THE CHANGING FACE OF RACISM
Eight decades is a long time. Fortunately as we age, and I am very close to 83, our long-term memory remains vivid. The short-term is another story. I have seen the face of racism in the south and the north. It was very real in 1938 when I was a transplanted Yankee in the third grade in Jackson, Mississippi, an early learning experience. In case there was any doubt about how whites and blacks lived in the deep south, there were signs to help and firm comments from white residents making sure Yankees knew the rules.
My first venture into the deep south only lasted a little over a year. My family moved back to Jeannette, PA. Jeannette was then a small tough town of mills and manufacturing, primarily glass factories set in the soft coal region. Racism was far less visible. While neighborhoods were mostly segregated, all the schools were integrated. The president of my senior class was a black student and captain of the football team. A few years later I was in a Navy boot camp. The camp was integrated but the black sailors in my company did not have the same choice of navy schools or occupations. Black recruits mostly ended up in the navy’s version of service industries. The navy was behind the army and air force in integrating. Racism was still alive but was definitely giving ground.
I took full advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to the University of Pittsburgh. While there I became a member of the NAACP. By that time a very high percentage of my peer group and fellow students knew that skin color was not linked to abilities in anything from sports to scholastic achievement. I think that single awareness, that skin color meant only skin color, contained the destruction of the elaborate trappings of racism, mostly then, held by an aging population, both white and black.
My awareness and exposure to racism had another chapter. While studying for my master’s degree in political science at Duke University, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Martin Luther King when he came to Durham in 1960 to guide the “sit in movement.” I didn’t realize at the time how lucky I was to participate briefly in picketing, attending church to hear him preach, and to meet the black college students who were the mainline troops on the street.
Twenty odd years later after retiring from the CIA and while working in the Reagan White House, my wife got me to join with her in a church sponsored part of the “I Have A Dream” program in the inner city of Washington, DC. A wonderful experience. The sixth-grade kids we were closely involved with over the next seven years taught us all more than we able to teach them. Years later we are still in touch with some of them.
All the above is just to establish some background for what I want to say.
We have arrived at the point in America where few whites admit to being racists. It is a bad thing and none of us want to be known as racists. If you’re white there is no upside to being a racist. I think American blacks are expected to have some anti-white feelings. It’s part of the inner city culture. No black wants to be labeled an “Uncle Tom” or an “Oreo.” While there are hundreds of thousands of blacks that do not carry racist baggage, it does not help that the President and his Attorney General never miss a chance to suggest racism is alive and well in America and use it as an excuse for their failures.
The President and his AG are unpopular with a growing segment of our population not because they are black but because of their actions, non-actions, speeches delivered, and those that should have been delivered but weren’t. Entrenched black political leadership never misses a chance to hoist the flag of racism. It is the tool they use to justify their roles and to motivate their followers. Sadly, they are the primary guarantors of the continued presence of racism. Our black citizens have done their share in the building and defending of America. Let’s bury racism and rejoice in our diversity. Racism can only exist if it has victims who search for it and find it where it doesn’t exist. Progressivism needs class warfare and racism to carry its message of transformation and destruction.