Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thank you, Jesse!

Thank you, Jesse Jackson, for simplifying my dilemma: How was I to characterize the valuable pretense of stilted progress in the African American community’s plight despite massive progress? When there is an effort to solve problems, there’s a whole different dynamic than when an agenda is being kept alive. There’s a lot of money to continue to change hands if a plight of the downtrodden remains in effect. Please excuse my delicacy in my reluctance to “spell it out” as this writer has been conditioned, despite a growing reluctance, to remain readable to the politically correct. Someday I hope to look back at this display of reticence with the knowing eyes of a person who lives in a society where a specific tyranny of ideas is accepted only in small groups of willing victicrats rather than permeating a whole culture. On such a course are we now headed if we continue to allow political manipulators to convince us that we are downtrodden and ineffective. The big picture looms ever over the horizon and if we continue to keep our heads in the sand with petty manufactured dilemmas, the rug may be pulled out from under our feet and we may lose our way of life and all the things we take for granted.

But first, let me tell you a little about my perspective. I entered college in the fall of 1968 in Orange, California. These are my personal recollections of those times. A book is brewing, but I’ll limit the stream of ideas here. I’d lived in Europe the prior ten years and was trying to come to grips with being an American living in the United States.

There was great upheaval in the city of Orange, just south of Los Angeles, owing to a decision made at Chapman College to accept several African Americans into the College for the first time. Orange had no African Americans residing in town at that time. I was a freshman and must have been included in the experiment because I was to live with three of the twenty or so African Americans in the college dorms. There had been a decision to take a risk as a pilot program to help us all learn from each other in the college environment.

I had attended the International School of Geneva in Switzerland for seven years as luck would have it. My father worked for a large yellow tractor manufacturing company and had been fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to Europe to help with a new factory, first in Scotland, then as a manager in Geneva. The students at Ecolint as it was called, abbreviated from the French, “Ecole Internationale” were proud that 103 nations were represented in the school. We were all color blind to racial issues, other than for the purpose of learning about other cultures. I had a good friend from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Another good friend was from Sweden. The taxes in Sweden were the reason his family was in Geneva. Of course, there were a lot of diplomats with their families due to the proximity to the U.N.

Chapman College was an oasis of tolerance, though a few of the locals were very outspoken. Some of my Black (as they were known at the time) friends told me of death threats from “The Minute Men”; a racist group aware of the College’s actions. One black friend told me about how he’d been walking through a neighborhood where a woman, while watering her lawn, had intentionally aimed her hose at him and sprayed him with water while saying, “I was wondering if that brown dirt would wash off,” which left me incredulous! That was the beginning of my education of the African American experience in the USA. I'd read "Black Like Me" and lived in Mississippi prior to this, mind you. I had been a foreigner for the previous ten years in Europe, but no civilized Swiss resident would have the audacity, nor the lack of civility to act in such a way. Granted, as Americans in Europe, we were considered crass and unpredictable and openly disdained, but I became fluent in French and blended in to the point where my origins were unknown. Therefore, I understand throughout my core the viewpoint of those who judge us from Europe. Freedom in the USA is interpreted in so many ways and, owing to the structure of our democracy, is often left unchallenged in interpretation. The affected students were beyond exasperation and when a speaker for the “Brown Berets” made a speech at the campus, many joined up and found comfort in the solidarity. There was exuberant pride in that unity. A relatively peaceful alternative to the “Black Panthers” was welcomed enthusiastically.

Solidarity brings comfort but we must always be aware of those who want to capitalize on that solidarity for their own purposes which almost never align with original intent .To be continued……

No comments:

Post a Comment