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Friday, April 11, 2014

Truth or dare









I.

I was beaten up (shoved, kicked, punched, and slapped) at Meany Middle School the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin King, Jr. on April 5, 1968.

Black students roamed the hallways and bathrooms and school grounds attacking anyone who was not black.  Outside the building, they carried umbrellas and were poking non-blacks.  

At the time, Meany was about 1/3 Asian, 1/3 white, and 1/3 black with probably a sprinkling of Native Americans and Hispanics.

I did not defend myself.  I didn't know how. They were much bigger and stronger than me.  I do not recall any knives (or other sharp objects other than the rather blunt tips of umbrellas).

I did not scream or cry.  I was too terrified.  I will always remember the pea-green color of the tiled bathrooms, the smell of the inside of the school hallways.  The leafless trees outside.  The forest of black umbrellas outside Meany.  The eerie silence--of the blows and the victims.  No one cried out in fear or pain.  No one resisted or fought back.

And no one--teachers or staff--came to our rescue.

No one talked about it in the ensuing days, weeks, months...we (most of us?) went back to school the next day as if nothing had happened.




II.

During the following years I was repeatedly beaten up in the Central Area, in particular at least once at Garfield High School.   In one instance, across from Ezell's Chicken, while I was waiting at the bus-stop on Jefferson, a bunch of young black Americans suddenly ran up and started punching me, hard enough to knock me down to the sidewalk, my books spilling in all directions.  I remember being on all four fours, my whole body being hit in a quick flurry of blows.

At the end of it, a black girl who had been watching everything at the bus-stop helped me to pick up my scattered books.

Eventually the bus came and I limped on, eyes moistened, shaken. No broken bones, just bruises and small cuts.  I went home.

At the time I was barely a teen-ager.

No one said anything about what happened at school or in the newspapers or anywhere in the community that I know of.





III.

For 45 years I have carried this secret.  I still have flashbacks and nightmares, although the worst ones happened over 15 years ago.

And now no one in this city, where I was born and raised, will believe me.

I was not born with prejudices.


I did not deserve to be beaten up again and again.  Nor did any of the many, many others, who have suffered in silence.

What lesson did we learn?
Don't cry.  Don't remember.  Don't speak.   




IV.

Seattle had roughly the same proportion of African-Americans as it does now:  12% of the entire city population.   I don't know what happened at other schools with large numbers of black students but I can guess.

It makes me wonder about what happened in cities with much larger percentages of black students in 1968:   New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago...

And yet I have never encountered anywhere mention of the fact that nationwide African-American students went on the rampage attacking probably hundreds of thousands of non-black students and leaving deep psychological scars in a whole generation.

For decades I assumed that everyone in my generation knew what, for all intents and purposes, was "an open secret."

As the baby boomers reach in their sixties, as long as they remain silent, what happened to a generation will have vanished from the collective memory, leaving only souped up commemorations to Dr. King.

I have not forgotten, much less forgiven.

Let the whole story be told.

Come out of the shadows.



V.


"If you have any grievances against African-Americans, you must be racist."

Those who call others racists are often the most racist of all.




What is cowardice?







Cowardice 

is 

when you know something

but not dare not say it

because everyone else

is

against it.




Cowardice

is

giving into fear

and remaining silent.


Or what is worse,

pretending something did not happen.








Monday, April 7, 2014

Censored again: A review of The Stranger, local Seattle rag









William Blake, The Ghost of a Flea (1820), tempera on paper. Tate Gallery, London


[As predicted, five days after its appearance, the following review was removed by the zealous staff at Yelp.com, a website not noted for its ethical principles].

Putin couldn't do any better in suppressing all facts and points of view contrary to the conventional line.  The fact that The Stranger only reveals the race or ethnicity of violent attackers when they are white or Asian and never when they are African-American was troubling in and of itself.  The pattern of concealment and intentional distortion (what they would disingenuously in all likelihood call "reframing the discussion") is as deep as it is broad.




As a member of a racial minority, and a lifelong liberal, I feel compelled to write the following review.  

Bigotry by any name is still bigotry, even and especially if by hip young people.

In the marketplace of ideas,  though The Stranger may appear to be free, the real price to readers is steep: bags and bags laden with unearned guilt.


In the review of the Anita Hill documentary, The Stranger writes that "the panel [hearing the testimony of Ms. Hill] was full of white men [who] didn't want to touch the issue of race with a 10-foot pole" (April 2-8, 2014).

The newspaper would never make a statement about "a bunch of black men" in the same kind of situation.

In the past year, similar statements about juries being all-white or other organizations being mostly white have been made in this newspaper.

However, it is important not to overlook the fact that it was a Congress of 96% white men who voted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.  And it was white men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this country.

If The Stranger is so concerned about white men dominating things (in a city 70% white), why doesn't it take the lead and fire its mostly white male staff and replace them with a bunch of black men and women.   And move to Judkins Park.

Or Philadelphia, D.C., Detroit, or Atlanta, where blacks are the majority and dominate, and, ergo, social justice reigns.

Heaven help us if the younger generation take such cheap semii- tabloid-quality sources such as The Stranger as its barometer of truth and gospel of freedom.




What we do know, in my opinion, is that the belief--I am referencing cognitive and social psychology here--is the belief that white people have dominated things in the United States==has led to disaffected, destructive behavior of more than one generation of young African-Americans.

(How could Euro-Americans--up to 90% of the total population at times in our history-- possibly not dominate American culture?

What would be possibly unfair is if there were a disproportionate number of white people holding positions in a certain field. 

 No one complains that African-Americans are disproportionately represented in pro sports or in pop music or in Hollywood films.  Or the blacks control local politics in Detroit, Philadelphia, D.C., Atlanta, New Orleans, etc. (where they constitute a demographic majority).

Or would it be better than African-American men--6% of the population--dominate American culture, hold a majority in Congress?






* * * * *




The service The Stranger provides in reporting on local economic issues is invariably drowned out in the sea of expletives, puerile, grotesque humour, one-sided presentation of and careless disregard for facts, shallow moralizing, and, most of all, racial prejudice

Shock for the sake of shock...the cultural dumbing down despite the ersatz intellectualizing sandwiched inside...the shrill harshness of its attacks, the caricaturing  of others' positions...

In the sea of advertising (30+ pages of ads for pop music, restaurants, and sex at the back--I'm no prude, either), ubiquitous  potshots at the white race thrown in for good, hearty measure.

The adulation of African-Americans and all things African-American, the relegation of other minorities, especially Asian-Americans--the largest racial minority in Seattle--to an "afterthought" whole sole importance lies in their being people of color and in offering up some great spicy, cilantro-infused rice noodles and who don't seem to have viewpoints distinct from black people...the same could be said for Hispanics.

Bigotry by any other name is still bigotry.










Thursday, April 3, 2014

Both sides now





Got something to get off your chest?  Say it here.


There!   I've said it:

Being neither white nor black sometimes means that one gets it from both sides.

Whites that are prejudiced, and blacks that are prejudiced as well.

Often from blacks.

And sometimes from whites, who may be redirecting frustration towards a "safe" target (you, "your people").

I don't think this is true of the reverse, as blacks don't seem to have any problem directly blaming and expressing their resentment and anger at ("telling off") white people.

"Don't personalize it."

Try try as I might...

Who says? It works!









"Low self-esteem* never has prevented Asian-Americans from succeeding." 


Eric and Amy agree.





It works!




* the lowest among any racial/ethnic group in America according to statistics cited by Amy

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5








Call someone a "chink," it's O.K.
Call me a "cracker" or "whitey," give me a "High 5."  
I mean, it's super-cool.

OS:   Only in Seattle


Charles Demuth, "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold," 1928.










Monday, March 31, 2014

6






"6," est-ce la porte par laquelle on arrive enfin a la sagesse, ou pas du tout?






is for the decade in which I spent my childhood and for the age at which I realized my time is finite