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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hail to the Chief: Spending time with Mr. President

President Obama came to my campus on Tuesday to give a talk. At first I did not think I was going to get tickets to attend the affair, not being important enough to be singled out by the administration for a ticket, I did not want to stand in line for hours to get one. I mean I love Obama and everything, but it was raining! Anyway, a colleague emailed me on Sunday and asked me if I wanted a ticket. I, of course, replied “yes.” Turns out it was not just a ticket, it was a VIP ticket! I was going to be standing ( did not know that part) on the floor right in front of the podium, literally feet from the president.

So, the day of we walk down to the area around the arena to get in line. We got in line around 8:30, kind of far down the already long line. On our way walking to the end of the line we had passed several friends further up in the line. I suggested we might not have to keep walking but might be able to “join” a friend who was closer to the front. I was with mainly younger people and they whipped out their phones and began texting some of the friends we had passed. Within minutes we had a plan.

Not wanting to draw attention we would drift up to our friend, start talking and stay there. We would go one at a time. It worked like a charm. The first person from the five person group, left and texted back in about two minutes he was in line and to send the next one. I was the fourth to go, and texted back that the “Eagle has landed,” ( actually I had the student with us text it back to the last person, the youngsters are much quicker texters!). Finally, our last person drifted up and we were at least 2/3rds closer to the door.

We saw another colleague/friend kind of floating down the line and called him over, he joined us too. The doors to the facility opened at 10:00, by 10:20 we had gone through security and were in the building, having no idea what to do. There had been a brief scare when the rumor started that they were not permitting purses to be carried in, but that turned out to be untrue, you just could not carry other bags or any liquids in, much like airport security. Because I had on lots of jewelry as usual, I bleeped going through the metal detector, but the young security officer gave me a cursory wanding, evidently deciding I was harmless.

This was the second time I have been insulted by security. Years ago I took some students to see President Bush  ( the first, decent one). It was raining and I had on a voluminous Misty Harbor raincoat. I also had a bag with the stuff the students brought but did not want to carry. The Secret Service was much in evidence. One of the agents, earpiece in and everything came over to where I was standing. I presumed he would ask me to open my coat ( I could have concealed anything smaller than a bazooka in there) and to look in my bag. He smiled pleasantly, asked me my name and why I was there, made small talk and left! I was offended. I was standing less than 10 feet from the President! How could he decide I was not a threat??? Fancying myself channeling Angela Davis I was crushed that he considered me a harmless academic.

Anyway, we finally joined a stream of people and having looked at our tickets we were shuttled down to the floor of the arena, finding ourselves behind a low barrier mere feet from the podium. Since Obama was not expected until about 1, we now had about three hours to kill. Everyone was in a good mood. We threw our coats down on the ground and took turns sitting on the pile. To my right were about ten students, half of them from Duke. We struck up a conversation about politics,and because it was me, about race. They began to pepper me with questions, until I finally asked them if they didn’t have any black people at Duke to question. I told them why blacks don’t vote GOP in large numbers, about the intransigence of racism, knocking down their assertion that young people are beyond all that with several examples, from recent racist tweets about The Hunger Games and hockey, to the continuing racist incidents on college campuses, including theirs, to the racism directed at the man we were waiting to see and how so many whites seem to feel if they say it is not racism that makes them dislike and disrespect him then that makes their racist acts okay. We had a great time.

At about 12:10 the jumbotron overhead came on and we saw a tape of the President landing at RDU. The crowd went wild. An hour later we had the color guard, a chubby black woman sang the nation anthem beautifully, a slender black senior introduced the President, the band struck up a “Hail to the Chief” and Barak Obama strode onto the stage. He is charismatic, charming and cool. If people spent time with him he would not have to worry about campaigning. He spoke eloquently and made his points with facts and figures to back up his assertions. He had us all eating out of the palm of his hand.

There were no hecklers, no one yelled anything negative. The only disruption came from an older black woman who either has difficulty controlling herself, wanted to get his attention or wanted to be on camera. She had to should out “Amen” or “Yes” or some other exclamation every few minutes. She should have been told to shut up or get up and leave. But, perhaps she leads an obscure life and thought this was her chance for her 15 minutest of fame.

After about 45 minutes President Obama concluded his remarks, the band began to play again and he came down off of the platform to shake hands. Yes, he shook my hand. We all had to wait until he left the building and then we were allowed to file out. I had stood up for about five hours. If you had asked me if I could do that I would have said no, but when you have a chance to do something historic you can surprise yourself.

I do hope I will have another chance to spend some time with President Obama, say sometime in the next four years??

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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Race

 

Tales of Xenia: Wonderful and Wacky Teachers

I had interesting teachers almost from the beginning. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Johnson was a tall, over six feet, elegant, kind woman. Imagine how tall she looked to a five year old! She was a true teacher always encouraging us to think and learn. My first grade teacher Mrs. M, can only kindly be described as a bit of a flake. I remember getting into a rather heated argument with her when I was 6 when she tried to tell us that 1+0=0. I was fairly sure she was wrong, and having been raised to that point ( and beyond) to stand up for what I thought was right I was not about to back down. The disagreement was finally solved when my sister, who is 11 years older than I am and was a senior at the high school, which was joined to the elementary school by a long hallway, came to bring me a sweater. Mrs. M consulted her and my sister broke the tie by saying 1+0 was indeed 1, that perhaps Mrs. M was thinking about 1 times 0.The traditional first grade teacher was Mrs. Young, a sweet, kindly and generally rational person, but being part of the baby boom we had driven the school to add another teacher.

One of the  second grade teachers Mrs. N, died while I was in first grade and we were all paraded across the street en mass to see her corpse lying in state at Johnson Brothers Funeral Home. My mother was not happy, believing six year olds should not be exposed to dead bodies which they might find scary. I actually had very little problem with the corpse, I found the entire experience rather exciting. The only problem was years later when they had stopped being funeral directors we were invited to a social event at the house and the food for the evening was laid out on a table in the alcove between the two sconces exactly where Mrs. N had been laid out between  them twenty-five years earlier. It kind of took one’s appetite away. Ms. N was a single lady who “shared a house” with another single lady. Although that was certainly not that odd in those years, many years later I was told on good authority that they were actually a couple. At the time we did not talk about such things, the primary comment being made rather obliquely that someone in a same sex relationship was “odd” or “funny”.

But, I digress.My second grade teacher was Ms. C, a very light skinned, very elegant woman who dressed spectacularly. She had my father tailor quite a few of her clothes or alter them,  I actually think she had a bit of a crush on my father, because even though she dressed well nobody needed a tailor as often as she seemed to. She got married late in life to a man who she basically supported for the rest of his life. It was widely thought in the East End that she bought herself a husband since he did not bring much to the marriage but his company and presumably his husbandly services.

My third grade teacher, Ms. H, was what a Hollywood producer would have chosen for a teacher back in the old days. Short, stout, wearing shirtwaist dresses and sensible shoes, stern and unyielding in her rules and expectations. She was the first teacher I saw paddle anyone and she seemed to enjoy it mightily. All of us were afraid of her. When Jimmy Watkins punched me, he was actually swinging at another classmate and I got in the way trying to stop the fight–I was an obnoxiously self-righteous individual even as a child, I thought Mrs. H might kill him. She was so mad she actually turned colors. Of course, she, like all of my teachers, loved me to death, although her way of showing it was not very warm and cozy. She was a maiden lady without kids herself  and maybe the mothering instinct was not strong in her. She  snatched Jimmy up, took him out in the hall, having snagged her paddle with the strategically drilled holes first and beat the stuffing out of him.  All we heard was , ” How dare you hit your classmate”, whack, “If you ever do that again!”, whack. The threats and whacking went on for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time. Because I was a champion cryer, I made the most of it and cried for about half an hour, even though I do not think that much damage had actually been done. I was then taken downstairs to the cafeteria and given some chocolate milk to make me  all better.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Bayless, a sweet and competent teacher ( all of my teachers at the black school were excellent, except Mrs. M, and she meant well), who died recently. The highlight of my fourth grade year was when one of my classmates, I do not remember who, and since it was a combined fourth and fifth grade class there were lots of suspects, brought in a praying mantis cocoon for our version of show and tell. Over the weekend the cocoon hatched and our classroom was overrun with tiny praying mantises!  I clearly remember opening my desk, we had the kind that the top lifted up,  and seeing the tiny bugs staring back at me. Since they were one of the few bugs I was not afraid of I was not alarmed but there was general panic and we had to evacuate the room for a couple of days.

My fifth grade teacher, named Mr. Mc was commonly referred to as Ferpo. Not sure where the nickname came from. He was a generally boring and unremarkable man whose only defining characteristic was that he would fly into intermittent snits for seemingly no reason. My fifth grade year was remarked by only two major events. Several of the females in the class began having their periods and I got in trouble for kissing a boy. I am sure there are things that males compete for in pre-teen and young teen years, but for females there are two definite benchmarks, getting your period and buying your first bra. All of the girls knew when a classmate got her period, either she would share, or if she was reserved it was frequently discovered at gym time or from seeing “feminine products” in her purse or locker. We also knew when our female classmates got their first bras. If they were not forthcoming with the information there were tale tell signs, straps, the outline of the fastening hooks poking out of the back, etc.  It was great status to begin having your period and/or to need a bra.

The kissing incident was rather harmless. We were getting to the age when boys and girls began to find each other interesting. One day, before school, we were playing a game in the homeroom classroom before the teacher got there. Boys were chasing the girls and if they caught you they got to kiss you.  Ferpo walked in just as Byron H laid a smooch on me, having caught me close to the black board. It was a chaste and brief kiss, but Ferpo flew into one of his rages, drug us both down to the principal’s office and insisted we be punished.  Mr. P, the principal, was massively unimpressed, not surprisingly, he was rumored to have assignations in his office with various women during basketball games, which people said explained why he came out periodically to tell people to hold the noise down, although that does not seem logical to me, if he was having illicit sex across the hall from the gym surely cover noise would be desirable. Anyway, Mr. P sent us to the Teacher’s Lounge, a mythical place to await our punishment. He left us there for half a day. If we had been amorous we would have been in heaven with all of the couches in the lounge. As it turned out we got a good talking to and nothing else. Mr. Mc was not happy when we returned bowed but not broken.

My sixth grade year I had Ms. T., who I have written about before, she was the beautiful, intelligent, highly skilled teacher who introduced us to the world of science fairs, spelling bees and other methods of competition with each other and with the white kids from those other city schools.  During my time with her she was seemingly above reproach, although not above envy, speculation and suspicion, she was just so darn gorgeous, who could trust she was also a good person?  The boys in my class had decided ( this tells you something about gender roles of the time) that anyone that beautiful had to be a prostitute. I mean, she was single, drove a sports car, dressed well, had a cool apartment, what teacher that we had ever had looked like that and lived like that?

Having decided she was a prostitute, they decided they would try to figure out how much she charged, pool their money and buy the lucky winner of the lottery a roll in the hay with her. Imagining how much such an event was worth ( I am not even confident most of the 12 year olds knew what sex actually entailed) they hit upon the amount of $40.00. I have no idea how they arrived at that figure, but in 1960 $40 was a bunch of money, probably comparable to at least $300 now. Most of our fathers that did well made around a hundred dollars a week.

When the girls heard about we, nascent feminist all, took them to task for impugning Ms. T’s character. I am not sure whether it was shame at being called out for suggesting our talented and popular teacher was for sale, or their realization that it would take them more than a year to raise the $40, or if it dawned on them, a) they did not know if the price actually was $40 and could be more, b) they had no assurance she would complete the deal with one of her students and c) none of them probably knew how to have sex, for whatever reason Mission Get Laid was abandoned.

Ms. T, alas, was too pretty for her own good. Evidently her looks attracted lots of male attention, including the attentions of at least one woman’s husband. The woman in question, Mrs. H., decided that she would not retreat and leave the field of amour to Ms. T. The year after we got integrated into Central Jr. Hi as 9th graders, three years after leaving Ms. T’s classroom, Mrs. H charged up the sidewalk of East High–by then the sixth grade classes had been moved there since there were no longer high school students in the building, the last class having graduated in 1957–and confronted Ms. T.

Always the good teacher Ms. T. , ushered the irate woman out of the building and attempted to reason with her on the front lawn. Evidently Mrs T’s protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears and Mrs. H. jumped her, the ensuing chick fight was evidently epic. Those of us who had moved on lamented missing it. Our younger friends regaled us with tales of the throw down for years. As a matter of fact the entire incident became something of an East End legend. Ms. T resigned, Mrs. H withdrew from the field victorious and peace was restored once more.

In another blog I will tell you about my interesting white teachers, both those who taught me and those I taught with! 🙂

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tales of Xenia: XHS back when the earth was cooling!

Xenia High School in my day ( 1963-66) was a massive building. Two additions had been built on each side of the original high school. The architecture was vintage 60’s, lots of windows, very symmetrical, not much detail, basically a long two story rectangle with protrusions of additions on each side and in the back.  We thought it was wonderful, especially with the Field House next door, which was undoubtedly one of the nicer facilities for playing basketball, and other amusements. What the high school lacked in character the Field House made up for. I was not a particular fan of Mr. Benner, who was principal at least part of the time I was there, although I think he might have retired and been replaced with Mr. Marshall before I graduated. I did not have much to do with the principals thankfully so I do not remember them as well as I do my teachers.

The high school was too modern to use the Field House for gym or for plays, we had a gym on the left side of the building and an auditorium more in the center of the building. I actually made my acting debut on that stage when I played Pandora, the lead of course, in a play when I was in the 6th grade. The School Board and administrators were evidently afraid that integration, mixing the white school kids and black school kids together was going to cause some kind of riots or violence. As a result they decided to try to ease us into the relationship by having us perform together at various public events, concerts, plays, etc. I presume they felt the fact that the parents would no doubt come and also mingle would take the strangeness out of mixing with people of a different race. I was never aware of any protests to integration being mounted in Xenia by either the black folks or the white folks, I think the BOE was projecting some of their own biases on the populace unfairly.For whatever reason we  (all the Xenia kids in elementary school)had group concerts and performances for a few years before the schools were actually integrated. Although I was integrated in 1962 (Central Jr. Hi) the school system itself was not fully integrated until the late 60’s. Again, I am not sure what took so long, my father was very politically active and if there had been some organized opposition to integration I know he would have known about it and talked about it, and he did not.

It is quite probable that the School Board, which did not have any black members in those days, and has rarely had any black members up to current times, was glad to actually be integrating. Trying to keep all of the white schools and East and Lincoln going, staffed and resourced was not an easy task. East and Lincoln, of course, suffered frequently from budget concerns, if there was a chance to save money the BOE made sure it was the black schools that did without.  But, by the time I got to XHS that was all in my past, I never had another black teacher or principal after integration, all of my teachers at XHS were white. As a matter of fact I think  Mr. Lewis who taught shop and driving was our only black teacher on staff. Given that he was either in the shop wing–no woman’s land for sure, or out driving I did not ever seen him. There were certain places at XHS that one simply did not frequent, including the girl’s bathroom on bend of the long hallway leading to one of the annexes. That was the turf of the “bad girls” or I should say more accurately the ” bad white girls.” Our thugs were not integrated, the bad girls stayed in racial groups as did the bad boys. It is a wonder we did not have more fights on campus.

Being the little goody two shoes that I was I was often in the halls during class time. I was always a teacher’s helper in each grade. I was Mr. Kaylor’s helper in my sophomore year and Mr. Conrad’s lab assistant my junior year and Mrs. Lighthiser’s aide my senior year. Being an aide or helper gave you great freedom, you were in possession of what was basically the holy grail of documentation, a laminated hall pass which was virtually at your disposal.  I typed up tests ( hilariously Mr. Kaylor had me type of tests for the class I was taking for him, I guess he thought it was an appropriate perk for his aide), ran errands, served as a snitch if the teachers had to leave the room, which they frequently did to cop a smoke or go hang out in the teacher’s lounge or to do something else which I cannot imagine. Being a born tattle tale I loved telling on my classmates if they talked or left their seats in the teacher’s absenxe. It is a wonder I did not get beaten up in high school. Thinking back on it, it was rare to have a teacher in class the entire time, unless, of course, there was a test, in which case they not only stayed in the classroom, they walked up and down the aisles to make sure you weren’t cheating!

I remember taking Anatomy and Physiology, a fairly difficult course, when I was a senior. A lot of us took it not only because it was part of the college prep curriculum, but because we had some, shall we say curiosity about the male anatomy. How times have changed. Anyway,our teacher, Mr. M. fancied himself a kind of semi-doctor and prided himself on making the course rigorous ( besides the stinky fetal pigs and dead cats reeking of formaldehyde it was not actually that difficult). At the beginning of the year he was doubtful about my high scores on his tests and began to spend a lot of time walking close to my desk during tests, sure I was copying off of one of my classmates, Colin. Mr. M. was a garden variety racist for the time. I do not think he had any particular animus against blacks, but like many, if not most Xenia white folks of the time he simply had some misconceptions about black people, including that we were not smart. Imagine his chagrin when, during one of his passes he realized Colin was copying off of my paper.  In justice to Mr. M. he did call Colin on it after class, and although he never apologized to me he did stop hovering over me while we were taking tests. This was the kind of thing that being black in the 60s in Xenia  would have been considered routine. Acts of microagression  and racially tinged insults were part of the landscape. Black students were told many times a day in overt and covert ways that we were less than and expected to acknowledge our status and be content in it. Of course, we were not and did not accept the assessment of many of our white teachers, principals, administrators and peers.  I have written before about being treated as odd because I was black and considered smart, that began early in my integrated school career. Some of the teachers like Mrs. Boli, Mrs. Lighthiser, even eventually Ms. Dickerson, accepted my performance on their tests as proof that the amount of melanin in my skin did not negatively impact my intellect and treated me accordingly. Some other teachers were not as able to detach their preconceived notions.  None of them ever graded me unfairly, but a few of them let me know they were not happy to have to record my high grade.

But, my years at old XHS were almost always good ones. I thought my classmates were, almost without exception, cool, and of course we had the usual small town high school hierarchy. Because the freshmen were not actually at the high school, but were housed in the junior highs, the sophomores were the low folks on the totem pole.  Juniors had a relatively high amount of power, not only because they were now the heir apparents for next year, but because they planned and controlled the Junior/Senior Prom, one of the highlights of the year for many of us. There was a winter semi-formal, the Snowball, but it was held in the decorated gym and it was, after all semi-formal, not the real deal.For the prom girls had to wear a long dress, a formal, it would have been considered outre if you wore a short dress like they do now, sequins or not! The boys  had to wear tuxedos or evening jackets. I remember my senior prom vividly, my dress was pink with a modest amount of cleavage showing, the bodice and the waistline ( i had a waist in those days) were pleated. It was sleeveless, of course, and my father, a tailor, had made me a white satin evening coat, the same length as the dress to wear over it. I remember the sequin encrusted button for the coat cost $5, an huge extravagance in 1966.

The prom meant you had to take half the day off to get your hair done and get dressed properly.  if your name did not appear on the attendance list as an early departure it meant one of one bad and one worse thing, you were too poor or your folks were too cheap to get your hair done professionally or you were not going to the prom.    We were callow youths it never occurred to us that some people did not go to the prom because they could not afford to buy the necessary tickets, clothing, transportation, etc. We just presumed they did not want to go because they were anti-social. This was in an era when you borrowed a car, not rented a limo, but you obtained the best one you could. There was some ride sharing since the after prom was organized by the school and you would all be riding to it on a bus and  riding back to the parking lot where you left your car on the bus.So the kind of car you arrived in was not as important as it is now.

But, if we had been paying attention we would have noticed that some kids never came to prom in any kind of car, or to the Friday night post-game dances or the club meetings or the Snow Ball or the Homecoming Game. Although there were about 460 kids in my class there did not really seem to be that many because you never saw a lot of them except passing in the hallways, and if you took a certain course of study, like college prep you did not even necessarily frequent the same hallways. The great equalizers were gym, which everybody took and classes like government, which were required to graduate. However, because the schedules were made up based on electives more than required classes, you tended to be with the same kids even in gym and government class.

Looking back on high school fondly I still have to think about those who did not have such a good time for whatever reason. I hope I never contributed to their angst, I really do, if I did I beg their forgiveness, I did not know any better

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The War on Women: Welcome to the discard pile white sisters!

In the 1960’s the Republican Party decided that they could gain more votes from racists than from black voters. Never mind that blacks had been one of their largest block votes to count on for decades, being loyal to the “Party of Lincoln” long after the Civil War. My own father voted GOP until he died in 1966. But the party decided, led by members of the Nixon administration, that they stood to gain more by luring the Dixiecrats into the party with anti-black rhetoric and legislation than they could by encouraging blacks to remain in the party. In an interview with the NY Times interview in  1970  Kevin Phillips a Nixon staffer, had this to say:

“From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

Ronald Regan continued the Southern Strategy, announcing his candidacy at what was basically a white supremacist rally in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the murders of three civil rights worker some years earlier, and promising that  his administration would defend “states rights”, a term that had become synonymous with segregation and oppression of blacks.The Southern Strategy has been working well and is still in force in the Republican Party. Newt Gingrich had his most popular week when he insulted black people by suggesting we needed to quit asking for food stamps and ask for jobs instead. It is not a coincidence that the approval rating of GOP candidates goes up the more racist they appear.

Now, evidently a similar strategy, the “Misogynist Manifesto” has been adopted against women. The goals are the same, to attack women to get men, particularly white men, to vote GOP. I find this one puzzling. I know there are some  white people who for some reason have some animus against blacks. I do not know if it is genetic, simply learned behavior or what, but it is certainly present, and still very active and virulent. With the release of the movie “The Hunger Games” many people expressed shock at some of the racist Tweets, mostly from the supposedly racially evolved young people, that flooded in http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/27/hunger-games-racist-tweets_n_1381701.html), but I was not shocked at all. Rue was one of the most sympathetic and intelligent competitors, why would white youth think of her as black? That is not the way they are taught to think about black people generally.
 
But, I digress, this is about women, specifically white women, since the GOP wrote off women of color a looooonnnnnnng time ago. Looking at the legislation Republican dominated bodies have tried to pass, attacking reproductive rights, including birth control, striking down equal pay laws,  trying to restructure the definition of rape, having candidates like Santorum who  seem to basically espouse the idea that women are supposed to be subservient, baby making machines and shut up and enjoy it. I have no idea what the leadership or members of the Republican Party actually think. I never thought that all Republicans were racist because the party adopted anti-minority stances and I do not think that all Republicans are sexists because they have adopted anti-female stances. But, evidently the leadership of the party has decided, whether because of genuine ideology or practical strategy, that there are more male votes to be gotten than female votes ( something not supported by demographers by the way) and that the way to get those white male votes is to attack white women and women’s rights.
 
This is fascinating. They must know different men than I do. I am not sure I know an anti-woman male. Maybe I just run in different circles.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out. After the adoption of the Southern Strategy the GOP was virtually abandoned by blacks. If they have a tent for blacks at the Republican convention I am sure tumbleweeds can be seen rolling across the floor. Most blacks seem to share the attitude expressed by J.C. Watts’s father , “Blacks voting Republican is like chickens voting for Col Sanders.”  It will be interesting to see if the misogynistic  strategy now adopted by some elements of the GOP will have the same impact with white women., it will also be interesting if it does not.
 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Fear of the black male: The true cause of the Zimmerman shooting of Martin

Once again we are confronted with America getting it wrong when it comes to race. The fear of black males which is inculcated in folks in America who are not black at an early age  in myriad ways and on a daily basis is at fault for this dreadful murder. The history of the vilification of the black man can be traced back to 17th century America, when it became incumbent on white slave owners to justify their enslavement of black men. Pro-slavers wrote about how black men were bestial, sub-human, stupid and, to invoke the most fear and loathing, hyper sexual.  This last category was used to justify any kind of brutality and enslavement. If they did not control and confine the black male he would be out raping everyone, including –gasp—white women! This view of the black male, so carefully, if falsely, crafted in slavery endures today. Fairly recently there was an uproar over the cover photo of  Vogue with LaBron James doing a credible imitation of King Kong while grasping a blonde woman. To add more fuel to the fire, the woman is smiling. Whether the authors meant for it to or not the picture evoked historic stereotype of the dangerous, especially sexually dangerous black man. Its unspoken, but graphically illustrated, subtext was, “look out when they get some power and freedom, they are dangerous to our women!” It also portrayed James as an animal, snarling at the camera while he bounced a basketball ( we know they can all excel in athletics) in one hand and clasped the blonde in the other hand.

Black men and boys know what America thinks of them. It is reinforced each time they go out of their houses. They are targeted for anything from DWB ( Driving while Black) to drug possession. I have tried and tried to explain to white people that if the police only stop black males to search for drugs they are going to only find drugs on black males. If they primarily stop black men to search for drugs they are predominantly going to arrest black men. Most black men do not take drugs, but some do. If you target them you are going to find drugs on more black men. Let me see if I can illustrate this so that you can understand it. I am a police officer. My job is in drug enforcement. I choose to go to the black neighborhood, which I presume is rife with drug usage. While I am there I stop an average of 60 cars a day each with a black male driver. In 5 of those cars I find drugs and make arrests.  I use this result as justification for targeting the black neighborhood. In the meantime the white drug sellers across time are having a field day, but the idea of drugs and white folks does not resonate with me. Their streets are cleaner, their people more well off, why would they take drugs? Although research has proven that whites use more drugs than blacks, it is still the black community, particularly black males that are targeted, arrested and jailed. The fact that so many are arrested is used as evidence that they are who should be targeted, circular logic at its best.

Years ago when I was in high school I worked in a grocery store where several of the cashiers had decided that our increasing loss of stock to shoplifting had to be due to the black kids from the local university. They had no proof , no arrests, no observations, nothing. It turned out our main thief was, as is usual even today, a middle-aged white woman. Again, if you only follow blacks in your store, the people who are going to get caught shoplifting, no matter how few are going to be black.

Part of white privilege is not having to explain to your sons that some people, law enforcement and others will consider him criminal and a problem before they ever do anything or open their mouths. You cannot imagine the joys of having to sit your pre-teen son down and explain how he should act if he is approached by a policeman for no apparent reason. Or having to remind him to be careful about what he says and does around females, especially white females. I taught a class yesterday of highly educated people, all adults, some middle aged, some young adults some 50+. We were discussing the Zimmerman/Martin case and I made the point that black males have been unfairly targeted, vilified and feared since the antebellum era. As an illustration I told the class that I had asked over 1,000 black men over a couple of years whether or not they had experience a white woman demonstrating some level of fear of him in what could not normally be considered a threatening situation, pulling her purse closer to her body , moving over in an elevator, crossing the street when she saw him coming, etc.  Not one of the 1,000+ men could report that nothing like that had ever happened to him. It was not a scientific study, granted, I was asking men who in my classes or who were visiting campus for some reason. The respondents ranged from age 17 to 75, and were all body types and complexions.  I explained the  continuing view of black males as dangerous or potentially or even likely dangerous as the reason for this phenomenon. One of the older white women in my class raised her hand and told me that she was not sure race had anything to do with the white women’s actions. To support her assertion she told me ” I work at the hospital, we have prisoners come through for treatment. No matter what color they are I shy away from touching them.” She did not understand that  she was comparing prisoners, who one might reasonably have some fear of, to every black man.

Zimmerman, if he made the comments attributed to him about race and class, was conditioned to believe two things; 1) No young black males should be walking around his neighborhood and 2) If they were there they were potentially up to no good. It would be easy to write him off as a nut, if something similar , usually less lethal, but no less soul destroying, was not happening to black men in America every day.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Justice System, Race, Social Justice