by DAVID BROWN | CLEARNFO.com | March 29, 2012
Like MLK, as far as I’m concerned, the color of one’s skin is not as important as the content of one’s character. However, I am fair skinned and am thus generally envious of those with more color than me so you could say I tend to be slightly prejudiced against my pink brethren and slightly more positive towards those fellows –who by no choice of their own– are blessed with a darker skin.
Notwithstanding the above, I was raised in an all-white family and played with mostly white kids. I had a few friends who were Hispanic in origin but no black friends. Maybe that was the result of segregation, I just don’t know but I never saw any black people during my youth until we ran track in high school against another school that was almost entirely black.
I don’t recall having any negative opinions of black people and I have no recollection of my mother or father making negative comments towards our black brethren, so you could say I was agnostic on the topic of race; really having no experience on which to base any judgment. I was mostly curious.
After high school, I did have occasion to meet and greet a few blacks but just a few. I recall feeling bad for the blacks since they were slaves –or rather some of their ancestors were– and felt okay with my self-appraisal since I knew I was not prejudiced and had no ill feelings toward any person based on color. I would however go out of my way to be nice and friendly as a sign of respect and some misplaced guilt.
My mother dabbled in genealogy a bit and it is clear from her investigation that neither side of my family owned any slaves in the New World. In the Old World, that might be a different story however. My wife dug a little deeper into my family history and found out that I’m a direct descendant of a few ruthless folks including some Roman Emperors; but since the sins of the father generally carry down only seven generations, I conclude that I’m pretty clear in terms of family karma.
The only reason I divert into this little family history lesson is to establish my bona fides that neither I nor my family have ever owned any slaves in America.
So being white as the driven snow in terms of slavery and even whiter by skin color, I could safely say I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body.
Now, do I like thugs, or anti-social people who want to rob, steal or hurt others? Nope. It doesn’t matter if they are white, black or poky dot, I do not like ignorant, violent people and probably never will in spite of any amount of media propaganda that says it is cool to be cruel. Am I suspicious of people who think they are gangsters or dress and act like a gangster? Yep. (BTW, if your mother drives you to school, you are not a gangster.) So if you dress like a gangster and/or act like a gangster or a thug, I will be suspicious and may not like you. And for the record, I don’t want to see your underwear or your white, brown or black butt crack.
Do I owe the blacks anything more than respect and dignity? Nope. Do they deserve equal protection under the law? Yes.
Since my youth described above, I have joined the work force and am happy to report that I have had two managers who were black: one a woman and one a man. Both were excellent human beings and deserved and received my respect and admiration.
Now just because I am pure in terms of racism, is no excuse for being ignorant of the real issues blacks have faced and continue to face to a lesser extent today in this country. To this end, I read a book called ‘Black Like Me‘ which had a profound impact on my view of racism in this country. If you haven’t read this book. Do it. It’s a 188 page diary written in 1959 by a white man who dyed his skin black and traveled anonymously as a black man and wrote about his experiences. It will curl your toe-nails and enlighten your brain and disabuse you of many false premises many whites seem to share including myself. This book allowed me to peer into the true nature and brutality of racism.
What this book taught me is that yes indeed I did have some racial preferences despite my proven purity explained above. Why? Because I realized that I never wanted to be black. I would rather be white. If I were to be black that would be okay but I wouldn’t want to be subjected to what many blacks endured in the 60s or prior. It also taught me that I was not sensitive or even aware of the many lasting deep scars this inflicted on our fellow citizens. ‘Black like me’ was proof positive of the soul-destroying, racial hatred and base prejudice that existed during this time. This realization provoked a deeper understanding and genuine sensitivity to the black man’s plight and exposed to my ignorant brain not just the casual, gossamer understanding of the importance of respect, but much deeper, sapient meaning of the word dignity. For the first time in my life the word dignity had salt to it. It had meaning. I realized that our racism had robbed an entire race of their human dignity with racial slurs, put downs, separate drinking fountains, restrooms, etc.
I turn now to Martin Luther King, Jr. to drive home my point from the very emotional and heart-wrenching perspective of a father. If you have no children, you cannot imigine the injury this causes to a father’s heart.
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
…”when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”
So I imagined how one of my children would feel and how I would feel being robbed of my human dignity in front of my children who look up to me and I became profoundly sad. All this became real to me. This experience has helped with my understanding. But does this mean we should further destroy a man’s dignity with a handout and not a hand-up by way of a job? No. Does this mean we should feel guilty? No. Does this mean we should offer up special privileges? No. Does this mean that all men should be treated equally and have equal opportunities? Yes. Does this mean that every man deserves dignity until proven they do not? Yes.
So for some wise advice on how to help a man when he is down, I turn to one of my favorite writers, old Ben Franklin:
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
Benjamin Franklin died in 1790 at the age of 84. He had bought and sold slaves earlier in his life but wrote the following in 1772…
In an unsigned letter to the London Chronicle, he asked readers whether it was absolutely necessary to sweeten their tea with slave-produced sugar. Could such a “petty pleasure…compensate for so much misery produced among our fellow creatures, and such a constant butchery of the human species by this pestilential detestable traffic in the bodies and souls of men?”
Later at age 81 Franklin signed a public exhortation that declared “the Creator of the world” made “of one flesh, all the children of men.”
As a final thought on race, I turn to the US Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
An Historical Perspective from Richard Grove with Tragedy and Hope:
Justified Sinners / The History of Eugenics in America
US Government Found GUILTY Of Murdering Martin Luther King Jr.
Court – Martin Luther King Killed by the Authorities