Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Race Relations: Just One Generation Ago

During Thanksgiving break, my mom and I were talking about her days as a child and all of her experiences growing up when I realized she lived during part of the civil rights movement. So I asked her about her schooling, and she told me she went to a segregated school until 3rd grade.

She grew up in Rison, Arkansas, a rural town of about 1000 people located about an hour and a half south of Little Rock. She started 1st grade in 1964 while Rison was still a segregated school. By 1966, the school district decided to attempt integration by sending one black boy and girl in each grade from the black school across town. The black school sent their best and brightest students to Rison elementary in order to ensure that the black students would fit in as well as possible. The next year the majority of black students came to Rison elementary with a very smooth transition, and there were no skirmishes until the 1970 school year started.

In 1970, Watson Chapel, located about 20 miles away, was planning on integrating their entire school in one year. A lot of white students and their parents were very upset about this, so instead of dealing with their own integration process, many of them decided to move to Rison and go to the then fully integrated school. Obviously this wasn’t going to make the situation any easier, and the fights commenced. Most of the problems were caused by the white kids from Watson Chapel because they were would make racist remarks and try to bully the African American children. My mother recalled one incident specifically:

In the spring of 1971, some of the black girls had made the cheerleading squad much to the disgust of some white girls from Watson Chapel. The white girls ganged up on the black girls that made the squad and were bad mouthing them, so my mom stood up for them and basically said whoever was the best should be on the squad regardless of skin color. Of course they then began attacking my mother for siding with the blacks, but she wouldn’t have any of it and held her ground until they left her alone.

Most of the kids from Watson Chapel then moved back the following year, where many attended a brand new private school built exclusively for whites. After the 1970-71 school year, racial altercations were held to a minimum and many white students became friends with the black students.

While sitting in class, I’ve often felt so far removed from the civil rights movement and I forget that we are only one generation removed from segregation. I was curious if anybody else had a parent or other relative that was involved in an integration process or any other major civil rights event? Or any other comments?

Past Demons Part II

My first actual face to face with a possible racial attack was not my only one. As the year progressed, so did racism. When I was twelve years old, I went into a Rid Aid store located on the corner where drug dealers and gang violence were common. Inside, I bought myself a Pepsi because it had been a hot day and I had been raking leaves all morning trying to make some money for my sisters and me. Nevertheless, I walk outside and there stood the same cop that checked me that day in the park. I knew it was the same cop because I could not forget the face, since I was still not completely aware of the realism between society and racism. He looked at me and immediately suspected. He started to walk in my direction but I proceeded to walk away. He called me outside of my name, “boy”, he said, in his false Southern accent. I stopped, immediately turning around and talking back. “I didn’t do anything”, I said, not out of suspicion, but rather curiosity. He looked me up and down, beginning to suspect that I had done something wrong. “There has been a lot of drug dealing around here. You aren’t dealing?” He said to me. I got offended and instantly attacked, “no, but if you keep looking, you might find someone.” I knew about drugs since I was ten, but I had never been a dealer of drugs before. He stared at me and then grabbed me by my arm and threw me on the wall of the store and started frisking me for any contraband. Then, I got stereotypical. I started swearing him out of his name and screaming to the top of my lungs. My mom was at home with my grandfather and my sisters and I was a while walk down the road. He finished checking me and let me go. I was angry. By then my mom had told me about how cops handle young “thugs” of the street and they categorize you before you say anything. I held my tong and walked home. An hour later, I walked through my door upset and my grandfather started asking me where I was. I told him I went to the store, eventually getting frisked by a cop because I looked suspicious once again. He stared at me and told me a piece of advice that I have not forgotten to this day. He said, “Be careful because you never know who or what is watching you. Stay alert and always be polite, even when you know they are in the wrong.” At first, I did not understand what he meant. Only until the next time did I truly contemplate those words of wisdom and only then did I realize that racism exist, even when you are too na├»ve to know about it.

Put yourself in my position. I have dealt with racism and stereotyping my entire life. These may sound likes “stories” but they are reality. It still does exist. However, in this incident, it is more blatant that stereotyping and racism occurred and that I was a victim.

Past Demons Part I

I have encountered many personal situations that reflect on my own life involving a continuous fight for Civil Rights. Stereotypes are something that plagues our society in the decisions we make regarding another race. In my life, stereotypes created controversy, adversities, and hate. When I was eleven years old, my friends and I decided to into the park that surrounded our neighborhood of houses and play on the monkey bars. At the same time, a few cop cars were prowling the neighborhood in search for three children that were believed to be carrying weapons on them. My two friends and I, all black, became victims to the stereotypes of our culture. While the majority of the people who lived in our neighborhood were black, there was also a multitude of other races that occupied the homes. Nevertheless, one of the cop cars stopped in front of the houses that were in front of the monkey bars and on the opposite side of my house. A group of children, multi-racial group, was on the other side of us standing in front of a tree. However, the cops decided to grab my friend as he started to climb the bars and pull him over to the side in order to check him for weapons. I stood there watching, curious and confused as to what was happening during this moment in time. Then, the other cop told my other friend and me to climb down and get on our knees. My mother, who at the time was outside, saw this hellacious act occurring and rushed to our aid. Apparently, the cops were just recently informed that one of the kids had a green shirt on. I, at the time, was wearing a green shirt. However, in the crowd of children by the tree, there stood two kids that were wearing green shirts. The cops checked my friends and I, looked at the other children, and left. My mom, already outraged by this event, questioned the cops as to why they are not checking the other children in the park. One cop responds, “Because all of those kids don’t look suspicious like these three.” One might wonder how I had not forgotten this event, but this was the start of a rude awaking that I began to know as reality. I looked suspicious, is what I thought, but at my current age, I couldn’t understand why? Now, upon reflecting on this occurrence in the past, I tend to question, could this act be racial stereotyping? Meaning, there were three black kids playing in the park, wearing big, baggy clothing.

Thus, while I now understand more about the racism in the United States, particularly in the South and "ghetto" parts of states, such as where I lived in the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland, I always tend to lean forward towards racism. Both cops were white and I black. However, I never forget the fact that sometimes cops look for those who look suspicious and instantly react to situations. Thoughts? Is this situation racist or was this just a natural reaction?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Is MLK Really As Nonviolent As He Claims?

Martin Luther King is the most famous figure associated with nonviolence, but is he really as strong in his philosophy of nonviolence as he appears? Shouldn’t you practice what you preach?

As we talked about in class awhile ago, King’s house was once bombed while he was out of town; it was an attempt to kill his wife, Coretta, the person he probably cared most about. How did King respond? He had gunmen surround his house to scare off any other people who may try to attack either him or his family. While he didn’t go out and kill anyone or beat anyone up, is that really nonviolent? Just because you don’t physically injure somebody does not mean you didn’t have the intention of your gunmen shooting at people.

In addition, he endorsed the Black Power ideology, which focused on violence for self-defense; we know this because he joined Stokely Carmichael on the Meredith March Against Fear. How can you endorse Black Power and still be nonviolent? Is that even possible? According to King it must be possible. But in everything we have read, activists as well known as Stokely Carmichael, to random people we have never heard of in “Eyes on the Prize” discuss how important the idea of self-defense is to the Black Power Movement. In association with the Black Power Movement, we need to consider the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; members of this party were among the first to denounce the War in Vietnam. In his speech denouncing the war on April 4, 1967, King in essence aligned himself with the Black Panthers. It doesn’t seem possible to align with the Black Panthers and truly be nonviolent.

In this same speech, King remarks that he is denouncing the war on the grounds that it is a racist war. His other reason is that the majority of people drafted to fight in this war were those that were living in poverty, since one of the only ways to get out of the draft was to enroll in college. Enrolling in college was, and still is, expensive; the people able to enroll were those that had money, not the ones living in poverty. So in King’s mind, the war was both racist and discriminated against the poorer classes. He does discuss the violence of the war by saying he couldn’t help eliminate violence in the ghettos of America unless he stopped the violence abroad. However, he doesn’t really say that the war is immoral due to the violence it creates; he just doesn’t want the violence on the home front.

All of these factors lead me to question the reality behind King’s so called nonviolent lifestyle. What do you think? Is he nonviolent? I suppose it depends how you define nonviolence. If nonviolence is just not physically hurting people, or if it is being against every instance of violence you come across.