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Tales from the Racial Front:
The Public Library

Yeah, right, lady.

2,529 words

For the purposes of learning about human nature and the kind of “diversity” that our globalist thought-leaders have in mind for us all, there’s nothing quite like working a public sector job. After following my passion and earning a less-than-useful degree in history and literature, I applied for a position at my hometown library (anyone who is still in school and reading this, please learn a trade, or get a degree in something practical). I had affectionate memories of the place. The building itself stood on the crest of a hill, overlooking woods in one direction and fields of wildflowers in the other. I spent hours as a child way back in its stacks, reading about Nancy Drew, King Arthur, and Jason’s Argonauts. I dreamed one day of working there among all of those books and the shelves that seemed to extend forever.

A quarter-century ago, my little patch of native land was a sleepy southern town on the coast; the “big city” was over an hour’s drive up the freeway. Very few “strip malls” polluted the scenery, and the roar of the river and passing trains, the one rushing toward the Gulf and the others zooming toward the Pacific, were two of the few things that managed to punctuate the quiet stillness. Nineteenth-century Victorians, kept up and freshly painted, lined the main thoroughfare. Oaks, older than anyone living, formed sun-dappled canopies over the road. A nearby prison meant that on clear days outside town, motorists might see convicts working the fields of cotton and sorghum, and above them two or three crackshot guards in white, wide-brim hats sitting astride horses, shotguns slung across their pommels. Monuments to southern soldiers and “Redeemers” faced out from their spot in front of the old courthouse, gazing at it all, as if to say, “this is what we saved.”

Something changed in the nineties. The area became a “boomtown” as part of the larger energy sector explosion in the Sunbelt that overnight turned hamlets into hastily-made waystations for the transient. Sure, the town’s economy skyrocketed and “opportunities” aplenty appeared — but at high cost. Along with tony energy executives and Amoco managers, the area became flooded with riff-raff that has always followed close behind money: illegals and blacks, either looking for work or for the crumbs that might fall off the plates of the affluent.

Master-planned neighborhoods arose in order to cater to incoming waves of south and east Asian immigrants, lured by H-1B visas and engineering careers; such houses came attached with one or two “cottages,” so that the endless chain-sprawls of mothers-in-law and second cousins from Bangladesh or Pakistan had extra rooms in which to spread. Africans from Nigeria and various other places that were once called “the Congo” took over the former properties of dead white owners. According to the latest US statistics on the town and the surrounding county, non-Hispanic whites are now thirty percent of the population, while Hispanics, blacks, and Asians each make up twenty to twenty-five percent. Of course, it is a very “blue” blotch on the electoral map. The latest local news story that I read about the area reported on a mass-arrest of a Vietnamese gang, whose members had for years used a nail salon as a front for drugs and prostitution.

But I’m running ahead of myself. At the time that the county hired me, the management structure of its library system was composed almost entirely of women, many of them colored. The “training manager” in charge of my orientation had one-half of her head shaved and the other half dyed blue and purple. Orientation day, in fact, was my first warning that trouble lay ahead. Most readers will have attended something like this: after the interview process, new hires usually spend part of the day filling out paperwork. At my orientation, I was the single white person in the room, apart from the HR representative leading the class. She went very slowly, step-by-step, explaining how to set up a direct deposit and which boxes to check when it came to withholding federal taxes. County HR employees had made multiple calls and emails to trainees throughout the week, asking us to bring along our driver’s licenses, social security cards, and voided checks for banking purposes. Still, most of the new hires had either forgotten, or had lost and never replaced, at least one of those items. Several of them had no checking account to speak of. The large black woman seated next to me could not seem to grasp the concept of tax exemptions and what “claiming a dependent” meant. She continuously turned to me for help and to repeat what the trainer had already said four or five times. I kept wondering, how had these idiots managed to get their jobs in the first place?

My work centered around the “Adult Services” section of the library, which meant that I shuttled between two computer labs, twelve conference rooms, the downstairs stacks, and the audio-visual (AV) department (which had music, movies, and books-on-tape for borrowing). Children and middle grades had their own wings on the other side of the building. I don’t have many bad things to say about my coworkers; they were “diverse,” but competent. One was an Indian girl whose family had moved from Zimbabwe to the States sometime during the early 2000s. In a frank moment, she revealed that her father had run a clothing shop there, but that it was “hard to run a business when people looted it every other week.”

Many readers might think that library work would be dull: the shelving, cataloging, processing — the endless battles with the dust. I, too, thought that most of my time would be spent on books. Instead, I was more of a babysitter, AV troubleshooter, and psychologist. Three-quarters of the phone calls that I took were from patrons seeking information about ridiculous things: did the Wal-Mart on Jackson Avenue sell super-plus tampons and “ethnic” hair products?; how long did someone have to let their electric bill lapse before Clenco Power shut off the lights?; did I know where one might purchase a magic wand (no, not a Harry Potter wand, a real wand)?

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The library policy when it came to penalty fines was not to deny patrons the right to borrow books/movies nor to suspend computer printing privileges until they had accrued more than ten dollars in fees. Nevertheless, some patrons found this easy to accomplish. When I had to explain to them why they could no longer use the printer or copier due to their outstanding balance, they invariably reacted as if I’d accused them of spitting in the face of Christ. “Well, I paid that last month!” and “I don’t need a little white girl tellin’ me what to do!” or my favorite: “Whaddo my taxes pay for anyhow?!” Black women were especially fond of screeching about in this dramatic fashion.

They were also fond of reserving the large conference rooms for black organizational meetings and church groups on Sundays, mostly because it was free for them to do so. Sometimes, the entire second floor reverberated with their jungle stomping and “gospel” music. These gatherings could not extend beyond one or two hours before members required food, and a group of twenty black people often produced six or seven trash bags full of waste. When I explained to the “leaders” of such organizations that the library was not an “event sponsor,” and that they would need to dispose of their own trash, since library custodians did not take out the garbage over the weekends, they acted similarly affronted. One “Dr.” Rose threatened me, and said that she would “hate to report me” to the mayor (with whom she claimed to be chummy), or to have the disagreement “damage the relationship” between herself and the library. Nodding in sympathy, I replied that though this “might ‘damage our relationship,’ we were still going to have one, weren’t we?” Where else would she and her black worshipers find a zero-cost space to praise Jesus while gnawing on chicken wings and fried apple pie?

Indeed, the modern public library has become little more than an internet café and homeless shelter. Libraries are like old port cities — they tend to attract the strays. Seventy-five percent of the patrons who walked through the entrance were there to use the computers, not to check books out. There were white families who came to participate in children’s activities and functions, but my side of the library was almost wholly filled with the black and brown dregs of society who washed up onto our front steps every morning with no goals in life, save lounging.

In order to qualify for weekly unemployment in my state, applicants had to be able to prove that they had spent a certain amount of time actively looking for work. One of the places on the state’s list of “approved” sites for job-hunting was, naturally, the public library. So, they would pour through the gates in various states of undress and cleanliness in order to “search for a job,” which in reality meant: “stream the latest Netflix movie,” or “play an online video game.” These patrons left sunflower seeds, candy wrappers, and other food particles on the desks and stuck between the letter keys; one even vomited Kool-aid all over the monitor and keyboard, then left without saying a word. I only discovered the mess when I went to check and lock the computer lab down later that night. Those welfare-leeches were probably making more on the dole than I was cleaning up after them.

The black men were a nuisance, regardless of age. I’m by nature warm, if a bit reserved, and I’ve never had problems making friends. At the library, I learned to cultivate a chilly, ice-blonde persona around black men in order to discourage conversation or clumsy pick-up attempts. This was only partially successful. Monday nights I stayed until closing time, which was 9 PM. On one occasion, toward the end of my shift, a teenage black kid approached me looking for a book on Abraham Lincoln in order to write a term paper. “Fine,” I said, and showed him the appropriate history section. Nothing that I pointed out seemed to please him, because all of the books were “too long.” Eventually, I said what amounted to, “well, you’re either going to have to read something, or you’ll have to ditch the assignment,” then walked off. As I was shelving the last of the books for the evening, I had to wade past him down a row of J. D. Robb mysteries. As I lifted myself up on tiptoes to reach the top shelf, I felt a hand creep up my leg. I jumped back and saw that black kid holding up both palms and feigning all sorts of apologies. I was too shocked to say anything, so I simply hurried back to the front desk and stayed there next to my (white male) supervisor. I never wore a dress or skirt to that job again.

Wardell was another interesting black personality and one who probably needed to be on medication. He showed up during the afternoons and evenings in the same stained, ripped tee-shirt, whose hem ended somewhere past his knees. He liked bragging about his time in prison, and I initially thought that he must have been exaggerating his life story; perhaps he was, but pairs of cops regularly stopped by the library in order to “chat” with him. Somehow, he’d managed to procure a smartphone, and he once showed me some photos he’d taken during a recent Thanksgiving holiday. A white family had taken him in out of “Christian duty,” I’m sure, and hosted him for the big turkey dinner. There he was, surrounded by what looked like a nice, middle-class group, all smiles and joy. I couldn’t muster a smile of my own, and winced instead as I passed his phone back. My only thought was: that’s how you end up at the bottom of the bayou.

Not long after that, another black male patron began shouting at one of the librarians (who was of mixed race) about the use of our document scanners. The patron had broken it while trying to make a PDF out of his bank stub. When the librarian told him that he could no longer use the equipment, he accused the librarian, the scanner, the government, all of us, of “racism,” and began to manically pinwheel his arms about. All of a sudden, Wardell came barreling toward the scene and tackled the belligerent man to the floor. The argument became a melée. I rushed to the nearest phone and dialed the sheriff, asking in what I’m sure was a panicked voice, for immediate assistance. The entire downstairs lobby and computer area had meanwhile degenerated into a zoo, half the patrons trying to flee and the other half hooting at the two men brawling about and swinging punches at each other on the carpet. By the time police arrived, two desk lamps and several computers lay smashed and in pieces.

As the sheriff and his deputies led the men away in cuffs, Sandra, a middle-aged paraprofessional with whom I’d developed a closeness, turned to me and began speaking enviously about a library she’d visited the previous month. “It was so quiet and peaceful . . . the kids all well-behaved,” she told me. By that time, I’d become somewhat cynical, and I asked her to describe that library’s demographics. Looking every which way before answering, she whispered to me, “all white.” I nodded, “of course it was.” Her face collapsed into guilt and fear. Then, she backtracked and said something mealy-mouthed about “how times change,” and that we should learn to accept it. I was more speechless with rage in that moment than I was after any other incident on the job. Here was the problem, and it sat next to me day after day and watched the same pathological human detritus wreck what was once a noble public service, time after time.

I worked there just over a year, then followed my college sweetheart to another life and another place, far away from everything I knew. As we drove out of town, I tried not to cry when we passed by the old courthouse and its stone guards, at whose straight-backed forms I could no longer bear to look, and whose stern gazes I could no longer bear to meet. I covered my face and failed.

For the sake of prudence, I have changed a few of the names and details in this otherwise truthful account.

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