NBC: Re: Inadvertent racism?

bob vanarsdall rvana@MINDSPRING.COM
Fri Jun 12 12:59:59 EDT 1998

Tom Freeland gave great examples, then noted:

> The point is that, at a time when real evil was loose here, there
>were people who acted heroically in large ways and small.  Chuck's
>suggestion to this effect was accurate.  Further, the notion that
>racism still today is a "southern thing" makes it easy to disregard
>real and harmful racism elsewhere.  Saying "that's not something we
>do, they do it down south" is a comforting way of refusing to face
>problems that are pervasive.  There *was* nothing like Jim Crow
>outside the south in America; this is an absolutely central truth.
>However, it is also a central truth that racism is a nationwide and
>not localized phenomena.

I was present in an audience in North Carolina in 1968 when Stokley
Carmichael, then head of the Black Panthers, was asked who he was for for
president in that election. Without hesitation, Stokley Carmichael replied,
"George Wallace". An audible gasp went through the crowd. Carmichael went
on to explain, "If you listen to Humphrey, he'll go to California and tell
voters he's anti-labor, then turn around and go to Detroit and give a
pro-labor speech. All the politicians tell voters anywhere what they want
to hear, even if they contradict themselves. At least with Wallace, he
tells the same thing to everyone, California, Michigan, or Alabama. You
know where you stand with him, even if you disagree violently with what he
says and stands for."

He went on to give an example: a black family wants to rent an apartment in
the South in a white neighborhood, they get told flat-out by the manager,
"We don't rent to your kind"; same black family goes to rent an apartment
in the North, they are shown around cordially, but the manager explains
that, "You understand, there's a waiting list for these apartments, so
we'll just take your name and call you when one comes available." And, of
course, the call never comes.

Carmichael's opinion was that the enemy you can see is much easier to fight
than the insidious hidden one. Back in 1968 he had more hope for change
actually occurring in the South than in the North precisely because its
racism could be confronted. Last year a federal study of public education
confirmed that public school systems in the South had achieved
significantly higher levels of integration than had been achieved in the
North over the last 30 years.


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