Said I earlier today: “You can’t hide from Possibly Upsetting Things all your life, though God knows some people try awfully hard.”
I yield to this man’s superior knowledge of the subject:
Like a lot of black folks in my generation, I felt that it was my responsibility to become more attuned to racial sensibility — to achieve a higher level of sensitivity to those people and conditions that might lead to oppression. It was a constant theme in my youth during which the very term “black” was coined and people questioned having been “Negro”. During that time as well, many of us went from passive observation to active participation in both directions. In 1967 many of us were adamant about looking for “safe space” and determined that could not be found anywhere at all in the USA. We looked to Cuba, to Brazil, to Ghana. Similarly during the Vietnam war, many looked to Canada as an escape route. But in the end we found, even through assassinations and jailing, that racial integration in America was the far superior road for practical and moral reasons. It was not simple, it was not easy. It was worth it.
Said James Brown in 1969: “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door, I’ll get it myself.” Today, that position has been completely inverted:
It is frighteningly disturbing that this generation of students has chosen to ignore the achievements of crossover and gone to greater extremes of racial sensitivity in their demands for resignations. I can’t imagine college universities now having the stomach to even listen to Richard Pryor or George Carlin, two of the many whose humor brought us together in the 70s. Indeed today’s students seem to have lost all sense of humor. I can only speculate this comes from a poor interpretation of what they expected that we went through or what others before us did. We sought the guarantees of the Constitution and we also wanted to escape small places and move about freely. Listen to the students at Little Rock High School. Remember Charlayne Hunter. Study James Farmer. They worked to end segregation, not to hide from insults or even injuries. What is clear to me is that far too many Americans expect from oppositional politics what can only be achieved from actual friendship, which is mutual respect and admiration. What a sad result. Finally calling someone a “racist” has nothing to do with what someone actually believes, but one’s position in an artificial political war. This fight is not about crime and punishment, it’s not even about the law. It’s a tawdry catfight over bourgeois privileges between bourgeois actors who desperately seek to inherit the imprimatur of Civil Rights struggle. My ass.
Which is, of course, not to say that all the brouhaha on campus is wholly unprovoked. But contemporary claims by college students of being oppressed and downtrodden sometimes seem downright laughable.