“Share” Cropping & Racism: As Told By Gram

Many people are not fortunate enough to sit at a table with their grandmother and soak up their wisdom and knowledge of the past. If that’s the case for you, have no fear, my grandma is adopting all of us this week and sharing her story. A few days ago, she came to visit and an organic conversation about the past sparked a chance for her to enlighten us on a life some of us have never fully experienced but are still feeling the effects of today: Racism.

My grandmother, Margaret Smith, grew up with her father, mother, brothers, and sister as a sharecropper. At a young age, they were farming and picking cotton on the land of previous slave owners, like many African Americans in the South did. Sharecropping implied that goods were going to be shared as well as the cost related to producing those goods, but with the same hateful mindsets from slavery, it was another form of control, hate, and a vehicle for Racism.

Because Black families could not always afford the fertilizer and other supplies to complete their work on the fields, they had to open a line of credit at the stores of the landowners. As you can imagine, this created an issue of debt within the Black family unit and granted power to those that they opened the credit lines with: White store and landowners. The land owners decided what was owed to them and when it was owed. In the conversation with my grandmother, she told the story of Aunt Mag, a woman that opened up a credit line to complete her work. However, at the end of the year when she went to collect her money for the work she had done and pay her debts, she was told that she only broke even. The owners completely controlled the amount of money she would be able to take home to her family at the end of a hard year’s work, which in this case would have been zero.

Aunt Mag ended up getting the money that she was owed but was quickly out of a job for the next year. Once again, uncertain of where her next dollar to support her family would come from.

This is America’s history, not just my grandmothers or Aunt Mag’s, but this was the case for many Black Americans during this time. As we move forward in life, it is important that we recognize and acknowledge the past, but we must first know our past. We must educate ourselves on what was, so we have the power to dictate what is. If you have any elder in your life, I challenge you to take the time to sit with them and simply listen. They’re sure to tell a story you’ll never forget.

I’m grateful for the meal, the opportunity, and the conversation that was sparked at the dinner table with my gram. I gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge that is sure to stick with me and I know you will to.

Want to hear the story told by Margaret, herself? Watch the video on our Instagram page @sobremesa.am or on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sobremesa.am

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