Having Nightmares About the Shutdown? Wake Up and Pick the Cotton!
Talk about irony. First Blacks — well, We was coloreds back then — were forced to pick the cotton. Now We can’t even take photos of the cotton. WTF? you ask. Yeah, well, it’s a cryin’ shame. Seems actor couple Cherie Johnson and Dennis White stopped their car on a South Carolina road, en route to a respite in Myrtle Beach, to snap pix of cotton in a vast field of the white fluffy stuff. Next up pulled a sheriff, who grilled them in the hot Southern sun about drugs that were not in their possession, rifled through belongings in their car, handcuffed them, accused Ms. Johnson of petty larceny (a charge later dropped) and then issued a citation for “Other.” Again, you ask: WTF?
Soft in the head, sure. The South Carolina Sheriffs Department also has got to be out of its cotton-pickin’ mind. (The film Deliverance comes to mind; just substitute a car for a canoe — and a camera for a bow and arrow.) We’ve heard of the vehicular version of racial profiling: DWB (“Driving While Black,” for those readers who aren’t Black, or have never been a passenger in a car driven by a Black person). Now the media has introduced to the massas, I mean, masses, the botanic version of racial profiling: PCWB (“Picking Cotton While Black”).
Scratching my head, which is as soft as cotton. So let me get this straight as hair smeared with Dark & Lovely lye: It was cool for coloreds to stoop to pick the cotton as slaves — when we did it for free — and, later, as tenant farmers, but now we can’t take photos of it? The absurdity of those facts and the ugliness of the physical violation and psychological torture of actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White are causing my fingertips to bleed like those of my Black forefathers and Black foremothers who toiled in those cotton fields and were considered chattel — possessions no more important than farm animals — in the agro-rich South.
But what to do? Boycott the ubiquitous natural fiber the very enunciation of which triggers downy comforts? I’m not exactly ready to toss out my Q-tips and T-shirts, my billowy sheets and snuggly fleece. While I wouldn’t mind opting for nylon undies over cotton ones, I can think of a few products for which there currently are no substitutes. Let’s face it: It’s hard to avoid such a versatile material from the plant world.
As for photographing plants by the side of the road — yes, we Americans of all colors have the right to seize the moment and the day! I say: Shoot the cotton like a paparazzo! Shut off the A/C on the approach to whatever-the-fuck road We meander onto in some small town way below the Mason-Dixon Line. Whip out that zoom lens to capture that priceless image of cotton. Cotton that pricked the sides of African slaves running on blistered soles on the way to freedom. Cotton running free. Cotton, cotton everywhere.
Hell, white landowners and their henchmen used to whip Us if We refused to pick the cotton. When We complied and picked the cotton, We got flogged anyway. You know, to hell with boycotting cotton. Out, out with all my belts and riding crops. Regarding the latter: Yeah, like I’ll ever ride a real horse after the first time, when my steed peed for an eternity and then decided to speed through the friggin’ forest. And they called it a “company outing” intended for “team building.” A lot of hooey. Hell, it was nearly company-sanctioned murder. When my incontinent Mister Ed realized his buddies a mile ahead, he made up for lost time. He must’ve mistaken the Poconos for Sleepy Hollow and me for the Headless Horseman because he was giddying up and I was screaming like a whore in a horror flick. No, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t know that yelling my head off would spook the horse. Some bonding experience. My co-workers were guffawing, their laughter bordering on bawling and echoing through the woods. Of course, they too had signed away their lives with nervous smiles before donning those brain buckets.
Hmmm … Methinks I’ll boycott dude ranches but only after anything I associate with riding crops, including: S&M clubs; Spanx in any color; DVDs of Indiana Jones, Batman Returns and Catwoman; and any Madonna videos made prior to 2000.
©2013 Chantale Rêve
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