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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Some Thoughts on Racism

In my last blog I wrote about free speech and language. After watching a terrible movie on pay per view cable with my wife and daughter staring Samuel Jackson and some other “B” movie actors called the “Unthinkable” I was ready to retire. I couldn’t get the speech theme and racism out of my mind so I had to write this blog with my thoughts on the subject. Some of these thoughts are echoes from my book “Footsteps on the Land.”

I grew up in an era when segregation was an accepted fact and I never gave it much thought. I was still in high school when the Warren Court issued its famous Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas landmark decision, in 1954, stating that separate but equal in public education was unconstitutional. Again this did not mean very much to me as I had gone to a suburban high school in the Cleveland area and the nearest Negros lived miles from us on the east side of the city.

I think my first awaking to the fact that America suffered from extremes of racism was when, in 1957, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne into Little Rock Arkansas to protect the nine black students who were attempting, under court order, to enter Little Rock Central High School. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, had ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the students from entering the school so President Eisenhower federalized the entire state National Guard and sent in the 101st Airborne Division to ensure that there would no trouble. I can still see those paratroopers, in full combat gear, escorting those nine black children up the steps of the high school. I was beginning to develop sensitivity to the race issue in America.
My next encounter with overt racism came in 1958 when I went to Florida with a buddy of mine to visit his parents who retired in the Clearwater area. We had gone to a local department store and I saw separate drinking fountains marked “white only” and “Negro.” I also saw restrooms with similar markings. We went to the nearby St. Petersburg swimming pool and saw signs all over forbidding blacks from using the pool. When I commented on these things to my buddy’s parents their reply was that “I didn’t understand the culture and that’s the way it was”. These folks were not native southerners but transplanted northern liberals. I was beginning to see racism as an evil practice in the United States, much akin to the policies against the Jews in WWII Europe under the NAZIS.

By the time the 60’s rolled around and the country was experiencing the freedom rides and marches in the South we were watching some new protest against racism on our little black and white TV every night. I still remember those scenes from Selma, Alabama with the sheriff, Bull Connor, tuning dogs and fire hoses on the marchers. By now I was an advocate for civil rights and equality. I didn’t march or carry any signs. But I tried to practice acceptance and tolerance in my everyday life. I just knew racism was evil and I wanted no part of it.

While working for the California Division of Highways, a government organization, I was asked one day by my supervisor if I would accept a black person on my survey crew. I just about exploded in his face and told him he should not even ask me such a question. If the black fellow passed he exam he had every right to be on the crew. I think he was a bit taken back by my answer.

I grew up in a family of covert racists. Like most working class families living in the suburbs of Cleveland mine was no different. They were not the hateful types of overt racists I saw in the South. They were just people that had no contact with blacks and had no desire to do so. They were all members of the Democrat Party. It was the wealthier Republicans in places like Bay Village and Shaker Heights that were the real liberals and civil rights activists, many of them Jewish. These people were despised by the working class folks I lived with. This is one of the reasons I moved to California.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were run by the Democrat Party and you could not find one African-American on the payroll of any governmental department. The trade unions would not allow blacks in. My uncle was a truck driver for a large bakery and caterer and a staunch member of the Teamsters Union. He would boast that there would be no black drivers in his local. You see racism in those days was a policy endorsed by the Democrat Party and trade unions. The champions of civil rights in those days were the Republicans.

Over the years our history regarding civil rights has been perverted and high jacked by the Democrat Party. Today’s political elites will claim it was the Democrat Party that has done the most for the African-American. I strongly disagree. What the Democrat Party and social progressives have done is to make African-Americans wards of the state. They want their votes, especially in the inner cities, promise them government handouts and make them dependent on those programs. This is akin to serfdom where the serf is dependent on his feudal lord.

The African-American in the United States has gone from indentured servitude to slave to a freeman and then to a serf dependent on the largess of government. Not all blacks suffer this fate. There are many black business owners who see America in a totally different light. They see America as a land of opportunity where each man or woman can rise as high as his abilities and hard work will take him or her. I have worked with and been associated with such men and women. They are not dependent on the state, they are dependent on themselves.

Men and women of good will can make a society work for the betterment of all. When government enters the equation things go very wrong. The political elite begin to play class against class and race against race for the betterment of themselves and the enhancement of their power. Beware of the politician that offers you something with one hand for he will surely take from you with the other.

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