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Prejudice in TransitionKenneth G. Ramey Salem-News.com
Racial slurs have been carefully avoided, but are replaced with gestures of hate implying that “its all your fault,” using vicious placards, loud epithets and every known sort of propaganda slur imaginable.
(PASO ROBLES, Calif.) - When President Carter spoke of a considerable number of persons who are arguably and rudely against the Healthcare Reform being pushed by Obama as being racist, I think he may be right.
There is no doubt that the base of the Republican Party - its red states - are mostly in the South, but Jimmy Carter did not exclude those of the north which are as firm in their traditional convictions as they are below the Mason Dixon Line. Yet, many of the swing states including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Indiana, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New England went blue, an anomaly worthy of some discussion.
WWII contributed to the changes that led to the shrinking of the racial divide, but the service of black men during the war went unnoticed when they returned to their southern homes where, instead of being greeted as victors, they were expected by the local gentry passively to resume living the lifestyle of their past where whites reigned supreme, or else.
I was twelve years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed and living in Oakland, Ca. Then it was a city predominately white, but other nationalities were not uncommon. I lived in the Piedmont Avenue District of a city of many districts, each very much like an extended village. In 1941 there were several immigrant families from Japan who were close neighbors to us. We used to marvel at how their children, after attending our school, attended classes at another, but in Japanese. I’m convinced that the American dream to these people was not a gift, but something they were determined to earn.
Then, after December 7th, they were gone.
There was a Chinatown in Oakland, and still is, from which children attended Westlake Jr. High where I was enrolled. As in many Jr. High’s, Westlake had its element of hoods one of which was not reluctant to take on our shop teacher. I was never bothered by them, perhaps because I hung with others who were more interested in sports, and Chinese kids did too.
Gym involved us in more than the usual sports; dancing was a requirement, and on occasion boxing with gloves was allowed. A Chinese student had been schooled in the manly art, and systematically chose each of the toughs to a fight. The more he fought, the less eager were his opponents. Eventually, the largest, of the hoods got his turn, but what was supposed to be a boxing match was anything but; in fact “butt” would be a better description. Our friend took some lumps, but his service sufficed to improve the lives of all of us.
As an encore, while we were playing basketball, one of the so-called toughs, who apparently was encouraged by his gang, stepped onto the court and chose one of our people. It was a spectacle to behold; up went the fists, but instead of backing away our guy moved in an landed a blow to the stomach of the other who went down on his seat where he sat and cried till drained of his meanness. And that was that!
Blacks also were part of our pre-war community and were not segregated. They were the Northern blacks who under the skin were as white as the rest of us, and we were friends. In the locker room a black friend commented to me how disappointed his family was with the black exodus from the South; blacks who swarmed to Oakland to work in the shipyards and make big bucks. I was perplexed until I realized how real was the fear they felt.
Southern blacks were a different breed from those of the north, but put them all together and a black is a black. My friend and his family were bound to suffer from the prejudices against their race whether deserved or not. For it was the new found attitudes of Southern blacks that created prejudice.
A single instance will suffice to define why and how prejudice occurred: I took my young daughter to a swimming pool as usual, but discovered it had been invaded by a multitude of young blacks who, as soon as my daughter entered the pool surrounded her while some began to feel her up. I told the life guard but, being out-numbered he was unable to correct the situation.
Understandably, we left and never went back.
But whites were just as guilty of hurting their own interests which they blamed on blacks. The relatively few Northern blacks sought shelter by buying homes in white communities where, as my friend surmised, they were perceived as a threat. Instead of holding tight, FOR SALE signs went up, and people sold-out themselves as well as the northern blacks who were swallowed up by the tide that overwhelmed them and were forced to endure the prejudice they anticipated, could not escape, and did not deserve. It was heart breaking to see how mutually devastating racial prejudice could be.
The transition that moved all peoples beyond the foolishness of the past has taken nearly sixty years; prejudice has declined but the means by which tolerance was achieved surely is not without its psychic scars, especially in the red states below the Mason Dixon Line. It will likely take another sixty years to iron out the remaining wrinkles that exist as subliminal tendencies, particularly in traditional localities where Religion and Republicanism are synonymous wherever they exist within these United States.
During its eight year reign, the Party of God, did more to damage the reputation of the United States and its economy perversely and erroneously by presuming to act in the name of God. It is a credit to those states in which Evangelists hold sway that the people are tending to listen to reason and to think for themselves; not all to be sure, but even they who haven’t show some inclination to move in the direction of logic. Until the time when logic can overcome emotion, there will continue to be persons willing to believe what they are told is true, and do what they are told to do.
So, did President Carter misspeak when he attributed to a considerable number of people the possibility of a latent prejudice? Admittedly many of those who demonstrated against the proposed Healthcare Reform could be counted on to perform because there will always be anarchists among us who get their jollies by objecting to anything. But, when one listens to the Republicans exhorting the crowds to disrupt by any means available those who would explain the benefits of Universal Healthcare, it ought to be obvious to discerning people that the vitriolic demonstrations are more the result of Right wing cheerleaders stimulating submerged psychic responses.
Racial slurs have been carefully avoided, but are replaced with gestures of hate implying that “its all your fault,” using vicious placards, loud epithets and every known sort of propaganda slur imaginable; Socialist, Communist. Nazi, Hitler, etc., not to mention the lies of Russ Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Fox News, all for the purpose of denying the needy what they rightly deserve. Technically, President Carter may be presumed to be wrong, but all things considered one must admit that he might also be right.
Kenneth G. Ramey was a 79-year old "writer without a Website" who is generating excellent, provocative articles on the subject of religion and world affairs. We are pleased that Ken's "lone wolf" presence as a writer in the world has been replaced by a spot on our team of writers at Salem-News.com. Raised in Minnesota and California during the dark years of the Great American Depression, Ken is well suited to talk about the powerful forces in the world that give all of us hope and tragedy and everything in between. You can write to Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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