Saturday, March 19, 2016

A long post for an old friend

"You know what started to raise the plight of the black man? World War Two," said a friend of mine.

I turned to him and said, "I do believe you are right."

Later on someone said to me that we have spent billions on all sorts of social programs and haven't gotten very results.

I told him he was right. Adtually it is pretty obvious.

A few years back when I was visiting my hometown an old classmate (class of '69) commented that our (then) small town was really sheltered from a lot of city drug and race problems.

I replied that if my parents had opted to stay in Dorchester, where I spent the first three or four years of my life, that my attitudes may very well be different.

The then small town I lived in suffered few if any major drug and race problems to speak of. I was fortunate. The small handful of minorities were simply a part of the town and nobody gave it much thought. We played and lived together fairly unaware of any differences. We were always welcome in each other's homes with  no second thought.

It actually wasn't until I got into the Army when I had to deal with racial differences and I avoided it for the most part by treating everyone fairly.

Looking through things there are a lot of people that seem to think that the racial problems this country has suffered involving the black community is mainly a Southern thing. The South has been blamed for a lot of it over the years but that's not entirely true. You can see that in Boston and that carries on to a certain extent even today. 

After the Civil War many Blacks moved north and the blacks that moved into the Boston area were willing to work cheaper than the Irish and cost the newly arrived Irish jobs. 

While historically the Irish are a warm and kind people, the inverse holds true when they are slighted. Someone referrred to Irish Alzheimer's once. It's where you forget everything but the grudges. This has passed on through the generations and until recently Southie, the Irish enclave of Boston, was pretty much off limits to blacks after dark.

But let's go back further than that. Let's go back to about 1865 when the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.

In effect the government cut an entire race loose and gave them their freedom. On paper this is all well and good but the reality of it is that is that we gave an entire race freedom without the tools required to work with it.

Educating blacks in the South prior to the Civil War was illegal. The entire plantation system was set up so as to keep the then slaves entirely dependent on  plantation life. They worked in the homes and fields and in return were fed and taken care of. They needed no education nor much of anything else. They worked and were taken care of in return.

Releasing people from bondage with no education is and was  really a ticket for failure. It should be noted that General Sherman during his march to the sea advised blacks to stay where they were simply for this reason. He understood that the now free blacks were likely not in a position to be able to support themselves.

Incidentally the stories of beatings and mistreatment of slaves is very much overplayed. When you stop and think of it for a minute and look at things clearly and clinically, beating someone doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

 You have to look at it like a business man. A field hand slave was actually a machine to do field work, a machine that hadn't been invented yet. Slaves were expensive and were not to be abused. A beating could easily result in infection and back then before miracle drugs, death.

Also savvy plantation owners knew that treating people well generally results in a better productivity.

Also by the 1860s slavery as an institution was beginning to die. If it had been left alone it would have likely died within 20 or 30 years. Farming technology was in its infancy then and starting to build up s head of steam.

A slave could only do a man's work in a day and required food, shelter, medical attention and such 24/7, 365 days a year. This was fairly expensive. A machine could be parked in the barn when not needed and simply sit there costing nothing. In addition to this, a machine could do the work of several men in a whole lot less time. 

By 1880ish slavery would likely have disappeared simply because it was too expensive.

Still, history says that as of 1865 virtually all of the slaves were freed. 

With that a large number of uneducated people found themselves without a way of taking care of themselves. What they wound up doing varied.

Some stayed on the plantation as hired labor, some became sharecroppers, some moved north and some headed west.

Some of them enlisted in segregated army units and a couple of the colored regiments became famous in the west and later on during the Spanish American war.

Others became cowboys. It's not commonly known but about a third of the cowboys were black. You never see it on the silver screen, though.

Boston, New York and Chicago absorbed a large number of these people and in Boston and New York they fought with new immigrants for jobs. Often they were met with predjudice because they wound up fighting over scarce jobs.

A handful of them took advantage of the Homestead act and farmed. Others worked in the mid west as farm hands and laborers. In many cases these people were accepted over time and simply assimilated into the community.

All in all it was not really a good time for blacks in general. Getting cut loose from the plantation probably wasn't a very easy row to hoe.

In the South the blacks that stayed faced segregation and Jim Crow laws.

It has been said that the South hated blacks collectively but loved them individually while up north they loved blacks collectively but hated them individually. 

While the blacks in the South faced Jim Crow, the blacks that moved north faced a different kind of predjudice in the cities.

All in all it was a hard time for blacks in general although a number of them managed to assimilate and become successful. 

When World War 2 broke out the  army still had segregated units. The Navy also had their ways. Any blacks that served in the Navy during WW2 probably served food. This was actually a step backward because during WW1 there had been a small number of black rated men in the Navy.

Blacks during WW2 for the most part served in service units. The Red Ball Express that served to supply the army that swarmed across Europe was manned mainly by blacks.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a segregated Air Corps fighter unit that served with pride and distinction escorting bombers in Europe. In a typical display of poor pollicy, the white bomber pilots that wanted to buy the fighter jocks a drink for saving their bacon were turned away. The clubs were segregated.

Black combat units fared between excellent and dismal depending on the leadership. The army issued a statement that black units required good leadership to be successful in combat. The statement was hogwash because all units require good leadership to be successful.

Still, the Second World War was the turning point for the black man. Most people don't see it but I believe it to be true.

While there were few commissioned blacks in the service during WW2, in the segregated units there was a need for NCOs. They had to come from someplace and they were promoted from the ranks like they were in all other units. NCOs provide the grass roots leadership in any military organization.

In general, Black NCOs served well. This was actually the planting of the seeds of the future Civil Rights movement of the late 50s and 60s.

For the first time blacks had colectively been put in positions of responsibility and they had succeeded. There was to be no turning back. These NCOs had proven themselves as being capable. They had proven themselves to the point where in 1948 Harry Truman desegregated the services. 

I'm going to interject something here. It's as good of a spot as any. Racism is very easy to figure out. All you have to do is follow the money. In Boston after the Civil war color had nothing to do with the resentment shown to blacks. It was simply because jobs for Irish immigrants were hard to come by. Blacks would work for less money and a lot of Irish immigrants lost their jobs over it.

Of course, the employers got rich because their labor costs went down. 

If you dig deep enough, at the bottom of every racial situation you'll always find someone getting rich at someone else's expense. Racism also serves to be a tool for dividing people.

If you think the system really wants the people united then guess again. If you think that a politician that speaks of uniting Americans is telling the truth then I have some nice land to sell you in Florida. People are a lot easier to control when they are fighting with each other.

They are a HELL of a lot easier to control when they are disarmed but that's another issue entirely. Incidentally the first gun control laws were aimed at blacks to keep them from being able to protect temselves. For that matter, Dr. King kept a shotgun handy. I digress.

Between 1945 and 1950 it seems to me like everyone took a break and recovered from the war as best they could. I suppose I can mention that right after the war the Battle of Athens, TN took place. The first casualty was a black man that was gut shot when he walked in to vote.

In the 50s the murmuring of the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement started. A lot of the people involved were black veterans that had served in the military. They had tasted responsibility and success and simply wanted their fair share.

I won't get into the Civil Rights movement of the late 50s and early sixties. It's been hashed and rehashed countless times.
I'm going to go straight to the Civil Rights Act signed by President Johnson who I consider no real friend of the black man.

If you look at the congressional voting record of one Lyndon Baines Johnson you will see that he voted against civil rights for blacks his entire career. In fact, on board Air Force one he was quoted as saying: "When I sign this bill I'll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years!"

That doesn't sound like the man was any friend of the black man any way you slice it. It sounds like he signed it simply to garner votes. 

While the act should have covered all forms of government, and it did. It guarenteed the rights of all Americans to vote and be treated fairly by all forms of government. Still, it went too far. They had no right wandering into the private sector and trying to force things. 

To clarify a point here I'll add that as soon as any private organization or business takes government money they automatically open their doors to anyone.

While the act was probably written with the best of intentions it backfired a bit by creating animosity. It created animosity by telling private owners how to run their businesses. 

While people will likely obey the law if they have to they will be very grudging about it. They will generally do all they can to circumvent it and as a result the intended result is not likely to take place. Like it or not, not a whole lot of people like being told what to do, who to like or what to eat. It just won't happen like the government thinks.

Back in the day just about every business place used to have a sign that said proudly, "We have the right to refuse service to anyone".

There was something to be said for that, and there still is. 

There is a scene in the old movie 'Giant' when Rock Hudson's character gets knocked on his ass in Sarge's Diner for defending a family of Mexicans that the owner is refusing service to. 

Sarge didn't want to serve them. Fair enough. His business, his rules.

Bick Benedict (Hudson's character) meddled and got knocked on his ass and thrown out. Fair enough.

Of course, in Piccolo's Diner everyone is welcome not only because I refuse to see ethnic differences but because everyone's money is the same color. Sarge really wasn't much of a businessman when you think about it.

On the other hand, Sarge has a right to go broke.

Of course, Piccolo's diner, because it caters to everyone is likely to be successful. Because he is open to everyone it is pretty likely that he's going to get a lot of minority business there. 

Another interjection. I have to state that even though I will defend Sarge's right to not serve people, I certainly would not eat there. I have the right to eat where I want. If the place won't serve my friend they won't serve me, either.

Then again I am one of those people that will defend the right of the Klan to hold a rally on the town square only to show up and throw vegetables at them.

The truth is that there is no real dignity being able to sit at the Woolworth's lunch counter simply because the law says you can. Nobody wins in that case. Everyone is uncomfortable and nobody really wants to be there. It is a forced situation and is really meaningless. It's kind of like being allowed to play ball with the bigger kids because Jimmy's mother said you can't play ball in the yard unless you let little Timmy play.

I could never figure out why Dr. King fought that stupid battle that way. I would have simply opened a soul food kitchen a block or two away, open to everyone. Good food cuts through a lot of things.

As I write this I can picture Bull Conner waddling out of the  place with a toothpick between greasy lips.

Several years ago one of those so-called fraternal organizations was ordered by the court to open its doors to minorities. Bad call. It was a private organization that took no money from government.

We're back to having Jimmy's mother forcing the big kids to let little Timmy play ball with them. Members of the club that previously would have welcomed minorities are now angry at having their right to pick and choose taken away from them. This adds to the resentment. It's just like the Woolworths lunch counter. Why would someone even bother to force their way into a place they are not wanted to begin with.

Many moons ago I walked up to a contractor looking for work. He simply asked me, "What can you do for me?"

I told him I could I could make money for him by selling the fruits of my labor. That got his attention. He started me at $15/hour but when payday rolled around he paid me $17.50 and a couple of weeks later it went up to $20. It should be noted that this was back in 1984. That was a lot of meoney back then.

Why? Because I was making money for him. He didn't hire me because I was white. He hired me because I could frame an apartment building quickly and efficiently. 

The ability to provide a service and or make money is generally what conquers racism. If you have a foot of sewage in your basement you generally don't really give a damn what color the plumber is.

You don't care what color he is or that he has plumber's crack or smells or needs a haircut. You just want your drain unclogged. If he gets your drain unclogged you are certainly going to take his card and put it somewhere so you can call him again.

One can say that it isn't much of a victory to be standing knee deep in someone's sewage but the truth is it really is a victory. One of these days Joe Homeowner is going to need a bathroom or kitchen redone and guess who he's probably going to call? That IS a victory.

I suppose that I am rambling now so this might be a pretty good time to look at the failed Great Society programs of LBJ.

Failed programs?

Yes. Failed and failed miserably. The Aid to Dependent Children actually shook a lot of our values to the core. They gutted the American family in general and hit the Black community especially hard.

Prior to the legislation a girl that found herself unmarried and pregnant generally married the young man responsible. Prior to the legislation it was about 75%.

A'shotgun marriage' was probably not the solution. An awful lot of these marriages ended in divorce. However, it did provide for some kind of accountability. The father had to stand up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions.

A year after the program began the marriage rate dropped to about 11%.

And why not? Why hould she marry that oaf that is working at a dead end job when Uncle Sam will take better care of her than he will?

As for the father? All the little girl has to do is put 'unknown' in the name of father box and the guy gets off the hook. It would be interesting to find out how many children have birth certificates with this on it. Probably a lot more than you think.

Prior to this Great Society program there was a certain amount of shame with having a baby out of wedlock. It was seriously discouraged. These days it means little or nothing.

I heard a so-called joke once that the definition of mass confusion was Father's Day in Harlem. Truthfully, it was completely unfair. This is just as much a white problem as it is a black problem. 

LBJ stood on a porch with an older West Virginian once and told him he was going to make sure the man had something to look forward to. Five years later the man was still sitting on his porch and the American taxpayer was poorer for it.

Ben Franklin had an interesting say on the poor.

“I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

The way I see it the government made the poor poorer. What you do for yourself is what counts.

In short, government has a bad habit of taking a bad situation and making it worse. They simply ought to butt out and let us settle it. It'll work out. 

Tip O'Neal once said, "All politics is local." I do believe he was right. It starts at grass roots and trying to take it to more than that is a sure fire recipe for failure.

Government at any level should simply see that everyone has their basic rights and leave it at that.

I think I'll address so-called white privilege here.I don't see it. I have to get up in the morning, have a cuppa joe and go off to enter the rat race just like everyone else. I'm only as good as my last gig and can be replaced by someone else in a heartbeat. In that respect there really is no white privilege.

I suppose it refers to the guys in the oak paneled back room where brandy and cigars are served but they don't want me there.

They routinely invite guys like Herman Cain, though. Race matters little to get into the back room. Ability does. Herman Cain has the ability to rescue failing corporations. I don't.

In fact, we now have a black president and the last two elections we have had a couple of black candidates which says something. While I'm no particular fan of President Obama, fact remains he's in office. My beef with President Obama is that I simply don't like his politics. Fair enough.

This post has been written for a black friend of mine that has recently retired from a career in the government sector.

He came from a poor background and took his GI bill and ran with it. He got himself an education and has been successful. He didn't get rich financially but he has done OK.

It started over his fears of what could happen to his grandchildren in dealings with police.

The truth is, Old Buddy that the 'talk on how to deal with The Man' isn't a only a black thing. Most fathers give it to their sons at one time or another. It really isn't a whole lot different.

The truth is that the average working stiff black man has a LOT more in common with the average working white guy. We all have to get up and go to work and earn a living.

As for your grandkids, if you have done your job they'll likely have no real problems. If you look at the victims of overzealous policemen you'll find the victims have done something wrong to begin with.

You simply teach your children how to behave themselves and I know you have.


To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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