Sunday, June 24, 2018

Black Americans Transcending Sordid Past, Making Strides

Has anyone experienced a "skin burn on the knee?" In athletics, they refer to this common abrasion as a "strawberry."

A strawberry is usually quick to heal; if it is able to avoid a bump or bruise. The wound will scab and heal without complications. However minor athletic injuries such as skin abrasions often fail to escape bumps and bruises! One little ding breaks the scab and the healing process must start over.

This little analogy is surprisingly applicable to race relations in America. We will make progress. Then, there will be some incident or even "slip of the lip" and we'll experience a relapse.

I was born and grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. For those not familiar with Arkansas geography, El Dorado is located in the extreme, south central part of the state. It is 120 miles south of Little Rock, 13 miles north of the Louisiana State line.

El Dorado is "deep south." In other words it is more akin to Mississippi than Tennessee. Yet natives will tell you that El Dorado is more in sync with East Texas; with Louisiana flavor. Maybe it has something to do with El Dorado's being the "oil capital" of Arkansas.

Baby boomers who attended elementary school in El Dorado will quietly admit that the public schools were segregated. In fact, the entire town of 26,000 was distinctly segregated. In 1970, El Dorado was 38% African American. The White population accounted for the rest. I doubt that there were 50 "non Castilian Hispanics" in the city, or in Union County,population 50,000, for that matter!

In 1970 full integration came to Union County. Washington High School, El Dorado's long standing black institution, was closed. White and Black students were suddenly together. The result was different than expected.

There weren't fights and riots. In anything, there was relief. Peer pressure had prevented either side from becoming "too chummy" with the other. To an extent, this went away. White kids and black kids continued to segregate themselves. But, there was no real hostility and plenty of open communication.

What didn't go away was the fact that the black kids had not been privy to the same educational intensity prevalent in the white schools. To be sure, there were some superlative black students. But the prevailing demeanor was more in line with apathy.

In 1970 dozens of El Dorado's "fifty and sixty something" white teachers abruptly retired. They were replaced by recent college graduates. The new "norm" was to "float" students. In essence, Brown versus the Board of Education's" mandate was about "bringing a social change" to America. It had little to do with improving and advancing educational standards.

Well meaning elites blamed the substandard black educational institutions. The truth inside the question amounted to economic inequality. It wasn't that Washington High School received less money than marginally integrated El Dorado High School. It wasn't that teachers there were less qualified, worked less or failed to maximize every child's ability!

In came down to "after hours help on the home fronts."

Many black kids did not have mothers at home; because their mothers were often employed by white families. These black mothers helped raise the white children, in addition to cooking and cleaning their parents' homes.

People today continue to blame the white south for slavery, even through the 13 amendment's passage took place 153 years ago. Maybe it's because 100 years later, there still remained remnants of the old order.

Don't think for a second that the north isn't completely without stain. Prior to emancipation, the black man was, at best, a second class citizen in the north. In fact, he wasn't even that! Citizenship did not come until 1868 with passage of the 14th amendment. In 1965 black people in he north experienced a "coolness," as if they were uninvited guests. As a black friend from Atlanta phrased, "it was like we were there, but we weren't there."

1970 was a wake-up call; for black and white Americans.

Was continuation of an old system, in affect a "caste system" wrong? Sure it was! Yet, Black Americans were pretty much assured that they would be okay, if "they remembered their place." They had their school system. They had their movie houses, churches, and restaurants.

Unequal? Demeaning? Sure! But, historically they had seen worse! Much worse!

Interestingly enough, a friend from Cleveland, Ohio told me of his recent conversation with a black friend, who announced that he was returning to Alabama. Somewhat surprised, my friend queried. "Why? Aren't things better for a black person here than there?"

To his astonishment the answer was a definitive "no, because in the south, a black man always knows where he stands."

This sounds somewhat self deprecating, if not contradictory. What it amounts to is "familiarity." In the South, the races have always lived in close proximity. As individuals, White and Black Southerners generally like each other. A large number of White Southerners will admit to being "more comfortable in the company of a Black Southerner, than a white New Englander."

There are so called, "experts" from Boston and San Francisco who ridicule and chastise "flyover Americans," calling them racists, fascists and bigots. They even had a 2016 presidential candidate refer to them as a "basket of deplorables!" Yet, when you check credentials of these "experts," you'll note that most attended all white, elitist private schools.

To these "experts," the Black man is an exotic creature, the ideal "posture child," showcasing their call for an end to injustice and inequality. In short, the ideal tool to advance their "divisionist" agenda! Their quandary rests with the fact that African Americans ARE making huge strides toward making Dr. King's dream, a reality! Traditional "Al Sharpton style race hustling" is becoming stale! Especially when economic news from Washington includes record employment numbers for African Americans!

It's not that Black Americans aren't aware of their sordid past! Don't think for a minute that they fail to comprehend how unkind history has been to them; how unfairly their ancestors were treated! The question becomes, "where do we go from here?"

Can contemporary Black Americans forgive White Americans for crimes committed by their ancestors decades previously? I think some most definitely can and are doing so this day!

Without question, the majority of White Americans are ready to bring Black Americans fully into the American family. They are doing so with unimaginable expediency! Abraham Lincoln would be shocked if he were alive today!

True, we've had continuous "hiccups." That "scab" does get broken from time to time. But, we are doggedly making strides.

We cannot sanitize history. We must not run from it. We must embrace it. If for no other reason than the fact that history often repeats. We must know what we are capable of.

Sadly there are those who are simply too hurt and too angry to proceed. For these tormented souls, we should consider some form of compensation and subsequent immigration assistance. Hate destroys. It would be better to make a life in a place that you don't hate; with people whom you don't resent.

For some, the legacy of ancestors trapped in involuntary servitude may be too much to stomach! Never mind the fact that most English Colonists entered America as indentured servants. It's a haunting thought that will remain generations hence.

Yet with it comes the gritty acknowledgment that a place in America has been won. For this reason, more than any other, Black Americans should be supportive of strong, secure borders! Those pushing for open borders are no friend to Black Americans!

Shame on these "opportunists" who resort to racial disparities when on the losing end of an argument. These are the "true American deplorables!" To resort to such tactics is the essence of "cowardness."

Unfortunately, this is an adversary that knows no shame. They are comfortable pitting Americans against each other. For them, it's about "power' and nothing more. However, their "overconfident smugness" could be their undoing.

Expect Black Americans to tip the scales and find these "experts" wanting...

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