Forty years after the fact is a fine time to wonder if that murderous freak Charles Manson had a point, after all. This is a savage disappointment to me, having been carefully schooled in racial tolerance since about the time that my mother nearly kicked off an epic family fracture when she requested that my paternal grandfather please tone down his expressions of racial denigration in front of us kiddies. She might also have asked the same of Dad, back in the day – he was, after all, raised by Grandpa Al, who – by his talk – couldn’t abide Negro-Black-African-Americans, or whatever the current socially correct term is – and Grandma Dodie, who couldn’t stand Jews. That their favorite entertainer of all time was Sammy Davis, Jr., was just one of those amusing ironies – that and the fact that they were always perfectly cordial to those of my parent’s friends and mine who were Jewish, and/or not by any stretch of imagination white Anglo-Saxon protestants was another one.
I optimistically assumed that more than half a century of civil rights being the law of the land had put an end to Charlie Manson’s sweaty fantasies of racial war. I honestly did … in spite of knowing that there were neighborhoods in most large American cities where a person of Anglo pallor like myself did not want to be caught, alive or dead, in broad daylight or the dark of night. I also knew at a remove of the existence of a university sub-culture of grievance studies and residual pools of racial resentment lovingly maintained like rare orchids by professional race-mongers (yes, I am looking at YOU, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson). My generally optimistic assumptions regarding race relations were based on personal experience and first-hand observation in academia and the armed forces, despite the occasional lapse – say, after the OJ verdict and the riots after the Rodney King beating. I served with commanders and first sergeants who were black – and finer, more decent and patriotic people could hardly be found. I served alongside others, some who were close enough and good enough friends that we could speak honestly about black/white relations and the general history of race relations in America. I also had friends who were partners in interracial couples – in all possible combinations and variants. Indeed, some of my own daughter’s regular dates would have had Grandpa Al revolving in his grave like a Black and Decker drill. This is supposed to be the ne plus ultra when it comes to judging racial tolerance – in that “Would you want your daughter to marry one?” Content of character came way ahead of race for me, every time.
And then there came election of The First Black President Evah! Such was my happy state of innocence in 2008 that I assumed that a page had been turned; the one positive development leading from the election of a completely inexperienced local community organizer was that we might confidently expect to have heard the very last of the USA being the most raaaaacist nation ever! Alas, even that small hope has been cruelly squashed over the six years since – chiefly because this administration’s public affairs branch, or the traditional print and broadcast news outlets as we used to call them – mostly insist on attributing any objection or doubt regarding Obama’s legislative or administrative goals as being motivated by racism. This is as tiresome as it is untrue, but the absolute and unvarying insistence has taken a toll. What is even more dispiriting is the knowledge that black racism is more overt, more in-your-face and more threatening – witness the ongoing riots in St. Louis; it’s as if the election of Obama unleashed something malign, rather than putting it away like an outworn security object. Discuss.