How I Saw the Light About Race (Part IV)
I don’t have a race realist awakening story. I’ve always been a race realist, because I was born in the Deep South, have lived here all my life, and my ancestry goes back to the earliest English colonies: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. I myself am from Alabama. Like other Southern white people, I have always known Negroes for what they are.
It’s the liberal and progressive types who are jolted when their illusions about race are destroyed. Consider one Lorena Hickok, for example. Miss Hickok grew up in South Dakota and was an Associated Press reporter during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. During the Great Depression, she traveled throughout the country reporting on the problems of unemployment, poverty, and miserable living conditions of millions of Americans. Lorena was what we would today call a leftist, feminist, and a progressive. She would never have described herself as a racist. Yet, when she reached Savannah, Georgia, she wrote:
“Savannah must be a little afraid of the Negroes. More than half the population of the city is Negro—and such Negroes! Even their lips are black, and the whites of their eyes! They’re almost as inarticulate as animals. They are animals. Many of them look and talk and act like creatures barely removed from the ape.”
I worked for decades in the field of public education, as an architect and consultant. My watershed experience came in the mid-1960s when I was doing a “magnet school” architectural feasibility study. We were looking at some inner-suburban schools north of New York City, which were then tipping demographically because of white flight. In earlier years, I had known these same schools as a grade-schooler, since some of my friends attended them. Back then, the schools had been free of disruption. However, on my inspection visit, I found near bedlam even in the kindergarten and primary grades, as six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds roamed the classrooms, shouting profanity at one another, throwing things, and scrawling on chalkboards while teachers seemed withdrawn, unable or unwilling to restore control.
The next year, while doing code-compliance studies for the dilapidated buildings of a private country day school in western Massachusetts, I noticed a sharp contrast with the New York public schools. Although the private school’s physical facilities were sub-standard, the classroom environment (both students and teachers) was faultless and actual learning was taking place. Neither the facilities (much better in the public schools) nor the class size (larger in the private school) could explain the difference.
Sigurd of Maryland:
I came to the US in 1959 as an 11-year old Hungarian refugee, resettling in Buffalo, New York. My family had previously spent almost three years in the outskirts of Vienna, Austria. We arrived in the US at the Newark airport, where I laid eyes on a black for the first time. Imagine, there were zero blacks in Hungary in the early 1950s, and I had seen none in Austria in three years. My younger brother and I marveled at the fact that blacks actually existed; we had seen them only in books.
Growing up on the mostly Italian-American west side of Buffalo, we seldom saw blacks, even in cars: Buffalo was that segregated. I went to a small all-boys Catholic high school, where we had three blacks in my graduating class of 111. The public schools on the west side had almost no blacks.
I entered college at the State University of New York system in the mid-1960s. The liberal barrage of the media that had begun in the ‘60s had influenced me, and I had developed an “open mind.” In college and in the workplace later, I had many friendships of sorts with black fellow students and co-workers. I liked their carefree, fun attitude, but at the end of the day, we all went home to our own neighborhoods, and that was fine.
As I began my 37-year career with a large federal agency, my views toward blacks began to shift. My eyes were opened by working closely with many more than I had been used to. My job was technical, in the realm of social insurance, and required an exacting attention to detail. I learned that, with very few exceptions, blacks have a stunningly low capacity for detail. While this was costly to the taxpayer, it did not impede the careers of the blacks I observed; they were actually promoted with unconscionable frequency, ahead of me and of many other much more qualified candidates. They seemed to accept undeserved promotions as their right, as though they were entitled to whatever they might be given. Also, without exception, the blacks I worked with distrusted white people, which prevented many of the more capable ones (who were otherwise generally decent people) from speaking out against their less decent and sometimes criminal fellow blacks.
These observations eventually robbed me of any remaining “compassion” I once had. What had started as good working relationships became incredible frustration and finally to extreme bitterness at the end of my career. I am very happy to be retired now, away from that federal “Disney World of multiculturalism.”