Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Meditations upon the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Something this immigre from the Planet of the Goyim seldom does is engage in discussions about racism with his African-American friends and associates. Whenever I do, Lenny Bruce's classic routine, How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties leaps to mind: "Hell of a guy. Hell of a... there'll never be another Joe Louis. Hey ya got a cigarette on ya?". I sense that my black buddies have had it quite up to "here" with such badinage so, instead, I'll usually engage in some alternate conversational gambit along the lines of, "Did you get any interesting mail today?"

The last time I did cast aside my moratorium on the topic, I found myself reminiscing to my "colored friend" Sharon about the confusion that befell me as an adolescent white growing up in U.S. racist territory in the 1940s.

The drilling of hate from my family was finally pointless, I told her; it fell on deaf ears. It all seemed so very at odds with the teachings of the Methodist religion to which we belonged, i.e. "love thy neighbor," "do unto others. . ."etc. Too, beyond the mere coral conundrum, it just didn't make sense to my adolescent mind that god would create a stripe of homo sapiens that was only three-fifths human as the law, in many states, still defined African-Americans back then. I WAS allowed to play with black kids from nearby segregated neighborhoods, but not permitted to "bring them into the house." How terribly liberal!

One time, in an act of total desperation Mom told me that she wasn't really my mother, nor was Dad my "real" father. Instead, it seems that one night my folks had been driving through my hometown's (Charleston, WV) segregated "Triangle District" when a black woman had run out into the street and thrust just-born me into the car while my folks were stopped at a traffic light. But instead of freaking me out ("I ain't no n-----r, I ain't no n----r"), I thought that this was just about the coolest---was there "cool" back then?---thing I'd ever heard. I was only seven or eight when this faux info was imparted to me, but I quickly got hip---was there "hip" back then?---that I was being had. Too bad it wasn't true. (This pathetic ploy, by the way, was from an attendee of one of the best women's colleges in the country. No mere redneck she. . .or so it would seem.)

I palavored on-and-on to my above-noted friend Sharon a bit more, then brought it to an end with the observation that there were probably many, many other young Caucasians in the south (and even north) who found themselves in a similar ethical quagmire growing up in those (more)  racist times. "Yes," Sharon shot back almost immediately, "but they could always climb down off the cross if they chose to do so."

I still haven't stopped laughing.

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