Monday, February 16, 2009

Who looks in your soul?

I have read the blogs and seen the experiences that relate to color, to skill, and to disability. I do not know the challenges that faced Danielle, Joel, Johnny, or Alan. You see, I could always see (until about 45 anyhow), I could always sing, and I was never black. I would be lying if I claimed to understand those feelings. But there are some adventures that I did experience or suffer along the way, although I am a little uneasy of the political connotations of marginalization.

When I was a little boy, I tried out for little league. That's what you do, even though I didn't really like baseball and wasn't very good. As I was standing my post in the out field, I happened to pull a thread out of my knit shirt. The whole bottom half dropped down and made me look like I had a beer belly hanging out at 12 years old. The coach saw it and told be to take a couple of laps around the field for my health. I didn't make the team.

In the US, all young boys should play football. So off I went to try out for the 8th grade team. When it came to choosing who would start, I did not hear my name called. Those not called and chosen became the test dummies, the opposing side. As I attempted to play the part of the loosing team, I went in for a tackle, but somehow I ended up on the bottom with a broken arm. That was the end of my football career. From then on, I would play in the band (which was what I wanted to do anyhow). I am guessing, but I don't think Johnny every experienced this side of sports.

I remember when desegregation came to my county. There were no confrontations in the high school I attended, though there were in other local schools. I personally did not understand what was the problem, though before long I met some of the harsh realities. Some of you may doubt the fact, but I was a little rowdy in my youth. In that ancient time, a fellow could get a quart of beer for $.55 and a couple of those gave great courage to fools who go where angels fear to tread. On one adventure several of us decided to go party with the brothers. You see the brothers (black guys and gals) had a private club that served literally everything. There must have been three or four of us white guys to enter the black club, buy a couple of drinks (I'm probably a little younger than 18 at this time), and make ourselves at home listening to the music. We had only been there a matter of minutes before someone began calling us crackers, rabbits, and several other appellations denoting either our complexion or our failure to realize that we were in the wrong place. To make a long story short, we barley escaped with our hides. One of the black football players from our school help us to retreat from the establishment where some of the brothers had a different opinion on integration than we had come to expect.

Around the same era in my life, there was the tendency among my peers to dress, look, and act like hippies (to a lesser or greater degree). Long hair, partaking of the noble weed, and rock-n-roll were not as appreciated in that ancient time as they are today (well maybe not today either). Anyway, a lot of folks were trying to find themselves and its no wonder. Consider the things folks ingested, either orally or audibly, at least 50% of the country was wandering around wondering where we were. Nevertheless, hippies were not appreciated, were watched, were mocked, and sometime abused by red necks. Take the film Easy Rider for your paradigm of hope for that era. As good or bad fortune would have it, I felt the brunt of some of it, but chiefly from the local law enforcement who watched us like hawks. I spent more than one night in jail for just associating with hippies. They couldn't do it to you today, but they could then.

I have lingered too long, but one final story comes to mind. After my youth had past and I became an responsible citizen of these fair United States, I came under the false impress that all the B. S. prejudice, stereotypes, and censorship had gone the way of the Pterodactyl. After finishing a tour of duty in the electronics industry (professional audio, two way radio, and finally IT manager), I returned to the classroom. In the NC community college in which I taught, I had two women bosses: one white and one black. I offered the department something that had never happened, which was an online religion course. Everyone was delighted and dubbed me the guru of online humanities. That was great, but for some strange reason I was not assigned a course for one spring semester. I took it as cutbacks and though nothing of it, but after the semester started I began to get email from students. Come to find out, my online course had been given to a white female instructor lock, stock, and barrel, including my personal notes and profile. Since no online coursed existed in this area before me, this was my intellectual property. I threatened legal action, but settled with the equivalent of one semester's pay because I was really not interested in a fight. This was bad policy, bad manners, and bad form for a department head who had a Ph.D. in feminist studies from UNCG. The department chair was the only one who could have allowed my intellectual property to be taken without my sayso. To be frank, I was more qualified, had taught the course more times, and had more teaching experience. The only reason I can attribute to the adventure is bias and preference. Being a white male worked against me in an institution (higher education) that claims to play fair and support the cause of the disenfranchised. I don't believe it one minute. I never even got an apology from those in command.

So how do I feel about blacks, white women in positions of authority, and law enforcement because of my experiences? Well, I actually love all sorts of women (Platonic stuff here), although I trust very few, but neither do I trust law enforcement. I am afraid of the possibility of a police state which almost happened in the early 1990s and a feminist state that exists more and more. What about my experience with black prejudice? It's like this, people of all colors can behave poorly under the influence of alcohol. That was actually the easiest of all situations with which to deal. On the other hand I am not an anarchist by any stretch, and as concerns sociology and anthropology, I am an agnostic. I do not know all black men by my encounters with a few, nor do I know all women by my adventures with a few, nor do I know all whites, reds, democrats, republicans, Christians, Jews, or Hindus by my encounters with a few. I only know those who I have encountered, and that is what upsets me about some of the readings that judge and stereo type groups. Change whiteness et al to Jew, and it reads like Nazi propoganda of the 1930s and 1940s. This is not good, if indeed there is such a thing as good.

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