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INTOLERANCE

 
 
Setanta
 
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 03:13 pm
After the release of his film The Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith was much maligned for the racist content of the film, which was based upon the novel The Clansman. In 1916, he responded with a film entitled Intolerance. I thought it an ironic source for the title of this thread.

When i was a child, my grandfather taught me to read before my fourth birthday. When i was seven yeas of age, and had expressed dissatisfaction with the books on history available in the library's children's section, he gave me The Outline of History by Wells, and thereafter, he helped me to select books on history, many primary sources, written for adults. Within a few years, i had conceived a thoroughly unreasonable resentment against our Saxon cousins for their treatment of my Irish ancestors, and by extension, of my family. Although this is not the point, and as an adult i have a better perspective and a more balanced view-it is important for what i intend to discuss. The small town in which i lived with my maternal grandparents was almost exclusively Protestant, and the populace descended from English and German ancestors. Even the handful of other Catholics in the town were of German descent. Catholics and the Irish were openly despised, although no one in the town had the courage to express such views to my grandfather's face. He was a simple, yet intelligent man, self-possessed and good natured, and veritably a force of nature-no one crossed him lightly. He was involved in and well connected within the Democratic Party in the township and the County.

Because of the exaggerated grudge i had conceived with regard to the treatment of the Irish, exacerbated by the open prejudice within the town, i conceived a notion of bigotry at an early age. As well, there was the matter of black people in my young life. There was a black cattle buyer who came regularly to the town. The farmers were glad enough to see him, because he made his living through hard work and long hours, offering a better price than the slaughter houses which would otherwise have purchased the stock. The farmers, of course, simply transacted their business and were gone, with no stake in or worry about what happened to the buyer. When first he came to the town, he was obliged to leave again after making his purchases, because this small town, like so many in the South as well as in the North, had an ordinance which prohibited black people from remaining within the town limits after sundown. On one occasion, however, he was late to the sale, and had the problem of already being in the town as the sun set. My great aunt, my grandfather's sister-in-law, ran a boarding house-the only place in town to lodge over night. But she turned him away because of the objections of her permanent lodgers. So my grandfather offered him lodging for the night, saying he could avail himself of the invitation whenever he was in town. There is a family legend about that night, and one which i believe to be substantially true, as i witnessed a similar event one night when some local boys, drunk, decided to have words with my grandfather-to their discomfiture. The story runs that on that earlier occasion, as my grandparents and the cattle buyer had finished their supper, some of the local boys, well fortified in their "courage" by a bout at Casey's Tap (not all the Irish were that despised), came to the house to make some comment upon the situation. It is said that my grandfather met them on the front gallery, with his pistol in his belt, and his Springfield rifle under his arm, my grandmother standing behind him, with the shotgun aimed over his shoulder. For whatever doubts they may have entertained about my grandfather's resolve-and that was unlikely-they certainly knew from a yet earlier incident which i won't recount, that my grandmother would indeed fire that shotgun. They suddenly remembered their own families, and their suppers waiting.

When i was a child, i only met the cattle buyer once, when he came at Christmas with some small gifts to enjoy a cordial afternoon with the family. By that time, in the 1950's, he had succeeded sufficiently that he others working for him. But twice each year, we received a side of beef, delivered to the butcher, Mr. Henry, in our family's name, and a side of pork each quarter. When we used our railroad passes to make trips to the city, the porters-black to a man-always made sure we were comfortable, and brought magazines and sandwiches (at no charge) and laughed and joked with my sister and me, and made much of us-"You're Dewey Antrim's boy, ain'tcha?" As an adult, i realize that this resulted from the simple respect they received from my grandfather, who honored everyone in such manner, unless they proved undeserving, and insisted upon the courtesies in return.

My grandfather overcame the disadvantages of his situation because of his strength, his courage, his hard work, his honesty, his probity-in short, what the Reverend King would call "the content of his character"-as did that cattle buyer. As a boy, i saw these events without fully understanding the impact they would have upon my views of the world. As i grew, and learned more of and understood more of the world, i came to see how privilege resided with white people, more specifically with the white Protestant ascendancy of this nation. I also learned much from how the black chauffeur employed by my paternal grandparents was treated by the local black population-although i will not recount that here.

My interest is in how others here view the issues of prejudice and privilege, and what have been your life experiences which have shaped those views.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 04:30 pm
Oooh!

Thinking. Will be back.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 04:45 pm
having had essentially 2 childhoods, one as a student in Beirut Lebanon as my father worked for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia where i knew nothing of race or colour for everyone i knew was different from everyone else, north african, indian, arab,asian, greek, italian, eastern european and of course the brits. the very concept of race or colour was pretty much non-existent. when i was in the US i lived with my materal grandfather who was cherokee and he explained that he found it necessary as a child to change his cherokee name to "Edgar". My very first experiences with intollerance was moving to the US as a teen, and although i was blond haired and blue eyed, i was not one of "us" i was one of "them" mostly likely due to my language skills being an amalgamation of all the languages i had learned from my childhood friends. while i had seen cultural clashes especially in europe they had seemed more nationalistic rather than racial. I have not been very adept at adopting the "racial" or "ethnic" definitions that i commonly encounter in this nation and i hope i never do.
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oldandknew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 04:45 pm
Setanta ---- predudice is bigotry is hate is fear is unexceptable in any form in this modern day and age.
Privilege is bestowing wealth on those who have not earnt it. You can't disguise it as a gift when privilege is ongoing. Examples, the British Royal family. Yes they are a tourist attraction, some of them do perform acts of civil duty that are mildly of value but by and large they are freeloaders. Other than the Monarch and the next 3 who are in direct accesion to the throne should work for a livng, just like Joe Public.
I could expand on this but it's late on my side of the Big Water
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 05:00 pm
Come back another time, OAK, and give us some more of your thoughts. David Lloyd George had a great fondness for royalty and aristocracy, Boss, as you may be aware:

"A fully equipped Duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnoughts, and Dukes are just as great a terror, and they last longer."

(On the House of Lords)"A body of 500 men chosen at random from amongst the unemployed."

Lord Beaverbrook's Butler: "The Lord is out walking."
Lloyd George: "Ah, on the water, I presume."

"The Landlord is a gentleman . . . who does not earn his wealth. He has a host of agents and clerks that receive for him. He does not even take the trouble to spend his wealth. He has a host of people around him to do the actual spending. He never sees it until he comes to enjoy it. His sole function, his chief pride, is the stately consumption of wealth produced by others."
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oldandknew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 05:05 pm
Set. the quotes are lovely. reality spiced with wit. I'll expand my own thoughts on the morrow
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 05:09 pm
On a2k, I have told possibly more of my life experience than people would want to read. Suffice to say, I have been on the receiving end of predjudice often enough to have no illusions about the subject. I despise the slightest hint of racism and I fight against it in my personal life as well as supporting others who operate on a grander scale.
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Eva
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 05:34 pm
I wrote a piece on this very subject two years ago for publication on MLK Day. I'll cut & paste it here.

-------------

VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP

One of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most memorable speeches was about a "mountaintop experience." Funny thing about mountaintops. From that vantage point, you can see clearly where you are going, but you can see just as clearly where you've been.

For instance...

In elementary school, my teacher asked our class if it was right for a "colored" man and a "white" woman to marry. I innocently answered, "I guess so, if they're in love with each other." That same night, the teacher phoned my parents. Dad and Mom put me in the back seat of our Cadillac and drove me to the "colored" part of town to "educate" me. "See?" they pointed, "they don't live like us." Their lesson didn't take, though.

Some years later, I watched Dr. King giving his famous "Dream" speech. I was so inspired I had tears in my eyes. Then Dad walked through the family room and saw him on the television set. "Oh, it's that damn n****r again...turn that OFF!" It was too late, though. Dr. King's lesson DID take.

My highschool was at the forefront of racial politics in Oklahoma City in the late '60s and early '70s. My parents considered taking me out of public school when court-ordered desegregation began, but I didn't want to go. (About half my class did leave. They formed a new, all-white private school.) As luck would have it, I found myself in a history class taught by an extremely controversial new black teacher...the very outspoken head of the local chapter of the NAACP! My parents nearly had heart attacks. There was open hostility. Police stood guard at every corner of the hallway. Fights erupted regularly, and several students were stabbed or shot. In fact, we lost a couple. I was an office aide at the time, and all the fights ended up there. I saw more than I wanted to see. At times, I was afraid. At the end of my senior year, I had to skip my baccalaureate. There was a group of angry black students after me. I stayed home from school the last few days. Friends advised me to skip the graduation ceremony, too. But at the last minute, I decided not to. I figured it was time to start living those lessons.

My parents' generation harbored all the ugly, old racial bigotries that most of my generation rejected. We stood up to that bigotry...to our parents, to our classmates, and sometimes to those peers of the opposite color who harbored bigotries of their own. We were in the trenches then, but we are standing on the mountaintop now. Our parents and grandparents were in the valley behind us. Our children will live on the plain that is before us, never seeing the valley behind.

Last week, my son was asked to write a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. Since it was part of his homework, I was expected to help him. In order to explain the significance of the holiday, I had the distasteful task of explaining to my almost-7-yr.-old son that white people used to think that black people were different from them and shouldn't be allowed to do the same things. My son said, "WHAT?! That's crazy!" He had no frame of reference. Like many children his age in Middle America, he has been raised in a multiethnic environment. To him, the difference between white and black skin is no more remarkable than the difference between brown and blue eyes.

Someday I will tell my son my stories. I will explain to him what it was like growing up in changing times. But like all children, he probably will not be interested in hearing those stories. When he watches that old footage of the "Dream" speech and hears Dr. King speak of the day when we "will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character," it will not seem particularly extraordinary to him. He will probably shake his head at the sight of his mother, sitting there with tears in her eyes again.

Yesterday my son marched in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade with his friends. Some are black, some are Hispanic, some are white, some are Native American. He didn't comprehend how important the principles are. He just wanted to be in a parade with his friends.

And isn't that what all the oratory, the marches, the fighting, the soul-searching...were all about anyway? Racial hatred isn't even an issue for him. It's just another mountain back there in the distance.

He is "free at last."
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 05:43 pm
Very beautiful, Boss . . .
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quinn1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 07:25 pm
Growing up in my home was a constant battle of what I like to think as a battle against idiocy. Eventually, I believe something was learned however, for some reason I already knew what was right and correct, and refused to be influenced by the ignorance.
I suppose actually since I had to live my life in the trenches and my mother had done the same I was lucky enough to have that going for me. I do fear however that at times I must review what I've said or done just to make sure I haven't tumbled in anyway but, I think even a parents influence can be ignored to a great degree. I am however glad to have that experience to know what an evil thing bigotry is and that little steps can be made to open eyes and curb enthusiasm, if nothing else.
Examples of how unbalanced the views were in that environment I think made me constantly ask those questions you have to ask of those who aren't making sense. If you don't go forward and ask the question, stare evil in the face, battle the ignorance...you cant make advances for humanity never mind individual knowledge.
I don't blame the man but the parents and society that formed these thoughts. This is not equal to tolerance however more equal to intolerant education. Hard to explain really if you cant grasp it or haven't had to experience it first hand.
If anyone can remember the intensity of Archie Bunker of TV fame well, this is a pretty good picture of what I dealt with every hour I was in my own home, as a growing child looking for guidance. The typical questions were "I'snt your little Polish friend...", "Thats a Spanish name isn't it..", "You cant watch that show, theres blacks...", "Your new friend is different...". Actually, I'm being very very nice in the translation...make it Bunkerish on your own for the complete picture. It really is a cruel and hateful thing to subject a child to, never mind the other children or people involved or in earshot.
What really amazed me is how deep these things can go into everyday life, how watching tv or driving to the store, reading the paper, or just having a conversation can change into a lesson on ignorance and hate.
I cant remember a specific conversation but, I'm pretty sure I questioned the behavior at some early age. My guess is my mother and/or her family set me straight in combination with my environment outside the home and my peer group.
We weren't privileged in the least, we lived in the inner city and I went to public schools that were very diverse.
My fathers upbringing however was in a small New England town in the 40's and 50's which I think had a great deal to do with his views. His environment and peer group along with some old fashioned thought processes of his parental units skewed him the wrong way. What can you do but hope for growth and development?
As I said previously though, his views were unbalanced. This I think might have had the greatest impact, at least to question the thought process. He was second generation Canadian immigrant on one side, third generation Irish on the other, and his step father was Chinese. He married and Irish/Indian Connecticut Yankee. We lived in the projects or in serious inner city downtown areas. We weren't privileged nor were our extended family. We were all hard working middle-class, lower-middle class typical American families. I just didn't get it. How can you have this diversity, live this diversity and be so ignorant? How long were people going to tolerate the views, the outspoken hatefulness?
I think the times changed, the views changed, the eyes were opened and knowledge was had to some degree. Some degree is better than none when it is at such an extent. I only hope that these views aren't taught and lived and accepted in the future, and can only be thankful to have questioned.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 07:44 pm
Both Quinn's and Eva's posts are very revelatory. I have enjoyed them both immensely. I feel that in order to give a correct picture here, that i must tell of my father's side of the family. My paternal grandfather, for whom i am named, went to the Texas oil fields before the first world war, and, on his own hook, accomplished what George Bush the elder did with family money and connection. Having successfully established his oil field equipment business, and fought off (sometimes literally with pistol and rifle) the attempts by Standard Oil thugs to drive him out of business, he finally agreed to make a deal with Standard Oil. He was canny--he got an executive position in their New York office (my family were originally southerners from South Carolina/Georgia), and S.O. paid for his education as an engineer, which he later turned to his advantage by using his connection in New York to get a position as a consulting engineer to Kaiser Corporation.

My father was born in Houston, as was his sister--but they both grew up on the streets of the Bronx. My aunt told me of her misery and shame living in a one-bedroom, cold-water walk-up while my grandfather pinched every penny. Eventually, he purchased a very "toney" apartment building on Riverside Drive, allowing him to meet all of his household expenses from the rent of the other tenants, and realize a small profit as well. He made himself quite wealthy, which allowed him to hire his chauffeur and maid (the chauffeur's wife) as well as a cook, Bella, who was a German refugee, Jewish, i believe, although i'm not certain.

This grandfather was virtually the polar opposite of the one who helped to raise me. He was loud, pushy, cunning, unscrupulous--and therefore, wildly successful in comparison to Dewey Antrim. And he was just as racist as the day is long and hard to get through. Every vile term of racist derivation you can imagine was in common use in his household. When he and my grandmother would drive down to see us, and i showed my trust and affection for the chauffeur, my natural inclination born of all of my other experiences of black men, he and my grandmother were disgusted, but knew they'd be out the door the first time they made any comment. Considering what he likely suffered on the drive back to New York, as an adult i've been all the more impressed with the natural affection for children which that man displayed. My grandfather had his own special chair in the living room, and there he always seated the chauffeur, who would stay with us, while my other grandparents found what i now know to have been "less offensive" quarters. I lived in a household where to speak the horrid word nigger was to ensure a sound thrashing--and it was the only cause for which my grandfather would ever lay a hand in anger on a child. Fortunately for me, i saw it happen to my brothers, and avoided it myself. I also saw the local, rural black men who taunted the chauffeur as an "Uncle Tom," and were serenely and nobly ignored.

Imagine then, my stunned horror, in the days before i was shipped overseas, when my mother told me, out of earshot of everyone else, that she hoped i would not "bring back some little slant-eyed bride." It was a fortunate fate which lead me to the home of that man and that woman to be raised, a fact the appreciation of which has only slowly grown on me as i've aged. I'm not perfect, i indulged in casual racist remarks in my youth so as to "fit in"--but the deeper lesson of the racism and bigotry, the abuse of privilege and wealth which i saw in my childhood has stood me in better stead, and i hope that i am a better man for it.
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Eva
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 07:44 pm
Thank you for the compliment, Setanta. That is high praise indeed, coming from you. Cool
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Jul, 2003 07:56 pm
I am enjoying reading these posts immensely.
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quinn1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:13 am
Thanks S, wonderful to hear more of the story from your side as well.
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cavfancier
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:42 am
I was lucky to be born into a liberal family, and to be educated to respect all people. I was also very lucky to have been raised in an environment where open racism was rare. My grandfather wasn't as lucky as me growing up. Here is an excerpt from his memoirs:

"Life for our family became progressively far difficult and complicated. In late summer 1918 the War in Europe came to an end. But not in Russia. Allied forces fearing the spread of Bolshevism invaded Russia from all sides. Russian soldiers led by various generals loyal to the ousted monarchy and called "White Russians" fought on various fronts against the hated Bolsheviks. In the Ukraine the situation was the worst of all. There a whole variety of murderous leaders fought the White Russian soldiers, the Bolsheviks and quite often each other in their efforts to establish an independent Ukraine. All these factions terrorized vast stretches of the Ukraine. Pillage, destruction and murder dominated their activities. The slaughter of Jews became a game to avenge the death of Jesus the Saviour. I can recall vividly the days and nights of hiding in various cellars. One day while in our kitchen the family was surprised when a group of drunken soldiers invaded the house. In those days the most dreaded of all the Ukranian partisan armies was one headed by a notorious anti-Semite called Petlura. The mounted soldiers most of them sporting fierce bushy moustaches, tall caracul hats, rifles on their backs with crossed ammunition belts on their tunics. Often flashing their curved sabres provided a spine chilling fearsome spectacle. When lubricated with booze, they became executioners of anyone in their way.
One day, quite unexpectedly a group of them burst into our house. They had heard that there was wine to be had. I have no idea where my father was but at home was my grandfather and my uncle Sam. The kitchen table was very large and could easily seat a dozen or more people around it. The wine jugs and glasses were on it. The two Jewish men were forced under the table while the drunken orgy became more and more boisterous. When they decided to go elsewhere one of them began taking pot shots with his rifle at the two men beneath the table. Soon they all joined in the fun. When it was time to go my grandfather lay dead and my uncle lay bleeding profusely from a cheek wound. Undoubtedly they thought he too was dead. I find it hard to believe that the recollection of these horrors remains so vividly etched in my memory. After all it was probably 1919 and I couldn't have been more than 7 years of age."

Anyone interested in the whole story, who doesn't already know about it, can go here:

http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7047
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 11:23 am
Those are some memoirs, Cav.

I wrote something, but it sounded way too after-school-special-ish. It was about my circle of friends in high school -- Ethiopian, Navajo, Laotian, etc.

Basically, I am lucky in that I haven't had to deal with any of the horrible stuff that has been talked about here, and have known people from many cultures and backgrounds my whole life. My views on prejudice and privelege have been shaped by small moments rather than major experiences.

For example, one of my 4th grade classmates, Chad, was having a tough time -- I knew that. What I didn't get was why my teacher would suggest that he talk to Dimitri. Why Dimitri? Oh, Dimitri is half Japanese, half Russian, and Chad is half Vietnamese, half black. That thought led to others. But Japanese and Vietnamese aren't the same, right? What does it mean, what is it like, to be half? I'm half Jewish -- is it the same idea? But Chad is adopted, too, so he's black and Vietnamese but has white parents and a white brother. I don't remember if I thought of it at the time, but later I realized that Chad was probably the son of a black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman.

We went to different schools after that, but the same college, and I recognized him when I saw him on campus. "Chad!" I yelled. The effect was extraordinary. He turned around verrrrry slowly, obviously making some kind of enormous effort. When we finally were face to face, he said, "Nobody's called me that in a long time. It's Diem now." We only chatted briefly then, but later shared a car back to Minneapolis for Christmas break, and talked about these things more. I hadn't realized what a difficult time he'd had growing up, and was shocked at the stories he told me of what people we both knew had done and said.

Another small moment -- my track team went to state, and I roomed with one of my relay teammates (4 x 100 and 4 X 400). She had beautiful long braids, and I commented on them as we were getting ready in the morning. She snorted. I was like "what?" We then had a really good conversation about black and white hair and political implications. The website "Black People Love Us" covers a lot of the ground that she covered then.

Living in L.A., working with poor poor poor immigrants, was a huge eye-opener, probably the closest to major experience rather than small moment. I'm not sure where to start, there. But many Mexicans in America have it baaaaad. I'm just waiting for them to get organized and start the next wave of civil rights movements.
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oldandknew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 11:54 am
My parents were both myopic bigots. In their minds anybody who wasn't Anglo Saxon was automaticly suspect and tainted for life. This attitude even back in the 1950s I found acutely embarrassing, if not distastefull.
I am glad I had the inteligence to see beyond their beliefs and ignore the color, race & religion of other people.
It's about time society & people grew up and dumped their bigotry.
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 12:50 pm
I was lucky enough to be brought up in an open minded family.

At the age of 9/10 I lived in a small Suffolk village, my father was in the RAF and the bases Lakenheath and Feltwell were joint American/English.

Across the road lived a black American family and the daughter and i became best friends. I could never understand why she wouldn't play anywhere except her house or mine - it was a long time before i realised it was because she was scared of meeting racism in the village - I naively had never heard of it.

On the receiving end of it I was told by the headmaster at my school when we moved to Scotland that he 'didn't like the English or the RAF in that orrrrder'.

Martin Luther Kings speech still gives me chills! what a man.
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cobalt
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 01:44 pm
Grew up in an area not a suburb but close enough to Chicago and thus was exposed right away to all sorts of folks from everywhere, in the days the suburbs there were really exploding with the newfangled subdivisions built for those with Veteran's benefits and low mortagage interest rates. It was a very "white" neighborhood, although considered a bit on the lower middle income level since there were about half the adults who'd attended college, previously waaaaay predominately a "white" thing.

My dad was a history teacher and also taught economics and government. To "make it real" he ran for city council about 1960 and I first learned there were terrible hate groups hidden among us. The John Birch Society had a stronghold in our area and my father was attacked by that group because he was a teacher on the "poor side of town", the school was attended by the only black and hispanic students of the town, and of course this made him a socialist, right? And they dug up something of a confrontage he'd had in his first year of teaching at a nearby city - where he was reprimanded for mentionning Communism in his government class. I first learned of intolerance by answering the first of many obscene phone calls at age 10. And then my folks had to explain LOTS of things to me very quickly since this had happened.

He won the election and then four years later became the mayor. During this time there were the terrible riots in Watts and Detroit - so far away, right? Then the police showed up to our door while I was babysitting my siblings and we were taken by squad car to a safe house, as the police went to get my folks from the pinochle party across town. Two days they stayed at the "command post" in the old city hall while we kids stayed at the safe house - all because there was expected to be a riot and there were 13 firebombs take hold in our town. The news even went as far as the military newspapers overseas!

When we were allowed to go home it was with a wiretapped phone and squad car circling every half hour. The fear was that hate groups would target my father for his push for urban renewal and thus make it easier for those of lower income or the "wrong color" to have police and fire protection and a large new library and concert hall. By then I knew I was in "interesting times" for a child doesn't often answer the phone and hear Ev Dirksen on the line, ha ha!

Soon after a major radio station from Chicago at the time, WMAQ, had a fine and delightful DJ who made an offer to buy the house three doors down from us. When word got out, we and all the neighbors got visits from the "White Citizen's Council" to work against (gasp) a black family moving in. This did not work out for the Council, but by then the family had had enough negative contacts by the Hate Brigade that they withdrew the offer and moved elsewhere.

When I was 7 going on 8 and then up to 9, we moved to New Haven, CT and lived on a major street with all the folks across solid black and all the folks our side solid white Jewish (but us Unitarians, ha!) I heard many tales of superstition from both my white and my black school friends, but I was welcome in their homes. Quite another eyeopener to all variety of intolerance, and with the local government experiences, well I have seen my share enough to be a strong supporter of the ACLU as an adult.

A few years ago I landed a great teaching job - one that the students were the most invested in school that I'd ever seen. But most of my family and friends were quite concerned - you see it was a max security prison and I taught adult women of all races. Much intolerance inside, especially for an incarcerated and desparate lot who found alliances crucial to survive since they were no longer "in the World". Took a lot to get onto mutually supportive and teamwork grounds to work well where active hatreds erupt on occasion.

My first student teaching was in a ghetto school with 99% blacks and volatile mixes of mostly white student teachers, a new school principal (white) replacing an previous black principal, and the teachers there all black. It was a greatly challenging experience that I'm sure shaped my life. It was my favorite school and sadly missed when I had to transfer over to a rich white elementary that had "everything" and then some. My college supervisor / program director said "Try not to notice the inequities in the same school district..."

Through it all, I still have to say that my own childhood experiences were so far out of ordinary that I could not help but become fairly open-minded. And noticed that most others were not. Sad but true, your childhood experiences do count for a great deal of how you look at yourself and others around you. And it is hard to break away from judgements and myths to learn new views on what you already "know"...
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 01:49 pm
I was brought up in what was essentially a liberal family. We moved around a bit when I was a kid - my Dad is a retired electrical/electronics engineer and for a while he worked on space probes. When lower-lever space probes were moved from Pennsylvania to Texas, my folks decided not to move us to the Lone Star State and instead Dad found a job working in the nascent computer industry. We stayed in PA until I was almost 10 (we'd lived in NJ before that, and before I was born, they'd lived in NY and IN and NY before that, when they were first married).

Anyway - we didn't experience prejudice in PA. We lived in what my mother used to call goyische King of Prussia, yet everyone was kind and we interacted in two vibrant communities - our neighborhood, where the parents were mainly young, and the Jewish community. The Hebrew School and the public school were both progressive.

But in NY, in a community with far more Jews than PA had had, I experienced prejudice for the first time. I well recall it. I was in the 6th grade and the new kid. And two girls came up to me in Art class and called me a "Jew beggar". One grabbed me from behind and tried to cut my hair with a gluey pair of scissors. I eluded their grasp but learned to stick to the teacher. And, I guess I learned that not everyone is kind.

A few years after that, our house was targeted for vandalism. So was the Cohns' house. No other houses were. It wasn't anti-Semitic graffiti; it was just eggs and stuff. But my folks were convinced that it was due to our faith and no other reason. After all, the other homes in the area were not affected.

Fortunately, that was mainly it, though my High School, like many others (still!) divided itself along racial lines in the cafeteria.

I'll tell you a story, which I still find funny but is I think a bit indicative of how different the world is/was.

Before I was born, my folks lived for a few months in Kokomo, Indiana. One day, Mom went shopping and found packaged pastrami. This was the very early sixties, and Kokomo was absolutely the land of covered dish suppers and church socials. Mom was pleasantly surprised, and decided to push her luck. So, she asked the counterman - "Do you have any packaged lox?" His response: "Ma'am, have you tried the hardware department?"

I think tolerance and even love comes from being together. It's easy to not be understanding when the only different people you know of are abstractions who live in other parts of the town or country. I still believe that Brown vs. Bd. of Ed. is perhaps the greatest or one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions ever, as is Loving vs. Virginia. In Brown, the Supreme Court in 1954 decides that keeping races separate, even if the accomodations can somehow be made "equal" is never right. In Loving, the Court in 1967 decides that intermarriage among all races is acceptable, and preventing it is unconstitutional.

Just think, in '54, let's say a couple of 6-year-olds start school. And due to the Brown decision, they go to the same school, even though they are of differing races. Thirteen years later, after having had their entire educations together, they decide to marry {note, I'm speculating here; the couple in Loving were middle-aged}. These people have known each other for much of their lives and have been together in an equal set-up, and from this familiarity comes love. It could happen, it can happen, and it does.
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