Whites Only!

photo prompt:  Roger Bultot

“I’m sorry,” growled the man behind the counter. “You know the rules. No coloreds here. Either she leaves, or y’all leave, it don’t matter to me.”

The three young women gazed at each other. Without speaking, they made a decision. They headed for a booth. They sat. And they waited.

“Hey! You got a hearin’ problem? NO COLORED! Y’all need to git now!”

They stayed. They waited.

They saw the lights of the police car.  They joined hands. They were afraid.

“Problem, Neddie?”

“Sho’nuff is. I guess they ain’t readin’ too good.”

“Come along, ladies. NOW!”

 

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38 thoughts on “Whites Only!

  1. I’m not sure how I feel about this writing prompt. I had to read it a few times along with some others. This picture seems a little modern to go in the direction the prompt has… but hey, just an observation. Also, “they” who is “they?” I believe ” they” have a name, at least where I’m from there is a name there is no us and they.

    1. Kim, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Is it the “They” that the owner uses in referring to the women? If so, how do you feel he should have spoken or what he should have called them? I certainly didn’t intend any insult to the women in this story; I honestly don’t know how else he could have referred to them under those circumstances. Help me out here?

      I shared this post with a client of mine, a Black woman. I asked her about your comment, and she shrugged, said, “I’m not sure what to say. Unless he knew them by name, but there’s no way of knowing that.”

      I agree with you that where I live, there is no “us” and “they,” and I’m very thankful for that.

    1. I was graduating from high school in 1965, so was keenly aware of the whole Civil Rights Movement. It doesn’t seem possible that it was over 50 years ago, does it?

    1. I’m sorry, I really don’t know what you’re referring to. I asked Kim to help me understand. Waiting for her response. And please feel free to tell me what “they” you’re referring to, and how else I could have written that–if the man knew the women by name, then I would understand, but there’s no way to tell that since it’s not included in the story.

  2. I get who “They” are, but perhaps the word is overused in this brief snippet. I think Kim and Suze want it to be more personalized. The man doesn’t have to know them by name, but Mary could turn to Jean and Bonnie and grasp their hands in strong resolve, etc. See where I’m going with this? Now, we have forged a connection with these ladies because we know who THEY are.

    Overall, I loved where you took the story, Linda. Adding three names would present some word-count challenges, but you’re a strong writer and could easily overcome that.

    1. Yes, I see what you mean. I used the “they” for a specific effect, though. And it would have been difficult to use three names each time I used “they.”

      I appreciate your insight on this, and thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      1. I know. It would have impacted the story. After introducing them you could have probably said “the girls” or just “they” having established the characters.

        I’ve had some interesting feedback on my posts over the years too. People don’t always understand the cultural or regional references I use. If someone offers a suggestion or idea that make my story better, I embrace it. If I don’t think it improves my story, I ignore it.

        A good writer once told me, “Don’t try to please everyone. You won’t. It’ll only water down your writing and make it flat”

      2. That’s an excellent statement. I’m a counselor. I tell people all the time, “You can’t make everyone happy. It’s really not your job. Your job is to change how you react to people so that you don’t feel terrible about yourself.”

        Same kind of idea here. This is the first thing I’ve written that got some–very slight–negative feedback. It really wasn’t criticism, and it will help me to be more thoughtful. Not a bad deal at all 🙂

  3. I think your story is great, and I don’t see how anyone can have a problem with it.
    I considered travelling this road with my own story, but thought too many others might do the same. It appears you are one of the few with the courage to do so.
    The word THEY merely refers to the group of three women, two white, one coloured, who were making a stand. Good for them. The difference they and many others have made is still slow to filter through, unfortunately.
    I could go on, but will refrain, only saying that in my view you have written a good story which needs no alterations. x

    1. Thanks, Liz. Obviously there is still a very hot button on this and similar issues. I certainly didn’t intend to stir up old hurts; just wrote what came to me as I studied the photo.

  4. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover

    I liked your story. I think they showed courage in standing up to a wrong. To me it is hard to believe it was only 50 years ago.

    1. For those of us who were alive back then, and aware of what was happening, it doesn’t seem like that long ago. I lived in a little farm town in southern Minnesota for my high school years, and we really weren’t touched by the ugly reality of segregation. We watched, though, and the whole thing had a lasting effect on me.

      1. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover

        It must have. I was too young and lived in a northern part of Canada so I was isolated. I visited a memorial in Nashville that really brought the racial discrimination to life. It was very shocking to me.

  5. Good for them. A scary situation to be in, but it was people like them who pushed change through. It’s amazing to think how recently this was going on.

  6. The prompt is just that and if it prompts you to write a scene in a different era to the picture, I don’t see that as a problem. Sometimes my stories are very loosely based on the photo, but it is what the photo has made me think of. I didn’t see anything wrong with the use of ‘they’, but think RGayer’s suggestion of ‘Mary could turn to Jean and Bonnie and grasp their hands in strong resolve, etc.’ is a useful one.

    1. There really were a lot of good things about the”good old days,” but the racial hatred was not one of them. I would like to think it’s dying a slow death, but I’m not really sure.

  7. This was brilliant, Linda. It was a sign of the times and back then, THEY would have been, as a group, would have been condemned. Russell’s suggestion is very good one, you could have said their three names in the first “they” and then dropped one or two “theys” such as They sat, waited., etc. That said, it is YOUR story so don’t feel obliged to changed a thing and stick to your guns. 😀

  8. I ate with my parents in a place in Little Rock in the early 60’s. We were on a trip. The owner of the restaurant told my dad that the local people weren’t causing the trouble. People from outside had come there. That was the beginning. Good writing, Linda. —- Suzanne

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