Sunday, March 20, 2022

Racism Potpourri: First Round - There May Be More At Some Other Time

 I can't identify a time in my life, no matter how hard I exercise my memory muscle, and no matter how far back I make it flex and delve when I didn't think that my black fellow citizens had had a rough and unjust time of it.

Equally true, I can't remember a time when I didn't think that that state of affairs must be in an imminent state of change for the better - much, much better.

The first time I heard the word "Jim Crow" was when I was in my late teenage years and had become fanatically interested in folk music and learning to play a guitar and joining with some, at that time, unidentified kindred spirits in the endeavor of pursuing a career in entertainment and music; in the midst of that frenzy, I started borrowing Folkways records from the downtown Multnomah County library; one of those records was a compilation of songs sung by Josh White, someone I had never heard of; one of the songs was Jim Crow, a phenomenon that I had never heard of;  it is alluded to in the song, but not described, so I was able to mimic the song - it is a compelling piece of music - but not learn anything from it, certainly not what Jim Crow might be.

 I did don a raiment of moral outrage, nonetheless; not bad for a white teenager who knew nothing about why he was outraged.

I knew enough to be outraged about the fact that black people didn't seem to be able, with any consistency, to earn a decent living.

I didn't know enough to realize that the issue was not a decent living (important, but not the issue) but instead the fact that black people, after 400 or more years in America had no wealth.

I never heard of the Tulsa Massacre until a few years ago - I was over seventy years of age, and I had never heard of how a white community in Oklahoma had, in a few hours, surgically removed a significant accumulation of black wealth.

Time had to pass after that late-in-life revelation to allow me to think enough about Tulsa to realize that it had been nothing less than a violent eruption into the daily news - quickly silenced - and a prime example of how black people had been living a life of one step forward, five steps back for over four hundred years.

I have always hated cops, so, early on in life it was easy for me to realize that the cops seemed to kill a lot of young black men for no apparent reason and always got away with it.

But it wasn't until I had read Ron Chernow's Grant - 2018 - that I found out that there had been a brief period (yeah they taught Reconstruction in school, but Chernow had some real stuff to talk about) when black people had been given access to that mythical thing called the level playing field and had prospered; and that the white majority, many of whom for their own personal reasons were not prospering, shut that all down with white robes and - you got it - Jim Crow.

But, I thought I heard somebody say, "the Civil Rights Act put an end to Jim Crow".

It wasn't until I read Michelle Alexander - which was last year - that I learned that the War on Drugs was, and is, nothing more and nothing less than a surgically (notice how "surgical" is a recurring theme) precise application of laws and policing to the black community of America with the objective of putting as many young black men as possible into prison - de facto slavery - The New Jim Crow.

Back in 2020 somebody kicked the top off the anthill, and nobody has been able to put all us ants - black, white, red yellow and other - back in the hill; George Floyd was just one too many murders.

All but the most oblivious, or most indebted to latter day apartheid among us, have been unwilling to unremember the lesson of seeing a grinning cop kill a black man in front of a crowd.


I designed the preceding words to be a staccato burst of information about ignorance - mostly mine, but also America's

I designed it to allow a rational being to draw some conclusions: that it is time for a new age to be dawning should be among those conclusions: America is going to finally assume its obvious place as the largest multi-everything democracy in the world.


Legislatures country wide are passing laws that make it illegal to teach truth in our classrooms because such teaching might cause little fragile white children to become upset.

I would like to know how I got 16 years of education with the requisite associated certificates and degrees and didn't know anything about racism until I was late in life.

That's an indictment of either me, or of the system.

I think it's both.

We must reform and improve that system to finally educate the myriad copies of me that are out there.

And to educate them from grade school on.

But instead of that reform, that improvement, now many among us are worried about upsetting fragile little white children?

For teaching the truth about America?

Instead of the largest multi-everything democracy in the world, are we a fragile little white country?

I guess.

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