Chocolate is good, right?

This post, contrary to natural expectations (and that is of course the way this shaker-upper likes it!), will have nothing to do with nutritional guidelines, chocolate’s relationship to estrogen, or even with willpower.  It’s actually about black-white race relations.  Stick with me to the end of Part 2, if you don’t mind.

I might first confess that in my years, I haven’t given all that much energy to race relations.  A brief personal travelogue in this sphere would include a mention of Maggie, a “colored” woman who, in the 40s through the 60s, was certainly no “slave,” but who worked for various households of my maternal extended family under an evolved, tacit agreement.  Maggie was trusted, much loved . . . and rode a bus to work instead of living on any Tennessee plantation or property.  She cooked, she took care of children, and she cleaned.  I think Maggie was probably very appropriately treated in that context and was certainly well regarded, but rarely could such an employment arrangement “work” in the current decade.  It seems to me that race relations are in a way more sensitized among civilized folks than they were 50 years ago, notwithstanding the extreme wrongs of Central High, high-profiled assassinations, and the doings of the KKK.  At any rate, when Maggie Perry died, the Ritchie family mourned, having felt very connected in love and in history.

My grandfather, who taught at Harding, a Christian college-turned-university, from the late 40s through the 70s (incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, not all that far from Little Rock’s Central High), was on the good side of the thinking at the college.  There were for some time major fissures on that campus related to race, premillennialism, and other complicated issues.  As I have it, the president of the college was a symbolic caricature of the white citizen of the U.S. during the 60s–he championed a mission in black Zambia, but refused, for a while, to admit blacks as students to Harding, saying “they have their own college.”  It’s one thing to recognize that your primary clientele is white; it’s quite another to refuse admission to a person of another race.  This institution is my alma mater, as well, and although I don’t recall any particularly strained relations, there was no real integration, either.  Veronica and Angela were black students in my discipline–about 1% of the whole, I’d say.  Another Christian social club (no fraternities or sororities, of course) was formed and given the name “Skotia”–Greek for “darkness.”  While there might have been a token white person in the club, integration was not clearly not yet a reality.

I was later an employee of Highland Community College, an institution that had famously denied entrance to one George Washington Carver.  Big mistake.  And one that was not talked about much while I taught there.  I wasn’t ever sure whether it was public embarrassment for having made a stupid move 100 years before, or just that no one wanted to talk about the implications, because the school was lily-white still, save for a few imported football and basketball players, and a couple students from urban Kansas City.  From reports, the integration that has occurred at Highland in the last ten years has been more along lines of sexual activity/orientation than along lines of race, which is curious.  The Midwest/Heartland location isn’t all that receptive to a lot of any kind of change in thinking, but I would have thought race things would be easier to deal with there than gays.  It’s a basically hardworking, family-values kind of Americanism that rules in Kansas, although it’s more lapsed-Lutheran than bona fide Christian.

Personally, I was subjected to a rather late iteration of “desegregation” (it was pasted in the headlines and in our hearts with this pejorative notion and has basically retained a negative identity) in New Castle County, Delaware.  Forced busing was the most obvious manifestation of the governmental fiat to make schools “equal”–which of course isn’t possible and will always result in problems at least as great as the ones it tries to solve.  There was not much real integration.  According to Wikipedia, “The requirements for maintaining racial balance in the schools of each of the districts was ended by the District Court in 1994, but the process of busing students to and from the suburbs for schooling continued largely unchanged until 2001.”  Schools were generally perceived to be weakening for years, and charter, private, and “magnet” schools have proliferated.  Further on the personal side, I still laugh about the unusual manners and habits of the urban black students who were forced to come to my school in the suburbs.  My father — ever the impartial, kind, see-the-gold-in-everyone sort of teacher — came home with a story of a city black student who reacted strongly to a teacherly hand on the shoulder, but other than that, I remember only positive or neutral references to his new black students.  It probably didn’t hurt that he was also a coach.

Although we still hear of isolated instances of unfair treatment by police, by racial profiling at borders, I think so-called “Affirmative Action” as a matter of policy, in our country, should now be obsolete.  Racial quotas in places of employment ought not to be allowed anymore.  And yet I know there are extant pockets of deep prejudice that lead to injustice rather than mere separation.  I’m not a political scientist or philosopher, and am only thinly connected to philosophies in our country’s educational system, but I don’t really think “separate but equal” is inherently bad.  It may be bad in some instances — probably worse than I realize — but it’s not inherently bad.

To be continued . . .

3 thoughts on “Chocolate is good, right?

  1. Sally Rogers Clark 04/03/2012 / 11:10 am

    I well remember the “blue bird, black bird” chapel speech in 1957 at Harding College. It was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever heard! It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so sad. I was so proud of Bill Floyd and most of the faculty and students who signed the petition (which preceded the chapel speech). Your article also brings back memories of one of my favorite people, a hero, actually: Andy T. Ritchie.


    • Brian Casey 04/04/2012 / 7:48 pm

      Dear Sally, it’s an honor to hear from you here. Now that you remind me, I think I’ve heard that “blue/black” thing before. I can imagine….

      I also have to wonder if the petition has been preserved anywhere. History can be a good teacher if we let it. If you have time, please tune in tomorrow when my follow-up (with a comment by our nearly-3-year-old son) will be posted!


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