WHITE ...in a world of color 

Because my mother worked 60-80 hours a week I was "raised" (when not in 
boarding school) by maids. Many of these were black women and the most 
affecting was Arabelle Brown who had no children and lived in our house. 
She indulged my food cravings like the stereotypical doting mother. She 
would arrange the household budget to include T-bone steaks for my lunch 
and her apple dumplings (made only for me) are a most cherished memory. 

She also let me know, without seeming to try, that the outside world had 
enormous misconceptions about the capabilities of Black people. Peer 
pressure kept me from espousing this concept at school or play - being 
called a "nigger lover" carried ostracism as well as hurt. My inner 
conclusions seemed unassailable - still do. 

In those days the acceptable designation was "colored" and colored 
musicians were clearly superior to their white counterparts. It was an 
age when Benny Goodman was the "King of Swing" but his band was a pale 
imitation of the Lunceford band. Marian Anderson was denied access to 
the DAR auditorium. A colored person invited to the White House was 
regarded as yet another nail in the coffin of The American Way. I cried 
in joy when Althea Gibson won at Wimbledon, raged at the news of Medgar 
Evers' murder and became a baseball fan because Jackie Robinson "broke 
the color line." 

I finally got over being ashamed of being white but I still feel we are 
drowning in racist mire. The debate about this matter has been "all the 
rage" for all of my life and so much has been written that what I may 
add will probably not shed much new heat or light on the issue. 

I still believe in integration, whatever that is. When I read Mezz 
Mezzrow's "Really the Blues" it was one of the first times I knew that 
some white guys (tried to?) lived in the Black culture. When he went to 
prison he insisted he was "colored" so he could live in the correct 
environment. Even Elvis Presley is basically trying to sound black.

During the civil rights movement it was a widespread argument that "our 
nigrahs" were OK with their lot but these "outside agitators" were the 
real problem. The next generation acknowledges that as error but has the 
same set of denials concerning "welfare queens" or immigrants. Even 
Native Americans are descendants of immigrants and we are all on 

Jackie Robinson pointed out that "baseball did it," meaning that human 
rights laws weren't the big items that cause changes. Michael Jordan is 
one of the world's most recognized (and admired) people on the planet as 
is Muhammad Ali. The influence on music, sports, attitude, language, and 
human relationships brought to us by people who "came in chains" has 
been enormous. There are so many examples of African-American influence 
that it is still a puzzle how long it is taking to overcome the 
counterproductive action/reaction of prejudice and its machismo backlash.

I have no solutions that aren't reprises of Judeo-Christian ethical 
positions. How to move from the "Love thy neighbor" talk to the "Do unto 
others" walk eluded us for a couple of millennia - but it's better than 
it was. At least I hope and think so.

One powerful factor in this healing is public service. As the spectator 
class proliferates, it is evident that each generation produces more of 
us who find the Black experience seductive. Politicians are performers 
in the entertainment industry. Perhaps the kind of charisma that is so 
obvious in other endangerment figures will let us suffer the benefits of 
African-American leaders. When you become blindless, you really won't 
give a shit about skin color. If we can continue the many-to-many 
intercommunication that is flooding us, we may yet have a meritocracy.