Archive for July, 2016

Teens and Race Part 3: Big D

Dear Son,

Last week I told you a few things about my birthplace and where I lived until your current age, 14.  Just before my 9th grade I had a triple shock: I would be going to an all-boys school, had to wear a uniform and we were moving to Dallas, Texas.

After WW II my parents returned to my Dad’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri but the job prospects were slim there. So, he took a job in the once-again boom-town of Tulsa. A quarter century later he got a lucrative job transfer to the new boom-town of Dallas-amazingly both moves were about 260 miles south.

The city was quickly expanding north and my school, Jesuit College Prep had decamped from an inner city area to the north edge of the city.  Because it was considered the most prestigious Catholic school in Dallas, the students often came from wide distances, 10-30 miles was common. Unlike my Tulsa schools there was some diversity but only a handful of blacks and only one Jew! However, there were two big ethnic groups, Italians and Hispanics.  The ethnic slurs for those groups were much more widely heard than “the n-word”.

We moved into town in August, 1963 and my brother and I slowly adapted to very different environments.  At school in Tulsa politics=JFK.  The nuns were so proud of our first Catholic president that they engaged in propaganda (a good old Medieval Catholic word) that would probably be banned today. In Dallas my teacher was a black seminarian who had us analyze Dylan songs and discussed civil rights. In fact the next year he and a couple other teachers got up and left, seemingly on very short notice, to march for civil rights in Mississippi and Alabama.

At the end of my third month in Dallas, my political instincts had been stoked to the point that I was very excited to hear that we would be released from school for JFK’s visit and that my Dad wanted us to see him at the airport.  Three years earlier we’d seen Nixon do a quick drive-through in Tulsa but this sounded more intimate and indeed it was.  The car-caravan was just beginning so we got a relatively good look.

On returning home I was listening to my beloved rock and roll on the radio when an announcer broke in to say, “The president has been shot!” Of course we all couldn’t conceive of the president actually being gone, so we immediately turned on the TV for updates.  Within a few minutes, though, the terrible truth emerged. I recall a huge controversy at the time, “Should the NFL cancel its games that were scheduled only two days after the assassination?”

To me, watching the news and sports that weekend, it seemed that the country was roughly evenly divided.  The NFL decided to play its games but I vividly recall that my new team, the Cowboys, played in Cleveland and there were big “Dallas Assassins” signs evident for parts of the game.  The media also jumped in and defined Dallas as “The City of Hate”. I believe that some strong political polarization existed there (both JFK and LBJ were lightning rods) but that racial attitudes were no worse than the Texas average, LBJ himself being a staunch segregationist until the 60’s. Attitudes in the Deep South were far more hostile as evidenced by the fact that blacks joined college sports teams earlier in Texas than in the Deep South.

Fast forward 53 years to July 7, 2016 and it is clear to me that Dallas is now one of the better US cities for race relations. The fact that people of all ethnicities were praying for the officers while they were being treated at Baylor Hospital (where my Mom was a nurse in the 60’s) and later engaged in a long and deeply-felt mourning period. Best of all of course were the words, tone and actions of Police Chief David Brown. Dallas citizens were so moved that police job applications are up 344% in the 18 days since the second most tragic day in city history.  In fact the whole nation was clearly moved and I can’t help but feel that if he’d been leading our nation the last few years that race relations would be far better.

 

 

 

 

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Teens and Race, Part II

1921 Tulsa Race Riot

My Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma

This was my city of birth, in a state whose name translates to “Land of the Red Man” in a native American language. I spent my first 14 years there and can’t recall ever meeting a black (or, for that matter, an Asian or Hispanic one) person.  I did occasionally see some of them from a distance and the “n-word” was widely heard.

Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and a couple of years later oil was discovered and Tulsa became a boom town.  I can recall seeing “Tulsa, Oil Capitol of the World” signs in my childhood, back in the 1950’s, an idea that seems absurd today.  A positive side effect of this boom was that many new oil field workers were needed and hundreds of black workers filled the void. They lived in a section of Tulsa known as Greenwood and it soon became known as “The Black Wall Street”-the most prosperous black district in the nation (see link at the top).

However, by 1921 oil prices had fallen, the entire nation had been through a severe post-war recession (actually a far more serious one than that of 2007-2009 that the media exaggerates so heavily) and the hard times lead to increasing tension between poor whites and the blacks of Greenwood.  I never heard of the “race riots of 1921” while I lived in Tulsa and the media has consistently ignored it over the last century.

As one can see in the link, it took till the 1990’s for the local government to research the history of the event and to learn that approximately 300 people died and that probably 200 or more of them were black (last month’s Orlando massacre thus was NOT, as the media incessantly insisted, the biggest American mass shooting ever). In fact, Wikipedia refers to the 1921 riots as a “pogrom”, a term usually associated with Jews in Medieval Europe.

My son has been able to become friendly with both African Americans and Hispanics thanks to my girlfriends of the past dozen years but his school in small town NE California is, as was said in MY childhood, “lily-white”, with only a couple of Hispanics and Indian-Americans thrown in.  Therefore, he really needs to read this so he can, at the very least, refine his media BS detector.

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Teens and Race

“Race is the last refuge of a scoundrel” Since history isn’t taught well in our schools today, most teens (and, to be fair, most of today’s parents) won’t catch the historical reference.
In the late 18th century the hot topic was royalty and one’s right, indeed some said responsibility, to rebel against it. In 1775 the American colonies were just beginning their rebellion and the British monarchy was under assault from both within and abroad. Ironically, one of the monarchy’s supporters had a political conflict with one of the other supporters of King George and he penned the immortal line: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.  That quotesmith was Samuel Johnson and he was so prolific that if one goes to samueljohnson.com you’ll find 35 quotes starting with A-words alone.  Indeed “race” is the lightning rod of our new century, just as “patriotism” was for the 18th and perhaps, with all its great wars, the 20th century as well.  Politicians on all sides invoke this shibboleth when they want to end the discussion to avoid losing a more complex argument.  I find it particularly amusing when this is raised by a leftist who typically elevates “science” to a level just short of divinity, or, in some cases, even replacing divinity!

The concept of race belongs back in the 18th century with Samuel Johnson and alongside such ideas as phrenology and bleeding as a cure for illness.  My 14 year old and I frequently play Scrabble and consult Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, so I did it here and found 11 definitions but the first one really says it all, “a group of persons related by common descent or heredity”.  This is probably close to the American consensus definition, but when we look at science, it is clear that “race” should be replaced by “ethnicity”-a much less psychologically and politically charged term and one which covers billions of people who don’t fit easily into racial boxes: Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Arabs, Latin Americans, etc.

What little science there is behind race can be reduced to two simple scientific concepts: genotype and phenotype.  The former is the sum total of genes transmitted from parent to offspring.  The latter, again according to Webster, is “the appearance of an organism resulting from the interaction of the genotype and the environment. Thus, each of us is simply an elaborate combination of phenotype and genotype and probably a wild combination of ethnicities-as seen in the Ancestry.com TV ads.

In conclusion, to really prove that race doesn’t matter let’s look at homicide in the last century:

*In the last 100 years “whites” killed over 100 million of their fellow “whites”, mostly in the two world wars.

*In the last 60 years it was mostly Asian killing Asians, 80 million in China, Cambodia and North Korea: as verification for China, I highly recommend Dikotter’s “Mao’s Great Famine”, which documents how he killed 45 million alone from 1958-1962 while the world turned its collective head away.

*In the last 30 years it has been Africans killing Africans, at least 20 million in civil wars of Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Algeria, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Mozambique, again, mostly ignored by the media and non-Africans.

I guess “race” really wasn’t so important in any of those places!

 

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Teens and July 4

http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-01.htm

The above link is to Thomas Payne’s “The Crisis”. It was written six months after the Declaration of Independence and at a very low point for the American Revolutionary War effort. It begins with the immortal words, “These are the times that try men’s souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country…  It was so inspiring that George Washington asked Payne to read it to the troops, just before the crossing of the Delaware and a surprise victory over the king’s mercenaries, the Hessians.

I came from a military family on both sides and at times I felt that I was overdosing on patriotism.  It didn’t help that my teenage years coincided with the Vietnam War, when, in both high school and college, male students joked that grades should be A, B, C, D and V for instant Vietnam draftee.  My own dad had fought on the bloody islands of Okinawa, just south of Japan’s mainland, and our president’s recent trip to Hiroshima made me realize that I probably wouldn’t exist today if President Truman hadn’t had the political courage to drop two atom bombs. These bombs, it has been estimated, saved the lives of a million GIs and up to 20 million Japanese teens (and even 12 year olds!) who were being trained with sharpened bamboo to repel an American invasion from the south and a Soviet one from the north.

I explained to my 14 year old why I was opposed to the Vietnam War (which had instantly ostracized me from my peer group, top level Texas high school and collegiate athletes): First, the great Dwight Eisenhower had warned of the dangers of ever getting involved in an Asian land war.  Second, the topography and geographic position of Vietnam made it virtually impossible to interdict enemy supply lines through Laos, Cambodia and China.  The coup de grace for our troops was the elaborate system of hundreds of miles of tunnels, 1-2 meters below the surface, which which made their people impervious to bombing.

I then went on to give my new teen his own set of “trying times”:

*For the first time ever the jihadist terror group ISIS has had three attacks in the same week-in Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh, each ironically a Muslim nation.

*For the first time in our 228 year election history, the two major party candidates both have more negatives than positives in the voters’ minds.

*For the first time ever a president will finish two terms not having a single year of 3% GDP growth, our long term average and a record avoided even during “The Great Depression” of the 1930’s.

*For the first time we’ve had two consecutive presidents who will have eight years each of doubling the national debt, which will be a heavy burden on both our kids AND grand-kids.

Don’t forget to have a “July 4th talk” with your teen-they’ll be a voter either this year, 2018 or 2020!

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