Tag Archives: change

Prep Boys – Introduction (1st revision)

29 Aug

1960s Collage Montage Of Many Heads by Vintage Images†

 

Prep Boys

By L. Stewart Marsden

Introduction

The cauldron of change had begun to boil. It had long simmered since the end of the war, above the coals and ashes of shallow graves, where man after man, boy after boy, had fallen in battle and were thinly veiled by dirt and time. The famous fights: Bull Run, Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg; and the lesser knowns: Hoke’s Run, Kessler’s Cross Lanes and Ivy Mountain all ground sinew and bone and blood and heart into thick, fertile mulch –– enough to spread across the cotton fields of a thousand plantations in the South.

For some, the gruel of that black-iron pot smelled hearty and enticing, bringing water to the mouth and a pang in the belly. The appetite was stirred by a waft of possibility, and those who would feast on change were impatient, constantly repeating “Is it ready?” 

Still others, fearing it should not be served out wholesale because of stomachs unused to fine cuisine, or so they said, warned it was not time, was not ready to be served, and they managed to cover the gaping mouth of the cauldron with a heavy, nearly impenetrable lid.

But like anything heating up on the stove that is covered with a lid, it was bound to boil over, and boil over it eventually did.

Multiple wars later, in far away lands against enemies obvious and not-so-obvious, during a time when the country had rested and refreshed from its addiction to lead and scold the world; when the pissing contest between Our Way and the Wrong Way had escalated to shoe banging and nuclear checks; the gruel began to seep under the lid.

 

†Until that time, America –– the one that “we” counted –– was scrubbed white and commercial-perfect. Only those of color who were adorned with white culture were included, and then sparsely, as though a tell-tale spicing of the stew, and barely noticeable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charleston, SC

21 Jun

Charleston, SC

By L. Stewart Marsden

The Old Slave Mart Museum of Charleston, SC, is located on Chalmers Street, about eleven blocks south of Calhoun Street, where Mother Emanuel AME Church stands.

Historians cite close to forty percent of the slave trade from Africa to the thirteen colonies came through Charleston.

According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an article published by PBS.org

100facts_slaveslanded_lgThe most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

 

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.

[http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us/]

outsidemarket-287x300Between the years 1525 and 1808, when foreign slave trading was outlawed in Charleston [http://oldslavemartmuseum.com/charleston-slavery/], one can extrapolate that close to 135,000 Africans, primarily from the west coast of the continent, found themselves on the auction stage to be sold into slavery.

Interesting that Gates, a black man, uses the term only about 388,000.

More about 21-year-old Dylann Roof is slowly rising to the surface of the media blitz. And, when his profile is compared to those of other 21-year-old males, he is clearly an outlier. His opinions, biases, and compulsion to do harm are not those of the vast majority. As he might have wished himself to become somewhere in his skewed perception of the world, he is the exception to the rule.

Roof and his ilk are out there, embedded throughout our nation. We could categorize him in a Venn diagram with Islamic radicals, Christian radicals, and political radicals. He would share space with the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Eric Rudolph and James Holmes. He would be elbow-to-elbow with proponents of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. He would share his space with the KKK, Nazi Germany, and a host of infamous groups.

FDR said during his tenure as POTUS, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As a white man who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s, I have seen a lot of change. Hailing from Minnesota, my dad often said he wasn’t prejudiced against black. “We didn’t have any in Minnesota,” he would allege. Hence his innocence. But along the way by his side, I heard enough to know otherwise.

I was a Republican and rooted for the Republicans because my parents were Republicans. As a kid, it would be like growing up in a household of Mets fans, ergo you were a Met fan.

So was I also biased due to my parents’ attitudes towards blacks?

Mom hired black maids to help keep the house, do the laundry, cook the meals and look after the children so that she could be a part of the Garden Club and the other socialite groups in our southern town. The importance of that was more so because she was a Yankee by birth. Dad’s and her financial success mitigated that fact somewhat.

Mom learned to count the silverware because “it goes missing.” The terms “shiftless,” “non-trustworthy,” and a host of other stereotypes passed to her mindset due to friends’ and neighbors’ input.

When I think about that now, I wonder she could trust her children to be reared by these shiftless, non-trustworthy sorts. Seems a bit counter-intuitive looking back.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown was my and my brother’s surrogate mother. She reminded me of the Aunt Jemima illustration — a large, round and brown woman with thick kinky hair. Her bosom was the heart of consolation when needed. Her homespun remedies were as effective as any store-bought medicine (try slicing a potato and wrapping it in a damp cloth and putting it on a feverish brow).

There was a distinct difference between Virgie Mae and my mom. I could talk trash to Virgie Mae and get away with it. I fired her on many occasions, though the firings never stuck.

There was a hierarchy.

Schools I attended were lily-white until junior high. There was no busing. The city was laid out in stereotypical quadrants, with the two quadrants below the railroad tracks occupied by the less-fortunate (as they were politely referred to) and the blacks.

Water fountains were segregated, as were the bathrooms.

Signs declaring “Whites Only” didn’t exist to my memory. It was implied that if a store was on Main Street or other street frequented by whites, “coloreds” were not allowed.

The Paramount Theater had a side entrance for blacks, and those moviegoers climbed steps to a small second balcony. They were monitored for disrupting noise.

I was in the ninth grade before I played basketball with a black student. He was the lone black person on the team. He dressed and showered with us, and traveled to away games on the same bus as we did. Our coach, who we called “Stumpy J,” must have stuck his neck out pretty far to let the guy on the team. The student didn’t start. We were an all-white starting five.

As I grew older, the derogatory words, comments and jokes began to pry into my world. I won’t repeat them here.

Then Little Rock.

And Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X’s assassination.

The assassination of JFK.

King’s assassination.

RFK’s assassination.

George Wallace.

Televised marches and police responses.

The Freedom Riders.

The KKK.

Greensboro sit-in.

Vietnam.

Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

And more.

A vortex that sucked all I knew at the time and spun it so fast and hard it was like having your bell rung in a boxing ring.

Then gradual change.

The first black mayor of Atlanta.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” types of films.

Busing and integration of schools at all grade levels.

Affirmative action.

More blacks elected to local, state and national positions.

Black studies at the college level in what were predominantly white schools.

Professional sports cracked open to receive black athletes.

Black personalities coming to the forefront in a variety of areas.

So

What

Is

Going

On?

Was no progress realized? Have no changes occurred? Are we, as some suggest, going back to Jim Crow days?

Are white Americans, who will not soon, if not already, become less in overall numbers than “people of color,” digging in and refusing the tide of change?

Is there a tide?

All I know is things are different for me. Perhaps not as much as I’d like. I still live a rather secluded life as a white person. I know the advantages I have today largely have to do with the fact I was born white and to white parents.

I feel the stigma of my whiteness when a black instructor or FB “friend” states, “You are racist,” as though it automatically comes with my pigmentation. Perhaps I am. But I’m also addicted to cigarettes, and I haven’t smoked one since the late 1980’s.

I feel the helplessness of the repeating news stories of blacks seemingly accosted by both white and black law enforcement because of their color and where they live.

It is difficult not to agree with a pervading attitude that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know what the solutions are. I only know that calmer heads need to prevail for meaningful dialogue and change to occur.

Wow! More change needed. We still fear one another. Thought that one got checked off years ago.

Then Charleston.

We were wrong. The struggle is not over. We might have seen the mountain, but we are far from conquering its summit.

Notice, I said “we.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 21 June, 2015

Ah! No matter how things change . . .

12 May

 

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Ah! No matter how things change . . .

By L. Stewart Marsden

Dophins’defensive back Don Jones joins an ever-growing list of spotlighted celebrities and notables to be scorched in the headlines as a result of non-politically correct comments. Some made publicly, or through social media, or that were revealed as private comments.

I won’t rehash the headlines. Jones’ tweet about the recently, self-announced gay NFL football recruit Michael Sam, or Charles Barkley’s recent slur on the women of San Antonio, or Donald Sterling’s covertly taped and then released racist remarks, or Paula Dean’s admission of using the n-word, or Mel Gibson’s or Alec Baldwin’s biased remarks.

I could go further, and dredge up more muck as a result of the internet and its incredible capacity to never forget.

America. Land of the free, and home of the brave.

Yet, from its very inception, corrupted to the core with anti-somebody sentiments. The Irish, the Polish, the Germans, the Italians, the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the Hispanics, the blacks, the LGBTs, the Catholics, the Muslims, the Jews, the Yankees, the whoever-you-want-to-plug-in-after-the-next-comma group.

We have integrated and bussed and everything else we have thought of doing to eradicate and eliminate racial, gender, religious, political, economic and sexual preference biases.

Where do we go for teaching and examples? To find out how to COEXIST? The ideals are fine. The pathway is not-so-fine.

I took a course in college on racism. I found out, according to the instructor, that if I was white, I was a racist.

That may be true. I grew up in the south in the 50s and 60s. In my hometown I remember seeing bathrooms and water fountains For Whites Only, or for Coloreds. The movie houses were similarly segregated, and blacks found their way up to an uppermost and very small balcony. I never knew where they went to buy a ticket.

The schools were also segregated. I never shared a classroom with a person of another color until junior high school. Never played on a sports team with anyone other than whites, again until junior high.

That person was as fascinated with me as I was with him — especially in the locker room. It was the basketball team. The irony was that he wasn’t very good at basketball. See? That’s a racist thought in and of itself.

My favorite comedian was Bill Cosby. Notice I didn’t say my favorite black comedian, but my favorite comedian, period.

I learned all of his routines. I watched Cosby Kids on Saturdays religiously, and laughed at Fat Albert along with all children who watched.

I watched as Cosby broke the stereotypical image of blacks (to whites) by portraying Dr. Huxtable, with a lawyer wife and intelligent kids.

Nobody said, are you paying attention to this? Do you know the significance of this? Nobody told me I must adapt my expectations, or my perceptions.

They just changed. Or, maybe they didn’t change as much as they grew and matured.

It is natural to grow into something you were not at the beginning.

So, my instructor said I was a racist.

To her racism must be something like a tattoo that cannot be undone without painful and abrasive treatments.

Yet, the roots of racism are deep, apparently. And they exists in all peoples. Like a weed in the driveway that you douse with Weed-B-Gone. Inevitably, it rears its ugly head again.

Did I ever tell and laugh at racist jokes? Yes. Do I tell and find them funny now? No.

Again, where do we look for guidance and examples? Washington? Uh, don’t think so.

The pulpits across America? Judging from the lack of mixed congregations, again, probably not.

Schools? As idealistic as they want to be, again, no. Not now, at least. There are those feeble attempts to educate, as in the classic classroom prejudice experiment based on the color of students’ eyes. Not enough.

The novel Black Like Me was an innovative attempt by a white man to walk a mile in the shoes of the black community.

But it wasn’t a bible of reform initiative. Its effects were kind of like the effect of a BB gun against a Patton tank.

I won’t lie. I don’t have shoulders strong or broad enough to shoulder the mistakes and sins white people have promulgated on various groups of people, including blacks. We have, by the way, been an equal-opportunity discriminator of groups for centuries.

I am more conscious of that tendency to discriminate, though. And where I’m not, my children let me know.

So when whoever it is spouts off angrily, or in a fury, and says something that is picked up on Twitter or Facebook or whatever media is trending the information, my reaction is one of disappointment, but not so much surprise. As a society, we have not yet earned the reaction of surprise.

I think what is scarier than a Baldwin or a Barkley misstep (even though Mr. Charles Barkley has said he will never apologize — Hillary? Where is your reaction to that?), are the thousands or more who make similar statements not in anger or in fury.

And those people are in every group, every race, every religion. Everywhere.

Bottom line: I know I’m no saint regarding bigotry or racism. It’s there. I work at it. But, sometimes . . .

This media display of individual insensitivity will continue. Count on it. But resist the urge to pile on. Remember the adage: when you finger point at someone, you’ve got three pointing back at you.

And remember what that guy said: Let the person who hasn’t sinned throw the first stone.

 

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Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 May, 2014

 

Moving in

25 Apr

It takes a bit of time
a bit of change
and a bit of rearranging
things that wore their marks
into the carpets.
Striations on the walls
here and there,
a slightly foreign scent
upon the air,
but,
soon,
over time the change occurs
and, of a sudden —
like a blur —
the moving in is done.

Ah, Autumn!

13 Aug

 

Ah, Autumn!
by L. Stewart Marsden

The Snap! of cheek red’ning chill;
The Crackle! of gold and sable bills underfoot;
The Pop! of jeweled hills in the late day sun;
I love the first bowlful of Autumn,
Poured out and ready to be
Devoured.