Dec. 28, 2018

EVERY TOWN, LARGE or SMALL, HAS SECRETS...INCLUDING MY HOMETOWN.

Note that the graph in this article indicates that more-than-half of racial hate and discrimination is directed at Jews.  

Growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I was aware that the town hid a long-standing and ugly truth:

Jewish families, among the smartest and wealthiest people in Pine Bluff, weren't allowed to be members of the Pine Bluff Country Club.  Like the town’s Blacks, Jews were treated like undesirables. One could argue that most of America was segregated at that time so…no one expected Blacks to be included in a White Man’s Country Club.   But… why were Jewish people also the victims of  the same discrimination? Hadn’t the Jews experienced enough discrimination during World War II?

Prominent White families in Pine Bluff had power; they had the ability to ban "unwanted" segments of society from their exclusive club. I remember my ex-father-in-law, Jack Perdue, who served as a board member for the Pine Bluff Country Club,  saying:

“Jews, like Blacks, shouldn’t be swimming in the same pool with Whites. They are foreigners who carry diseases that are “incompatible” with Whites. Those diseases can be fatal. Besides, Jews and Blacks have different life styles from White People and…..we don’t want to experience their “different ways.” 

It’s interesting to note that these Pine Bluff Whites were strong "pillars" in their churches yet they saw nothing wrong in discriminating against select groups of people.

Growing up, I baby-sat for Jewish Families, those with familiar last names like… Sherman, Gershner, Kahn, Baim, and Blau.  I was a child of the fifties and attended Pine Bluff High School with students who were Jewish… like Marilyn Soltz, Sidney Bilsky, Betsy Cohen, Bobby Reisenberg, and others. In fact, most of my closest friends were Jews.

Near the end of the twentieth century, Pine Bluff fell on hard-times.  A “casualty” of integration, the town began experiencing what historians now refer to as “White Flight” .   Many of Pine Bluff’s more “prominent” families quickly moved away from Pine Bluff… determined not to share their lifestyles with “people of color.”  

The Pine Bluff Country Club lost most of its members which caused a massive reduction in the Club's much-needed revenue.  Facing closure, board members had no choice but lift their long-time discrimination ban.

Almost overnight, Jews and Blacks received lavishly-glowing invitations to join the once-exclusive, all-white Country Club.  Timing is truly--everything. 

The "thinly-veiled" invitations arrived too-late and too-long-after-the-fact.   By the time the Pine Bluff Country Club threw open its doors to ONE AND ALL…there was no one left…who gave a damn. 

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UPDATE: Most of the Jewish Families in Pine Bluff have either moved away or died.  As for Pine Bluff’s ever-expanding community of modern-day Blacks…they laugh at the idea of  paying money to join a White Man’s Country Club.

Sally Miller