© 2023, The Institute for Applied Common Sense™
I may be the most conflicted black man in America – situated somewhere between the towns of Hope and Pragmatism, USA.
Reeling from having viewed the savage beating of Tyre Nichols, yesterday I called one of my former partners whose father was a civil rights icon.
I told him I was visiting a local shop, where 1 of 5 black people I encounter per week in my latest Southern California home, generates his version of southern fried chicken. Neither sushi nor saag paneer would do. I needed to perform an immersion back into time.
I considered having Jessica Alba and Halle Berry work with me to produce some entertaining, dancing video for this post, but they were not immediately available for the price I was willing to pay. However, I do have a musical selection, if you can make it to the end.
I often tell the story of how my parents and I were traveling in the Deep South in the mid-1950s, and stopped for gas. Being a thirsty 6 yrs. old, I saw 2 water fountains, one clean and sparkling white, the other dirty and grimy where I suspected mechanics washed their hands.
I gravitated to the clean one, but before I could take a drink, I felt my Father’s hand snatch me by the rear collar, while shaking. He turned me around while trembling, and whispered, “Don’t you ever do that again!”
Suffice it to say, I’ve long known my place in America, along with the real deal. While I didn’t envision that black mechanics working at the station might come out to whip my ass (and that of my Father), perhaps I should have.
About 3 years ago, as the 2020 presidential election approached, I started a Facebook group page, Black Baby Boomers Who Remember, which was later changed to Black Baby Boomers Who Seek a Better Future for All.
All I wanted to do was share accounts of segregation with young people, and encourage them to vote, thus emulating the efforts of the old NAACP, which my Father held so dear. I called myself following in his footsteps.
What I found most fascinating was that Black Baby Boomers spoke of the “good old days” and how solid our little villages were, despite being sprinkled all throughout the Deep Segregated South. I realized that many of us were “conflicted.”
I had three, deeply held, but controversial positions. One, that racism will never be eliminated, being DNA / gene driven for survival evolutionary purposes. Two, that we need to talk less about the past (while recognizing the importance of history and repeated patterns), and come up with some new, creative approaches for tweaking our system since humans do not change in the long term. Three, having had a little legal experience, I argued that those in power have the ability to give, and the equal ability to take away. I developed a mantra – watch the debate on abortion, and you will see what is about to take place in the civil rights arena.
I found myself surprisingly emotional over the past couple of days. Not about anything specific; just things in general on the planet. But I’ve thought about three things the most: (1) how sad I am that my Mother only lived to 52 and did not see America at its optimal best; (2) how happy I was that my Father lived two weeks shy of 97, and saw America get better during his lifetime; and, (3) how happy I am that my Father, a WWII vet, died before he saw this world seemingly descend into chaos, again. While it might not have surprised him that 5 black police officers beat the crap out a 148 pound black man, it might have destroyed his optimism, and the optimism he shared with me.
Thus, the conflict in me runs deep, and arguably should in us all. Ain’t nothin' new, as Marvin noted in 1971 in What’s Going On.
Lest there be some confusion on the part of the "twisters" out there, I love this country with all of my heart, soul, and every fabric of my being. Our aspirational documents are works of art and science. They don't get any better and are considered marvels by every freedom-loving creature. It is we humans who screw up the system in the application of whatever we come up with. Just look back 5,000 years.
The best that we can do in the short term (our lifetimes) is to engage one another, despite our fears and apprehensions, and recognize that for complex issues, there are no real solutions, and definitely not simplistic ones. There are only trade-offs.
With that mindset, we just might maintain some modicum of optimism and generate some longer lasting, more effective band-aids, before we go out.