Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Wednesday, August 24, 2011


That's the title of the famous Norman Rockwell painting dipicting Ruby Bridges of New Orleans walking to her first day of school.

Ms. Bridges was only six years old when her parents volunteered her to help integrate New Orleans schools.  As a result, she became the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting that captures her innocence and the malignant hatred the little girl endured on the day she walked into the all white William Franz elementary school in NOLA.

"The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live With.[5] As Bridges describes it, "Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras." Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, "She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we're all very proud of her."--Wikipedia

The Norman Rockwell painting was recently placed in the White House on a temporary basis. 

More here.

The election of our first bi-racial president has brought out the racism that never really disappeared after the Civil Rights Act, but, instead, went underground; and in parts of this country, flourished.  All one has to do is read the comments under the report in Politico to understand that reality.  All one has to do is look at the racist emails sent around by conservatives who think it's only a "joke" to depict the First Family as primates; all one has to do is stomach one afternoon listening to Rush Limbaugh bring Mr. Obama's race into his rants against the president's policies and then listen to his followers call it "comedy;" all one has to do is read the remarks spoken by members of the media and Congress--remarks that, make no mistake, are based on Mr. Obama's race.

This weekend a memorial to The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., will be dedicated at the Mall in Washington, and already I've read people complaining about this the way certain people complained when a day was set aside to honor Dr. King's birthday.

None of this surprises me; all of it saddens me.  I thought, within my lifetime, I would see a lessening, not an increase of the problem we all live with.


Leslie Parsley said...

It is indeed sad that racism is still alive and well in the year 2011. Unlike the 50s and 60s, though, the MSM seems pretty oblivious to it.

I was a student worker at the Univ. of Houston when MLK was assassinated. The library closed for his funeral. A student came to the circulation desk and loudly complained and wouldn't shut up. So, I asked him if he would like to take his complaint to the associate librarian and when he said yes, I ushered him into Dr. Churchwell's office. Dr. C was black and would eventually go on to head the library at Brown. He wasn't thrilled that I did that, as he told me in no uncertain terms later, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

During the Obama campaign I volunteered to make phone calls. I was lucky. I got NC, Ohio and VA!!! Surprisingly, I encountered very few blatantly racist comments, at least not like what we're seeing and hearing today. It's almost as if the bottom feeders are taking courage from each other. It's all very distressing and it isn't limited to the South. :(

Dave Miller said...

Leslie, this is an issue that I see almost daily. As a white guy married to an african american woman, it is indeed a problem we [our families] live with.

There are also few places where you can bring it up without being told you are being overly sensitive.

There seems to be a viewpoint among many, that the problems are inconsequential, and that folks should just get over it and move on.

But how do move on when you seated in the back of a restaurant with everyone else of color?

How do you move on when an apartment you had already been promised suddenly turns up rented when they see your black wife?

How do you move on when the words you hear in public referring to you and your spouse are some of the most vile you've ever encountered?

Perhaps, in spite of what some think, the title of the painting Shaw referenced should be changed to...

"The Problem We All Still Live With"

Shaw Kenawe said...

Leslie and Dave,

Here is just one comment from the Politico blog I linked to and where I read about this:

TTSSYF: Aug. 24, 2011 - 6:36 AM EST

Party: Conservative

#2Aug. 24, 2011 - 6:36 AM EST

So many blacks love to wallow in the past. It provides an excuse for their on-going failure as a group to advance in our society, and it serves as a tool with which to continuously bludgeon whites. They're addicted to feelings of outrage and resentment and thus obsess about events and conditions of 50 years ago or more. I'm convinced most of them WISH it were still 1965 so they could have an excuse to riot. It's apparently much easier (and safer) to sit around and whine and complain about all of the so-called injustice or "institutional" racism that is supposedly holding them back than it is to apply themselves and be confronted with the possibility of failing on their own merits or lack thereof.

I don't know who wrote that, but I do know that whoever it was, s/he is deeply ignorant and suffering from an inability to understand the depth of his/her stupidity.

Everything that is wrong about how people deal with race is contained in that one comment, and the worst of it is the commenter's phrase "so called injustice."

You have to be a special kind of idiot to write something as excruciatingly callous as that.

Dave Miller said...

Here's and idea Shaw...

At the next Boston Marathon, let half of the competitors have a 13 mile head start.

Then when the starting gun sounds, they all go at it. I am sure the fact that some got a head start will not make the race any less fair, as everyone will have had a chance to run as hard as they could towards the same goal, the finish line.

I am sure the only people who would be complaining afterwards would be those looking for a way to excuse their failing and inability to compete.

Hey! Zoos. said...

Tuesday in New Mexico, the strains of racism and ethnocentrism that exist in the Tea Party movement emerged again. As Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) prepared to tour a nonprofit organization in Farmington, he was met by a dozen Tea Party protesters, one of whom asserted that Lujan was not an American. The Farmington Daily Times reports:

Darrel Clark of Farmington said he came for “a chance to see the elusive representative.”

“He needs to get out of politics and make room for an American,” Clark said.

Luj├ín is a lifelong New Mexican. Clark later explained that he meant an “American patriot.”

Though Clark did not elaborate on what he meant by “American patriot,” it’s not hard to understand his implication.

Leslie Parsley said...

Dave, I weep. As if marriage didn't have enough stress under the best of circumstances. The love of my life was a black artist in Houston, so I can relate all too well with what you describe so painfully well. Edsel painted the Bush children when they were very little. Every time he drove to their home in the extremely wealthy River Oaks section, the cops would stop him. Years later he was commissioned to paint the portrait of Barbara Jordan which hangs in the statehouse - if Perry hasn't removed it.

We went together for three years in the very late 60s and had some very similar experiences. He was a beautiful soul, very gentle and refined, and very intelligent. Finally, frankly, the fear and ugliness took it's toll and I broke away. I didn't have your strength, something I've regretted ever since.

After my librarian aunt died, my librarian mother and I went to lunch with Dr. Churchwell, who I mention above. The waitress literally slammed our plates down and slopped coffee out of the cups. Needless to say, already sad, this experience didn't help to soothe our hurt.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I've been monitoring the comment section of Politico in which the post on Ruby Bridges and the Norman Rockwell painting of her hanging in the White House was reported.

Almost every comment posted by a self-identified conservative was angry and accusatory--saying Mr. Obama is a racist or encouraging racial division.

This is a comment that addresses most of those absurd conservative diatribes, written by a self-identified progressive and English teacher:

Member Since: Nov. 9, 2009


Aug. 24, 2011 - 12:06 PM EST

First off, I need to explain something to many of the folks commenting here: "race," as we most often use the term, is a construct of the imagination with no basis in scientific fact. A collective delusion, if you will. A person's skin pigment, eye-shape, or other aesthetic features are simply that: aesthetic features. Scientists are still researching the causes of aesthetic differences in humans, but they've more or less concluded that these are environmental adaptations (e.g. people with darker skin pigments developed said pigments because they lived closer to the equator, where there is more direct sunlight). When we say "race," we mean "culture." Prior to this century, most groups of people were far more isolated from other groups than they are today, and, thus, these varying degrees of isolation saw the development of many distinct cultures. But humans are extremely adaptive, culturally speaking; a person often adopts at least some common charateristics of the people around them: family, the village, etc. Many of the posts here reflect the scientifically inaccurate notion that skin pigment or other aesthetic variations entail inherent differences regarding personality, intellect, industry/initiative, etc. These misconceptions predicate bigotry. Humans are clearly tribal in nature, though we should be able to evolve toward a less tribal whole, as the reasons for this tendency are growing more and more outdated. Black people do not behave a certain way because they are black; same for whites, hispanics, etc. Science has proven this. Look it up. And if I got any of the details wrong, with my pigment example above or elsewhere, forgive me; I'm not a scientist.

As to the claims that the abolitionists were Christian Conservatives, along with the claims ignorant of the clear fact that the Democrat party of the sixties wasn't a different organization than the Democratic party of today (this happens in American a book), these arguments are off-base or incomplete. Some abolitionists surely were Christian Conservatives, but so were many slave owners (the Bible was used a justification for both sides, people). Thus, by any clear understanding of the appropriate terminology, abolitionists were progressives, religious or otherwise. Why can't most (any?) of the people here grasp the concept that individuals often cannot be defined by a convenient label. Think more (though, by the last several posts, thinking seems to be some sort of bane to the conservative).


Shaw Kenawe said...


Moving on...I'm disgusted by the general (and sadly predictable) tone of this conversation. Point out that our African-American president has a racially charged piece of art in the Whitehouse, and conservatives attack. Why? The common line of attack seems to be something like this: the oppression of black people was more uniform then than it is now, so why is it relevant? Add to this blatant bigotry regarding instances of black on white violence, baseless accusations toward the president (he is devisive), etc. Others have done a nice job of explaining how idiotic and reprehensible the former, primary claim is. Racisim, predicated on faulty notions that "race" exists and xenophobic tendencies of conservative whites here (and elsewhere) remains a problem in America. Identifying instances in which black on white violence occurs does nothing to negate this argument. There's no reason to defend said violence, and I won't, but that doesn't make white racism justifiable. When a culture (i.e. white America) creates a legacy of brutal oppression, said culture needs to accept said legacy, and work towards healing. The oppression lasted far longer than the time we've spent in a post-Civil Rights America.

Read over the comments here: there's subtle (or not subtle) racism in most, if not all, of the conservative arguments here. Anger overcomes reason in most of the conservative rhetoric I encounter. I see that in progressive rhetoric too (of course), but largely as reaction. Where is anger going to get us in a world in such turmoil? The path to a better world lies in hero-worship of the uber-rich and unquestioning, unthinking dedication to archaic, oppressive Christian dogma? Really? How sad. Relgious faith is a private affair, unfit for the task of governance. America was founded in large part under that notion. And progrssives don't want to destroy or steal from the uber rich (let them stay rich, that's fine), but we object to being oppressed by an oligarchy that buys policy and fights regulation. I'm a progressive who lives off a meager income (I"m a teacher) and has never received a dime from the government (beyond the pay check I earn by working, of course). So are the other progressives I know. If others fit into our camp, so be it, but hard working progressives are morally right, and you (conservatives) are too often bigots and cheats. I'm disgusted. Good day.

Dave Miller said...

Shaw, I am sure there are quite a few comments deriding the blatant elitism of this educated man. I noticed he cited science in his post.

I wonder where he thought that would get him when one of our major political parties clearly has decided that science has nothing to say to them, or anyone else, simply because they disagree with it.

If I remember right, a certain Pope had some issues with science a while back too...

Infidel753 said...

At my previous job around five years ago, one of the managers was black and I got to know him well enough that he sometimes talked to me about personal things. As a manager he made a good salary and lived in a good neighborhood. He told me he was fairly regularly pulled over by the police who were suspicious of him driving through the very neighborhood he in fact lived in. This was just a few years ago, in fairly-liberal Portland. He wasn't a complainer type and I doubt he ever mentioned such things to most people.

I regularly go through one of the richest neighborhoods in Portland and drive through it routinely on the way to other parts of town, and I've never been pulled over once.

I've heard of some of the kinds of things Dave Miller mentioned too -- apartments suddenly not being available and such. I think a lot of white people have no idea that this still happens and is still part of life for one-eighth of the US population. They think racism is something that just happened long ago and people who talk about it are indeed just "wallowing in the past".

The thing is, it really seems to me that the great majority of people these days aren't racist. But think how many people you interact with in one way or another all the time -- it only takes 5% of the population to hold such attitudes for any black person in the country to be running into it constantly.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Thank you Dave and Infidel753.

John Steinbeck wrote about Ruby Bridges first day of school in "Travels With Charley:"

The big marshals stood her on the curb and a jangle of jeering shrieks went up from behind the barricades. The little girl did not look at the howling crowd, but from the side the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn. The men turned her around like a doll and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big. Then the girl made a curious hop, and I think I know what it was. I think in her whole life she had not gone ten steps without skipping, but now in the middle of her first step, the weight bore her down and her little round feet took measured, reluctant steps between the tall guards. Slowly they climbed the steps and entered the school.” -Travels With Charley

Sue said...

I love this story and the video, Shaw.

Like Ruby says, people are not born racist, they learn what they live.

Thanks to my upbringing I don't have a racist bone in my body and have no patience for racism. I can't even bring myself to read those comments.

I'm sorry about your pain Dave, and what you experienced Leslie. It's horrible.

Tim said...

I have a friend who has NEVER been political at all. I have known him for 20 years. But boy, once Obama got in office he is always ALWAYS complaining about SOCIALISM (read: I'm afraid that black people will make me pay double taxes so that THEY won't have to work like WE (whites) do).
He even sent me this email with pictures of (supposedly) Robert Mugabe's lavish mansion in Zimbabwe which claimed Obama was using our tax dollars so that Mugabe could live high on the hog. I pointed out to him that we don't send foreign aid there and he was like "oh I just forwarded it without reading it". Sure you did. There was a lot of unspoken racism that has come to the surface now that we have a Black president.

I have tried, but after no more than three minutes I have to turn off Rush. He is so idiotic, and yet he has millions of listeners.

Radical Redneck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Octopus said...

I took it upon myself to delete the last comment left by Radical Redneck. It was offensive in the extreme and deserves no place under this fine and heartfelt post.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Thanks, (O)CT(O). RR is a 9-year old who apparently sneaks onto his mom and dad's pc and uses it to make himself feel powerful.

Dave Miller said...

Shaw, if he's 9, we really are doomed... he has already learned that racism at a young age...

Please try and stay safe, and dry this weekend.

Tim, why they are using Zimbabwe for stupid charges I do not know. When right here in the good ole US of A, President Obama and the Gov. of Idaho have hatched a plan to secretly sell the state to China.

It must be true, I read it on the internets... or ask your local Tea Partier...

As Shaw is fond of saying, you can't make this stuff up...

Shaw Kenawe said...


LOL! China and Idaho?

Re: My troll, RR, that should have read "mentally nine."

Radical Redneck is fond of leaving racist images on my blog and on rightwing blogs, many of which he directs at me.

It's a mentality I associate with children and people who crave attention. If he lived near me, I'd bake him some cookies and buy him some Legos. His "issues" need to be redirected to something more creative.

I'm in the city where there are few trees, and all the wires are underground. Boston Harbor is just down the street, but it is a safe harbor, so I'm not in danger of surges.

Thanks for your kind words.