Monday, January 16, 2006

Thoughts With Thanks to Dr. King

I had gone to Atlanta to look for a job. Traffic came to a halt on one of the overpasses in the city. People were getting out of their cars and peering over the edge. I did likewise.

My first impression was the crowd of people choking the street below. Approaching the railing the scene below came into view. There was the rough wagon drawn by a mule and bearing the coffin of the slain civil rights leader.

It was totally unexpected and an image which I shall never forget. I had watched the civil rights movement from a sympathetic distance but now I was privledged to come face to face with the struggle.

I had known people of color. The first, when I was no more then 5 years old, was Moses brought from somewhere in Africa to speak at my Grandfathers church. I remember being quite excited at this visitor from a place, which at the time, seemed as remote as the patriarch whose name he bore.

We moved from the small Indiana town to a very segregated St. Petersburg, Florida several years later. On the Gulf beaches where I grew up black people were subject to an arrest with prejudice if they were caught on the streets after sundown with no good reason for being there. They lived in a prescribed area of town and contact with other then my WASP friends was unheard of. Even Jewish people were banned from many clubs.

When I joined the Air Force my perspective changed considerably. Integration of the armed services has done as much to eradicate racism as anything. It was during basic training I didn't check the roster of night guard duty at the barracks and as a result was ordered to stand duty all night rather then the usual four hour shift. Halfway through I was startled when a voice said, "Hit the rack, I'll take over for you". It was a black fellow from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I'll never forget the kindness of that fellow sacrificing his own rest for a white guy he barely knew. If I had been subjected to the injustices that he and his brothers had endured, I would have stayed in bed.

After I was discharged and returned to St. Pete it was while working at a local department store I met Carl. He was hired as dishwasher at the stores lunch counter. Soon he was promoted as the token black to the sales floor and we became friends and remain so to this day some forty years later. When I was driving a cab at night in the late sixties we'd meet up at the local Dobb's House after the clubs closed and the taxi business slowed. When I started showing up by invite at his families cookouts it was a strange experience for them and myself. I was soon considered one of the family. We would go to the black clubs and I was never made to feel uncomfortable, this white guy trying to dance with the sisters. It was not long after I started dating his sister in law, a relationship that lasted for almost twenty years. Our breakup was more for personal rather then racial reasons.

It was soon after I met the love of my life. She says she was disappointed that she was not the first black woman I'd known but she's by far the best person, black or white, I've been blessed to be close to. Her fathers mother insisted and made sure all her children had a college education and they all did at Carolina A. & T. where her Uncle J.P. was an instructor until his retirement. Her father was a cartographer for the government and one of her cousins is a eminent Baltimore attorney. These are not exceptions but the norm for a great number of African-Americans. I have often wondered at the missed potential of this country because of racism. DeToqueville in his classic "Democracy in America" prophesies that racism would be an almost insurmountable problem for the United States. I guess he hadn't counted on the likes of Dr. King.

I'm so thankful for all the people of color that have enriched my life. I'm so thankful for the sacrifices made by people like Dr. King. When it comes down to it, he did as much for white people as for his own. When I think back to the days of "white only" it seems like a time that should be remembered for the limitations it put not only on accommodations but also on our humanity. His adherence to change through non-violence is a creed that would serve us all well. The most amazing thing to me is the forgiveness displayed by black people to a white race which has been and still is to some degree, so inhospitable.


Blogger Bonita said...

Just a wonderful post, Dave. I've had opportunity to review some of the text of his speeches during the Viet Nam era, and what he said then still applies today:

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered . . .

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just . . ."

8:47 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

This is one of the things about Dr King that I disagreed with. He was a closet communist and these remarks pretty well confirm it. Dr. King did not realize or maybe had selective memory loss about foreign capital. It was foreign capital that developed the USA and a large percentage of the profits went back to the capitals owners. The foreign investment from the USA has served to develop countries and the reason they are exploited is not because of USA capital investment but because of the leaders of these countries.

Capitalism has provided a better life for its people than any form of government or economic system ever attempted. Without capitalists who are willing to work, save , and invest there would be no economy except for worker bee types of socialism and communism. And, without the right to protect property and hold it capitalism cannot succeed.

The countries of the earth that have tried communism and socialism have either fell or else being held together by a dictator. Some European countries claim to be socialist but depend on their inhouse capitalists to keep the economy going-albeit a stagnant economy, ie France, Holland, Sweden, Norway, et al. No venture capital is entering these countries and it appears that they will cruble under the weight of socialism althiough the Germans in their last election appear to be trying to turn their economy around by supporting a capitalist led parliment. But it may be too little too late.

10:44 AM  
Blogger The MacBean Gene said...

Wow, my mind fairly boggles.
I agree that we must return to a society based more on human values but at the same time embracing those things which made our country great. According to an article I read in the Wilson Quarterly many of the early twentieth century capitolists felt a responsibility to remember human values.
Much of the Federalist Papers is devoted to the question of the necessity of property rights. The framers of the Constiturion attempted to limit our desire to corrupt those rights to our own advantage. They realized also that only objective morality would ensure the continued success of this nation.
Socalism and communism governments are doomed in a free society by the very nature of those political systems. They can only survive in an authortiaian form of government.
The pernicous gradual emasculation of our Constitution by the judical system is tragic. Only when there is a transcendent underlying principle can a nation survive.
I'd be intrested, Guy in more explanation of foreign capitol developing the USA.

11:19 AM  
Blogger GUYK said...

I know about some of it first hand. Many of the great ranches of the west were owned and developed by Enlish business men. A lot of the coal mines in the east were developed by English capital and hard rock miners were broughtin from Wales to work the mines. Of the Oil companies Shell Oil comes to mind-a Dutch and British comany that is now primarily Dutch. In the early days of the colonies all the capital came from England. During the revolution some came from France although the war bankrupted some in the colonies who financed it. When Texas joined the union in 1846 the Republic of Texas owed Britian some three million dollars. In fact that is the reason that Texas was permitted to keep title to all public land unlike other states that have joined the union. Texas sold off the land to pay off Britian.

There is a multitude of foreign capital in the USA today. Many of our big name businesses are owned by capitalists in Europe and Japan and the Saudis have billions of dollars invested in our economy.

In the Tampa area there is a chain of convience stores called Texaco Star Interprises that once belonged to the Saudis. May still belong to them but they sell Shell gas now. Shell bought Texico. Then of course there is the Chryler/Bentz alliance and Sony who owns so much of the intertainment business. Foreign capital in itself is not a bad thing whether it be American venture capitalist in third world countries or foreign capital invested here. Oh, I foget about Citco-a Venuezalean company. Just think, every time you buy a gallon of Citco gasoline at the 7-11 store part of the profit is going to prop up a socialist president.

11:57 AM  
Blogger The MacBean Gene said...

Thanks for the background, Guy. I'm aware of the foreign investment at present but I didn't have any idea about the history.
At least we don't have 7-11's aound here and I don't recall seeing many Citgo stations. I usually buy gas at "the market" in Meadows of Dan where it seems to be cheaper then most places which, thank God, is owned by locals.

2:17 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

American venture capitalists have been hit with a bad rap in a lot of places overseas. Some claim the profits they take are obscene. Personally, I wouldn't risk any money in most of these countries for the profit offered. Most of the third world has a record of nationalizing business about the time it starts paying off. The oil fields of the miseast were developed by foreign capital and the nationalized. But the Arabs realized they didn't have the know how to run them and made a deal with the major oil comapanies to operate the fields and refineries. The Iranians were smart enough to send a lot of people to the USA and Europe for school and when they nationalized were able to run the oil fields and refineries. Mexico nationalized the oil fields after they were developed my American money--then had to hire American, Dutch, and Brits to run them for years.

Consequently, venture capitalists try to get their money back with all the profit they can get as soon as they can get it. And even then they often lose their butts.

5:23 PM  

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