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Posts Tagged ‘race

What Did He Mean?

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Yesterday was Easter….

In thinking about Easter and all it means today and historically while spending the day with my children and grandchild, I had time to ponder the meaning of Easter. Not just the death and resurrection of Jesus…but the real meaning of his life and death.

Jesus with many children of the worldAs a child many decades ago, even before the Civil Rights legislation, in bible school in Georgia, I remember quite vividly singing a children’s song in which the words still ring in my memory:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor
It matters not to Him
He remembers where you’re going
Not where you’ve been

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

If your heart is troubled
Don’t worry, don’t you fret
He knows that you have heard His call
And he won’t forget

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

All around the world tonight
His children rest assured
That He will watch and He will keep us
Safe and secure

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

How can anyone claim to be a Christian while ignoring the very lyrical lessons we were taught as children to love all those who are different from ourselves in color or ethnicity or religion or whatever just as Jesus did? How can we claim to be Christians – the children of Jesus – if we do not follow the lead of Jesus in loving all the people of the world?

What else does the true meaning of Christ’s life teach if not the love “that God so loved the world (i.e., mankind) that he gave his only begotten son” for all of us. Anything less from each of us not just denies His sacrifice but denies what He came to earth to teach humanity. Jesus cared not about political parties or even about politics.

He care not about wealth or riches and like St. Francis of Assisi He cared not about the trappings of wealth or the self-glorification and ego-gratification that wealth offered.

What He did care about was teaching us to care about each other as He cared about all of us.

He cared about teaching us to love each other, regardless of our differences. For us to do less, by choosing to divide ourselves along some esoteric lines of racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, gender or other attitudes, only exhibits how less we are than in the teachings of Jesus.

Should we not strive to become more like the moral teachings exhibited in those simple childhood lyrics?

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Written by Valerie Curl

April 9, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Race in the headlines again.

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The new AG may have used the wrong word – “cowards” – to describe Americans when it comes to discussing race problems in America. But he wasn’t wrong in bringing the subject up for debate.

Race is still a problem in this country. Just witness the recent NY Post cartoon which garnered so much publicity.

Most white Americans, in reality, do not know how to discuss race and are not comfortable with the discussion. Race is an area of fear – just as anti-semitism was for so long.

Holder’s speech, in retrospect, may open a much needed dialog – provided, of course, that we can keep the pundits, in their search for high ratings, under control.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 20, 2009 at 2:40 AM

Simon Schama on America

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Simon Schama, British art and literary critic who since 1990 has written and presented more than 30 documentaries as well as such best-sellers as THE POWER OF ART and the three-volume A HISTORY OF BRITAIN, spoke to Bill Moyers tonight on Bill Moyers Journal regarding American race relations and the promise of America.

Remarking on the historic election of Barack Obama and race in America, Schama said,

Benjamin Franklin, 1750, is terrified about the Germans in Pennsylvania. For Franklin, this was going to be an empire of the free but only if you’re maybe Scots, maybe Irish or English. He wrote, of course actually, he was aware of German journalism and so on. But he fought bitterly against the possibility that the Germans would overrun Pennsylvania. The notion is: there’s always the next wave. They’re not going to be ready or right or, in some peculiar biological way, compatible with democracy. The Irish weren’t going to be compatible. The Italians weren’t going to, but time takes its own. We were talking earlier about the amazing power of education. And, you know, that has the capacity somehow magically over the generations to make all these people just fine as Americans.

The jump which we’re seeing now, however, is what Chuck Alaman in Dearborn, Michigan, says at the end of that film, talks about with great pride, says, “I’m not an Arab American. I’m an American who happens to be a Muslim. I’m as American as apple pie.” And we are seeing, if Obama’s elected, the coloring of America. And you gave me an article to read in the “Atlantic Monthly” which was sort of about how white America is ending. And I thought, yes. But am I missing something here? But what exactly is the problem?

[…]

The race problem will not go away, not least because when times are tough actually those who are, in any case, economically disadvantaged, who have less schooling, are likely to be those who are most, alas, disposable in terms of the possibility of unemployment. So we’re going to expect I think trouble in the cities. Not I think trouble like 1960s.

But you asked, of course, the historical question. That is profound. America begins with an act – and you know, I’m deeply sentimental in my enthusiasm about the beginning of the American experiment. But it begins with an act of profound bad faith. Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence in which liberty and equality are offered as the defining principles that make you American, while he is himself a slave owner. And then the Constitution is made at the moment in which African Americans are defined as three-fifths of a human in order to give the South enough clout to perpetuate slavery.

And, you know, Lincoln’s conversion coming up to the Civil War and then during the Civil War, from someone who found it morally loathsome but pragmatically had to be kept that way, to someone who, for whatever reasons, to win the war or not, was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation, was an enormous change.

Lincoln, simply in the end, found it unbearable to hold up his head as an American and keep that act of bad faith going. But then we had a hundred years of Jim Crow and we had the civil rights movement. So this moment, it does seem to me to finally wipe clean that original sin, that profoundly repellent act of bad faith at the very beginning.

Bill Moyers continued with:

BILL MOYERS: But one reviewer says, “I was left feeling rather chilled by Schama’s take on the U.S. and its prospects. This may be the end of an empire as we knew it. And one can only wonder what it will mean for someone like Obama to preside,” and here’s where your historical convergence arrives on the scene, “to preside over its dismantling or its transformation.”

SIMON SCHAMA: That’s the challenge. That’s typically dark European view. But it’s the challenge. You can either be – it’s an extraordinary thing, this convergence of catastrophe and euphoria. Euphoria at the president we have and the heap of trouble we’re in. Either the heap of trouble will do him in and there’ll be a terrible dark backlash of disappointed expectations, or he’ll flip it. It won’t be easy. The flipping won’t happen overnight. But he can actually turn it to an extraordinary vindication of the American experiment. I rather hope he will.

BILL MOYERS: Have you learned something about the American character that surprised you, that enables you to project where we are going as a people, the soul of America?

SIMON SCHAMA: There are moments in our history, some of the ordeals of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, that Americans were called on to sacrifice, during the New Deal and during the Second World War. We are indeed going to go through a kind of test of that order. But in each occasion really America has emerged with an essential characteristics altered, but intact.

BILL MOYERS: And that is?

SIMON SCHAMA: I think freedom, ingenuity, and justice.

BILL MOYERS: Those you think are the bedrock of American character?

SIMON SCHAMA: I do. I do. And as I say, I think actually equality and justice were a dark joke so long as racism remained embedded in the institutional fabric of the United States. That’s changed.

Shama’s interview with Bill Moyers is a prelude to a television series premiering on BBC America next week, during the inauguration, and this upcoming book, THE AMERICAN FUTURE: A HISTORY.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM

The Politics of Hate

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I’ve written about this subject a few times, but given the recent spate of hate stories in the media and others written about by bloggers, it seems apropos to speak out on this subject again.

I’d like to say I really don’t understand racists and xenophobes. Unfortunately, I do. Psychologists says these people have such low self esteem, such a low opinion of themselves, that they need someone else – some other group – to which they can feel superior. The more those same people can objectify another person or group to make them appear less than human – less than equal – the easier it is to destroy them.
juliuscaesar2-c
When Julius Caesar invaded Gaul, he wrote back to the people of Rome that the Gauls were totally uncivilized. Their social structure was completely inferior to Rome, in part because women were given an equal role in government and religion. Their religion permitted human sacrifice, even though Rome had been doing basically the same thing, albeit in another name, in their Games. He wrote endless dispatches to Rome, describing how inferior the Gaulish society was to Roman and how inferior the people were in comparison to Rome.

Everything he wrote was a deliberate attempt to sway the Senate and people of Rome that conquering Gaul was a good for the Roman Empire and good for the people of Gaul. So what if the Gauls were murdered, their society destroyed, and the people turned into slaves. None of these things really mattered to him as his propaganda went deeper than conquering Gaul. His dispatches to Rome were designed to elevate himself far beyond his current level of general. He desired a position of first among firsts in Roman society – something his birth ranking never allowed him. He needed to be superior…and would do whatever was necessary to succeed to that goal.
boudicca
When the Roman army invaded England, they thought of and treated the Britannic Celtic tribes exactly as Caesar did the Gauls. So, when Queen rose up in revolt, it became easy, in the Roman army minds, to destroy utterly the Celtic tribes because the Celts weren’t real human beings. They were barbarians – something less than real human beings – that Rome had every right to destroy.

Several centuries later, Spanish Conquistadores still enjoyed the same superior icon_mexico1mindset of Caesar’s Roman army when they destroyed the Inca and Maya civilizations. Believing themselves superior – more human and better – they believed they had ever right to destroy, to rape, and to pillage the Native tribes they encountered.

When American frontiersmen yelled, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” they were doing the same thing. They de-humanized American Indians, making Native Americans into a group who were easy to slaughter with impunity and without moral or psychological consequences.

If a being is not thought of as a real human being, then killing that being has no more moral, psychological consequences than killing a deer or rabbit or moose.

It’s only when that being is thought of as having the same intrinsic human value that moral and psychological consequences arise both in the psyche and in society.

That perverted thinking which needs to feel superior to some other group still exists in the minds of far too many Americans. Moreover, it is what is at the heart of the implied threats against our President-Elect. There is still a misguided belief that because he is Black, he’s not as good as a White person. That White people are superior, even though anthropology proves this idea utterly false.

But science holds little value to people who have a deep psychological need to feel better about themselves – superior to some other group or person. In making Obama that other they dehumanize him in order to justify their hatred of him – in order to continue the ancient, mythological belief of their superiority, even when reality denies them that superiority. The claim that Obama is a Muslim terrorist holds the same irrational psychology – and symbology – as that mythological belief system which hates him because he’s Afro-American.

0512w5001Reality, instead, when compared to their deep-seated need to feel superior pushes these psychological warped beings into even more hatred. It’s as if they say to themselves: “I’m White (or Christian or whatever) so I am better than he is.” They cannot tolerate that someone whom they see as lesser than themselves has achieved more than they have. They cannot tolerate that someone whom they’ve been taught to believe as the other succeeding where they have not. They cannot tolerate feeling less than superior. So, in their psyches’ it becomes imperative to destroy that other who symbolizes their failure to succeed.

After all, in accepting the extraordinary success of someone whom they’ve always seen as a lesser being than themselves then they have to accept their own inferiority. And that sets up a psychological conundrum which they cannot accept. The only way out of that conundrum is through violence: to kill the other who represents their failure or the failure of their belief systems.

Hatred of the other has slaughtered billions of people throughout the centuries. Skin color or religion or ethnicity or gender does not constitute a greater or lesser value or a greater or lesser intelligence. It is long past time to examine our own psyches, towards the goal of accepting ourselves, our own limitations, and our own intrinsic worth. Not in comparison to others, but in comparison to ourselves and our own dreams and goals.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 18, 2008 at 1:47 PM

I’m a flaming social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I don’t give a d**** about who cares.

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After reading many of the political posts, I find myself becoming more and more angry. Okay, call me one of those liberal “elites”. I really don’t give a whole, bloody damn.

What I do care about is my country! My whole country and all the people in it.

What matters is hiring the best person for the job of President and hiring the best Congress to fix the fiscal mess we’re in and get our economic and foreign policy back on track. Getting the rest of the world to trust the U.S. again.

If you’re voting on one issue only. l say this:

RE: Abortion – During the mid-1800s, the Pope said God told him that abortion was a sin. God told the Pope! Was it a dream? Or was it the same kind of perverted, female-hating philosophy that caused women to be burned at the stake during the Medieval era for practicing medicine? Until the mid-1800s, the Catholic church permitted women to abort a fetus during the entire first trimester. Protestants, particularly Evangelical Protestants, followed suit. Orthodox and Hasidic Jews also allowed abortion throughout the first trimester. So, is abortion God’s law or man’s? For myself, I’ll state a basic, conservative, privacy tenant, “stay out of my bedroom and definitely out of my womb!” Until you’re paying my bills, get out!

RE: A woman in the White House – As a middle aged female who struggled against all the prejudice dumped on women throughout my life, I want a woman in the White House. I look forward to that day. But hiring any woman, just because she has a vagina, is wrong! It’s stupid, idiotic, and a waste of your vote. It betrays everything that women of my generation fought and worked for: equal job opportunities, equal wages, equal treatment under the law, equal protection. During my mother’s lifetime, women were considered little more than chattel. If a woman’s husband beat her, the police said there was nothing they could do about domestic violence, unless the wife was hospitalized or killed. If a woman divorced, she couldn’t get credit…any credit! If a women went to work, she couldn’t get a job above the secretarial level and was told flat out that she wasn’t smart enough or that, because she was female, she was too emotional to join management. If a woman was raped or abused, it obviously had to be her fault. If a woman wanted equal pay for equal work, she was told her male counterparts deserved more because they had families to support…like she didn’t!!! And now you want to put a woman in the White House who not only does not believe in any women’s issues but does not have any intellectual curiosity or the knowledge to take over the job of President on day one? Just because she has a vagina!?! Are you crazy!?! Don’t you have any more respect for yourself, your sisters, your daughters than that?

RE: Voting party lines – Because you belong to a political party, voting for the President or a Congress person just because that person belongs to your party is a waste of your vote. You have an obligation to hire the best person possible. If Jefferson were alive today, he’d be lecturing the entire populace on their need to look at the entire person, not the party, when voting. He’d say does this person represent what you believe and can move this country forward in the direction you want? This party line voting is why Washington and many of the other founding fathers hated political parties and did not want them in America. They wanted Americans to vote according to their consciences, according to their beliefs, according to what they thought was the best for the country. They believed that anything less, including voting along party lines, would be a betrayal of all they had fought for and the fortunes they had given up. We have an obligation to honor them better than voting along party lines. Just because a candidate is Republican or Democrat does not mean that person is the best candidate to be hired for the office. Jefferson, Adams, and the others would say look at the person’s abilities, intellect, knowledge, capabilities, judgment, and thoughtfulness. You’re not hiring a bloody dog catcher! You’re hiring people who will be responsible for steering the direction of this country for the next four years!

RE: Race – After nearly 160 years since the Civil War, it’s long past time to let go of an antiquated and ill-logical belief in racial differences. Anthropology has proven that all homosapiens (humans) originally came from Africa. Over thousands of years skin color changed to adapt to the environment. People living in Northern Europe developed pale, white skin to adjust to the lack of sunshine. People in warmer climate keep a darker skin to protect them from a brighter sunshine. Skin color is irrelevant. What matters is character and intelligence and judgment and knowledge. Just because someone doesn’t look like you, doesn’t mean that person is not as good as you. Just because you’re not used to seeing a person of color speak your values, doesn’t mean they don’t hold the same values you do. Try closing your eyes , literally and figuratively, to really hear what that person is saying. If you can do that one thing, then I believe Lincoln would be smiling…because, ultimately, his dream was for all humans, regardless of race, to live together and understand each other and allow each other to achieve their dreams to the best of their individual abilities. Doing any less would be to tell Lincoln and all the many men and women and children who fought so bravely to keep our union together their lives were wasted!

Hiring a President and the Congress is a sacred duty! A duty my forefathers and yours fought to achieve and preserve. If you vote on one issue only, you have betrayed this country. You have betrayed our forefathers. You have betrayed the ideals of this magnificent country. You have betrayed all future generations. You have betrayed yourselves!

Written by Valerie Curl

September 24, 2008 at 5:35 AM

Being Black in America

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Tonight I watched CNN’s special, Being Black in America. It brought back a lot of uncomfortable memories for me.

In about 1954 my father, who was an Air Force Flight Engineer assigned to SAC, was transferred from Columbus, Ohio, to Albany, GA. My father had been born in Waco, TX, and raised, for the most part, in Kansas City, MO. Mom was born and raised in eastern Washington. From what Mom told me before she died, I don’t think she had ever seen a black person before she moved with my father to the South.

I was in the first grade when we arrived in Georgia. My first memory of Georgia is of my younger brother and me being out in the front yard of our rented house and having a black child walk out into the dirt street three or four houses down from us and yell, “y’all wanna play ball?” The first time he yelled to us we were too far away to hear what he was yelling. Being the older of us two by a year, I yelled back, “What did you say?” He repeated the same question. But having been raised in Washington and Ohio, my brother and I didn’t understand his deep southern accent. The third time we understood, and I yelled back, “yes”. But before we got close enough to begin throwing the baseball, my mother stepped out onto the kitchen porch and yelled at us to come in. I figured that since we had just moved in, Mom wanted us to help unpack and get settled. It wasn’t until we entered the kitchen that Mom bent over, pointing her finger at us angrily, and stated we were not to play with any black children: “they have diseases that you could catch.”

One day my dad took a wrong turn shortly after we moved to Albany. The road took us through the black community. I was still about six years old at the time. I think my parents were scared. And it was easy to see fear in the faces of the black people sitting on their porches that sunny afternoon that they were scared. The children stopped playing in their yards and turned to us; fathers and grandfathers fell silent on their porches and stared at us. As we drove through the black community of Albany, I saw house after house that bore witness to the poverty in which these people lived. From the paint peeling on wood frame houses to the clean but old clothes of the people. I remember so well seeing young girls in clean colorful dresses that had been bleached nearly white, and young boys in neatly pressed white shirts. Fathers and grandfathers in clean, starched clothes as though they had just returned from Church. Lawns brown but neatly mowed. Their cars neatly parked in driveways. Family pride emanated from those people…along with their suspicion and all pervasive fear of us.

During that summer while my father was on temporary duty in Guam, my mother became friends with our women neighbors. One summer day, Mom and a neighbor woman with whom Mom had become friends were lounging on outdoor reclining chaises and talking when I ambled over to them. They had chosen to settle in an open field across from our house, near the end of our dirt street, and shaded by huge oaks from the heavy sun and heat of Georgia summers. As I walked to where they had settled, the neighbor lady said, “…they (meaning blacks) have their own high school, but they won’t go to it. They broke all the windows and destroyed it. It was better than our own high school. Negroes don’t want an education. If they did, they wouldn’t refuse to go to their own high school and wouldn’t have destroyed it.” Now mind you, I still had not entered the third grade yet, but the memory of that day is as sharp and clear as if it had happened last week.

Within a year of so, Dad was reassigned to Warner Robbins, GA. Just before school started on my fourth grade year, Mom took me with her on a school-clothes shopping trip to Macon. Macon was the largest town near Warner Robbins and about the only place to buy anything other than at the base exchange. The highway between Warner Robbins and Macon was a flat, straight two lanes, unlike the modern highways of today. The scenery on each side of the road was just as flat…and covered in deep green waist high weeds. As we rode along, I spent my time looking out across the green fields, having nothing else to do, when I spied a shack in the distance. As we drove closer, I saw smoke rising from the shack. Then I noticed that there were no windows or doors on the shack. Curious, I turned to Mom and asked her why someone would live in a house with no doors or windows. She said, “Because they want to.”

Her remark was so matter-of-fact and unconcerned that even at my young age I was stunned. I knew even then that the people living in that shack without windows or doors were blacks. I knew they were among the thousands of blacks living in the South who couldn’t find decent jobs or better homes for themselves. I was deeply ashamed of my mother on that day. She’d been well taught by her white southern neighbors that all blacks were lazy and, if given even half a chance, were thieves. She believed what she’d been told by her white southern neighbors. After all, what did a white gal from Washington know, for herself, about Coloreds.

All of this occurred during the early to mid-1950s, and thank Heaven, I never witnessed the worst of Southern hatred of Blacks. I never saw a lynching or a burning or any other of many crimes perpetrated by whites against blacks. Never the less, I was still deeply affected by what I did see.

Even at that young age, I was ashamed of how my race behaved toward Blacks. In 1972-73, I was in my sophomore year of college and was picked to be an English class tutor/teacher. One of my professors to whom I had been assigned was teaching an experimental College English class at a nearby Black community high school. Not being especially tall or seemingly much older than the students, a number of the students, in particular one Black girl who was about my height, let me know in no uncertain terms her anger towards white people, meaning me. I was scared by her tall, muscular associates but not intimidated. My job was to teach, tutor, and mentor. Within a few weeks, I had won over the class and become friends with that Black girl who saw me as her enemy just by understanding them and accepting them as people, as my equal as human beings.

As I listen to some of the comments today about Barack Obama, I am still deeply ashamed. Unlike those who grew up in white middle class or upper middle class neighborhoods and never saw or understood on a gut level the worst of racial discrimination, I understand what Ms. Obama said a couple of months ago. I too, as a white person, have felt deeply ashamed of my country. This country to which my ancestors from the 1630s onward, my father and my family devoted our lives was supposed to have been dedicated to the Constitution and, secondarily, to the Declaration of Liberty. Yet, we as a country have not lived up to those ideals.

Fairness, equity, and truth are the ideals of our country. We all need to aspire to those goals. Anything less exhibits our own evil, mean spirit. Attending Baptist Church in Albany, GA, I learned a song that, to paraphrase, says, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red or yellow, black or white, Jesus loves them all.” Can I…or any of us…do less than to emulate His beliefs?

I am deeply proud that after 200 years of discrimination and hatred a Black man has reached the pinnacle of being chosen as a candidate for President of the United States. I hope his candidacy alone will inspire young Blacks to believe in themselves and what they too can accomplish. But it won’t be easy. The odds are against too many young black people, from ghetto culture to the failure of our education system to the failure of parenting to lack of good jobs. If we as a country persist, however, in working towards the America our fore fathers stated in the Declaration of Liberty, young blacks…and those of every other race, creed, culture, religion and gender…can and will succeed. Do we not owe the ourselves, our posterity, and the rest of the world this example of freedom and liberty?

Written by Valerie Curl

July 24, 2008 at 6:02 AM

Posted in Politics

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Race Conscienceness

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When I was about to enter the 4th grade, if I recall rightly after all these many years, we moved to Warner Robbins, GA, where my Dad was stationed at the Air Force Base. He was a Flight Engineer with the Strategic Air Command.

Before the new school year started, Mom took me with her to Macon, GA, to buy some new school clothes, like every other family did before the new school year began. The new school year required new clothes.

The two lane road from Warner Robbins to Macon ran fairly straight through pastures and fields of Georgia. Mom wasn’t much of a talker, especially when she was driving, so I spent my time looking out the windows at the scenery. Everywhere was green, especially the green of the grasses which I thought was nearly as tall as I was. The scenery was both beautiful and dull. Grass everywhere I looked, only broken by an occasional oak tree. Dull and uninteresting. Then my vision was captured by a lonely shack, sitting in the midst of long green fields. Even at a distance, I could see the doors and windows were missing, leaving gaping holes in a gray brown structure. It looked like something left over from the Civil War: ancient, unpainted and falling apart. But smoke rose from the chimney. The ramshackle building was occupied, I knew. People lived there…and my understanding of the South told me who. The people living in that run down house were Negroes.

I turned to my Mom, pointing out the building, and asked her why someone would live there. Without a shrug or twinge of conscience, she replied, “Because they want to.” I gaped at her but kept my mouth shut. After all, children were to be seen and not heard, I’d been taught. No child questioned the judgment of a parent. Yet in my mind and heart, I knew I’d heard a lie. It was a lie of unconcern and prejudice. My heart ached for the people who were forced to live in a home without doors and windows. Forced into such extreme poverty. I both hated hated and loved my mother at that moment. How could she not understand the wrongness of such living circumstances? How could she not empathize with the occupants? How could she be so callous?

But that’s what prejudice does to the human soul. My Mom was raised in Spokane, WA, and probably never saw an African American until she moved to the South with my Father. What she knew of “Negroes” she learned from my Father, who had been raised to believe in the precepts of what we would now understand as extreme prejudice, in Missouri, and from our White, Georgia neighbors. I was in the second grade when we moved to Georgia from Columbus, Ohio. Dad was stationed at the Air Force Base near Albany. My first memory of our house in Albany was being asked to play ball by a Black kid about my age. My brother, who was 13 months younger than I, and I went out into the front yard to throw around a baseball. As we were looking round and taking in new our surroundings, this young Black boy stepped out from between two houses just down the dusty road. He yelled at us, asking us if we wanted to play ball. His southern accent was so thick we couldn’t understand him. I yelled back, ” What?” He walked toward us onto the dirt road and yelled again, asking us if we wanted to play ball. Again, I failed to understand him, and yelled, “What?” Again he walked closer to us and yelled his question to us.

Mom came out of the door then and yelled in her “brook no questions” voice, “Get back here.” I guess she had seen us from the kitchen window. I yelled back to the young Black boy that we had to in and we ran back to the kitchen door. Mom met us at the door, scowling, and angrily stated, “You are never to play him. You could catch horrible diseases from Negroes.”

That summer while playing I often listened as my mother talked to our White neighbors. I heard that Negroes were lazy and not to be trusted. I heard they had a separate high school of their own nearby which they refused to attend and which had fallen into complete disrepair because they vandalized it. I heard that refused work and overcharged for the work they did.

I was a child and much too young to question my elders. Nevertheless, something about what I heard rang false. It didn’t feel right. In Church, I’d been taught that Jesus loved everyone, regardless of race or creed or color. Yet here I was hearing hatred. What I heard didn’t feel right from our White middle class neighbor.

One day shortly after we arrived in Albany, my Dad took a wrong turn and accidentally drove through the Negro section, of town. I remember very distinctly, even now, the picture of that afternoon. I remember how the yards were neat and clean. How their clothes were old but clean, well pressed and neat. How their houses were poor and in need of paint and thinking that if they had just a little bit more money they could fix up their houses. But I could see in their faces a sense of pride…and an extreme, stark fear of these white people driving through their neighborhood.

They stopped dead in their tracks. Not a sound was heard. Even the children stopped playing. They stood or sat quietly, as if waiting for some awful evil to assault them. No one said a word. They just watched and listened. Their fear was palpable. So, when Mom and I took that trip to Macon, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of my Mother’s response.

Much has been made of Rev. Wright’s hateful comments this last month. And for him I feel sorry. I pity him…but I also understand the pain and anger from which his comments arise. I don’t think anyone from White America can truly understand how it felt to be treated with such hatred and animosity, and at the very least such distain.

In the 50’s and 60’s, African Americans were accepted as humans yet somehow less than human. They were less than Whites. Even as late as 1973, well known but prejudiced PhDs sought to convince the public that Blacks had smaller brains and were therefore incapable of higher intellectual thought.

So, who, under these circumstances, can blame Rev. Wright for being paranoid. His generation grew up needing paranoia just to stay alive. Who can blame him for being angry? His generation grew up feeling dispair and the hatred towards them of the White ruling class. Who can blame him for not yelling out in anger at the inequities which still exist in our society?

Look around you at work. How many African American faces do you see? You’ll see Caucasian faces and Asian faces and Middle Eastern faces, but how many African American faces?

Is prejudice truly gone from our great, melting pot of a society?

Written by Valerie Curl

April 5, 2008 at 5:24 AM

Posted in race

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