Thursday, June 12, 2008

The other side of BamaJam

So there's a whole other side to BamaJam that I haven't written about, nor has anyone else in the media, it seems. I give BamaJam props for putting on a great inaugural music festival -- but that's where the fun ended, the music.

Ted Hacker, the event producer for Ronnie Gilley Entertainment, called the festival "redneck heaven." I prefer to think of it as redneck hell. The rednecks who attended BamaJam ruined it for me.

Most of the time, when I use the term redneck, it's in a loving way. I'm from East Tennessee and I've spent almost all my life in the South. I like to do stereotypical redneck things -- drink beer, get loud and rowdy -- hell, one of the reasons I went to this festival was to act like a redneck with 100,000 other people (that, and to see Ralph Stanley!).

So here's where my story begins. It's Friday afternoon, and we've recently arrived at our campsite. I'm walking through RV-land, heading back to the tent after a visit to the porto-john. I was smiling, having a good time ... other than the almost unbearable heat, things were looking great. I was drinking beer, hanging out with friends, and getting ready to see some of my favorite musicians.

I wasn't surprised when a late 50, early 60 year-old-man invited me over to his "porch" (it was an RV, so there wasn't really a porch) for a hamburger and some friendly conversation. I declined the hamburger, but did accept a beer. It was about 5 p.m., 90-something degrees out and the man was already half lit.

Most of our conversation has already faded from my memory -- he hit on me repeatedly, I repeatedly turned him down, mentioning my husband at every convenient moment. He talked about where we were from, what we did. I was telling him about working for the newspaper. Just when I had enough (my beer was warm) and was getting ready to leave, my husband came up in conversation again.

"Is your husband black?" the man asked me. I don't know why he asked — maybe I said something to arouse his suspicion.

"No," I said. "But not that it matters."

"It does matter," he said, with an accusatory tone. "Have you dated black men?"


"Get out of my camp." He stands, pointing me toward the dusty path on the other side of his RV. I stood, thanked him for the beer, and stuck out my hand for him to shake. He looked at me like I was a leper, the girl he had been flirting with only moments ago gone in his mind.

I left, muttering curse words and flipping his camp an hand gesture that went unseen.

I accept the fact that there are racists out there. I'm not blind to the world. But if I can accept their beliefs, however backwards and outdated they might be, why can't they accept mine?