ex officio to those who cannot afford a private lawyer. “My clients are predominantly African-Americans,” he says. Many are arrested for drug trafficking, cannabis, cocaine, or aggravated theft. The minimum sentences in Tennessee are very harsh, around four years at a minimum. You might as well say that when you start your adult life in prison for crimes that kill no one, leaving your girlfriend alone with the baby, rent to pay, etc., it is a spiral of precariousness and violence that works for families and neighborhoods. "Very committed, Erim denounces a judicial culture that is as much more repressive as it is political. The majority of judges are Republicans and are encouraged by their constituents to condemn very harshly. Erim will therefore run in the next elections for a judge's post in order to "change things" from within.

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The whole United States of America is projected to become majority- minority by the middle of the 21st century if current trends continue, making the The definition of an ethnic minority differs between US and Canada. In the US this term includes anyone who is either not White or who is Hispanic (Hispanic

Putting the pieces together

“My generation fully recognizes this past systemic oppression of whites on blacks. And we do everything to try to put the pieces back together, ”said Marshall Bartlett, 30, one of Preston’s best friends. He is an organic pig farmer in Cuomo, a very rural place which, like Memphis, is predominantly African-American. Here, for two centuries, their ancestors cultivated cotton on behalf of the white owners of the plantations. Marshall has taken over the family farm and employs around ten people. “After George Floyd died, we had a meeting, and it was clear that my black employees were particularly keen on our company supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. So we put up a banner at the entrance to the farm and made a statement on our social media, ”he explains. Within white conservative families, "it got people talking" he smiles. But whatever. His father was already a trailblazer for the region: a soybean producer, he had refused to work with Monsanto and preferred to pay wages rather than machines to secure local jobs. "The spirit of community and sharing that he has managed to take root in this place torn apart by racial inequalities, is priceless. I had to take up the torch, ”he emphasizes.

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The rapid advancement of mass production and transportation made life a lot faster under the Second Industrial Revolution .

The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over the ratification of the Constitution

Old demons and new guard

But how many parents in southern white families are so progressive? Allie often argues with her parents over political issues now. “They've always been conservative, but I don't understand how they can defend Trump. Sometimes, in private, they criticize his personality but never will they do so publicly. And then what worries me is that I see people at work who allow themselves to say implausible things because the president says them too. The toads are out of the pond and I think we'll hear them croaking for a long time, whatever happens on November 3, "she regrets.

This year, like most of these young progressives in Memphis, she will vote in the local election for Torrey Harris. He won the Democratic primary to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives and his profile is unheard of: 29-year-old African-American social worker, he is openly gay and he opposes John De Berry, who represented the district in the Chamber for 25 years (under the Democratic banner), and which therefore finds itself forced to compete for his re-election as an independent. A sign that times are changing, even in the dampness of the deep South that we sometimes tend to caricature.

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This is interesting!