Monday, May 19, 2008

Three Word Wednesday - delayed, edge, focus - 5/21/08

Both of you who regularly read my blog know that I grew up in northern Idaho. At the same time a friend of mine, of about the same age, was growing up in North Carolina. The south was dealing with integration, desegregation, civil rights demonstrations, and violence generated by racism. I saw accounts of it on the television, but as with a lot of things that did not directly affect me, I basically ignored it. It was another world.

The only diversity that I was confronted was that some of my classmates had brown eyes. I noticed that in the 2000 census, Idaho was down to only 95 per cent white. A regular melting pot, we were (that sounded like Yoda). Oh, we had some Native American and Mexican students, but we really didn’t notice. The darkest skinned kid among us was Paul Richter. His photo is here. Though he had a very vile ethnic nickname (which I will not reveal here), he used his number 2 pencil to shade in the “white” circle on his SATs.

Most of us were third or fourth generation European immigrants with names like Dorendorf, Rinaldi, Birchmeier, McCoy, Burkhart, Blickensderfer (I think that is German for beautiful), VanHoose, Eixenberger, Wainright, Jasberg, Arnhold, and Schonewald. Our parents worked in the mines and forests.

My friend remembers white-only bathrooms and water fountains. Black people could not eat in restaurants, (my friend lived very near the Greensboro Woolworth sit in, were herded into the balconies of movie theaters, were banned from public swimming pools, and had to enter through the back door of businesses they were allowed into. I cannot relate to this. It seems impossible to me to fathom. Isn’t this America? Instead of worrying about the effect of the Berlin Wall, perhaps Eisenhower and Kennedy (Ich bin ein RACIST) should have looked at the apartheid in this country. Oh, that's right, blacks did not have the right to vote in the elections of either of these presidents. You do the math. But I digress.

I have since come to understand a bit more of what the south went through, particularly as it deals with education. During the hundred years of segregation following the civil war, each school district had to fund two separate schools. One black and one white. Since the south was very poor, that meant two underfunded and ineffective schools. Unfortunately for the black students, what scant funding there was ended up mostly in the white schools. Education was not paramount as about the only employment available was in textile mills and agriculture. One did not need to know the Pythagorean Theorem to prepare for a life of picking cotton or tobacco or making bedspreads.

In 1965, the schools were integrated and the black schools were closed. (Even though Brown vs The Board of Education, banning segregation, became law in 1954, its implementation was delayed in the south)

When the students were combined, it was found that the black students, through no fault of their own, were behind the white students. As a result, at least in my friend’s school, there was a distinct dumbing down of the white students to allow black students to catch up. The black students were pushed through with their age group. Students graduated with my friend that could not even read, let alone read at grade-level. The sons of wealthy white families had the alternative of private military school. But the girls, such as my friend, had no options.

My friend received a substandard education in North Carolina, while in Idaho I had the opportunity for a well-rounded and comprehensive education. I had some great teachers and facilities. Though through my own inattentiveness and fragmented focus I did not take full advantage of what was afforded me, I learned a lot by osmosis. If you throw enough paint at a canvas, you will eventually get a painting.

My friend is very intelligent but largely uneducated. As a result, she thinks of herself as dumb and lacks confidence. It greatly saddens me. She was a canvas that was never painted on. Of course, the upside is she mistakenly thinks I am smart. Who would have guessed that growing up in the wilds of Northern Idaho would give me an academic edge over anyone?


Lucy said...

This was so interesting Rick. And it IS impossible to fathom that this really went on in America! So backwards and just so wrong. Why did those politicians have their heads in the sand? Were they just as prejudice? Remember the powerful movie, Mississippi burning? I remember feeling the same amazement while watching that. Unbelievable that it was the 20th century.
I love the compassion you show for your friend, sounds to me it's never too late to get out the paint and make a colorful canvas. YOU can be the artist to show her how.
( btw... Both of you who regularly read me blog??) haha WHO?

myrtle beached whale said...

I reread my post and it makes me sound like a liberal. That is not true and very hurtful. I just believe in what is right.

Redheels said...

It is hard to believe things were so different in different areas of our country in the 60's. It makes me wonder how different things are now. I believe I would be very surprised especially since I live in a small town.

giggles said...

As a Canadian pride myself on liberal thought! Blatant racism then is more covert now. Still a large majority of jails are filled with minorities, in the U.S. and Canada! Poverty is still rampant amongst minorities and opportunity is not the same! It's a crass reality swept under the rug all too often! Hopefully more change is in store! I am sad for your friend, I have no doubt she is your intellectual equal. We tend to gravitate to our mirror images!
Excellent post! I really enjoyed it. I followed those politics then and still do.

Side note, most of the time I find it difficult to find art with an ethnic flair. That speaks volumes to me! Imagine a child unable to see faces in their own image!

Well done

myrtle beached whale said...

I think my main point is that racism doesn't just hurt the target group. Energy and effort expended in bigotry produces collateral damage. I think I am most proud that I raised 3 citizens that judge an individual by actions and not color. Assholes come in all hues.

giggles said...


TC said...

If you throw enough paint at a canvas, you will eventually get a painting.

Nicely put. And I feel bad that your friend was a canvas that never got paint. But... it's never too late. She doesn't have to remain unpainted forever.

gautami tripathy said...

You won't believe it. In India, I am supposed to be disadvantaged becos I have brown skin.

focussed on death

one more believer said...

hmm, excellent post... memphis tn, is pretty near what you speak... growing up in a white neighborhood is scary... as hispanic growing up in the 60s in LA i was treated by my dear young white peers and white teachers w/distain and distance.. spitting, slapping my face, chasing me home, name calling... it was pretty awful... you speak of collateral damage, absolutely... diversity, it's a nice concept...

susan said...

Rick I don't care what your ideology is, I agree right is right. I think it says we have a way to go if this is hard to fathom. It did and does exist here now. Bigotry, racism and prejudice is alive and kickin'. While there has been progress, we still cannot on a large scale see each other for not wanting to paint together. I currently live in the most segregated, homophobic state in the country.

latree said...

I still don't understand, what is wrong about having colored skin?
I am colored.

Roger Yale said...

Stumbled on your blog when I was doing a search for classic rock in Myrtle Beach - amazing, those search engines.

I now want to add you to my favorites list - thanks.

Not sure if we've met, but shit stirring is a noble profession.

Jan said...

Hey Rick,
I am having trouble with this one.
I'm 3 years younger than you, and grew up in High Point, NC...went to school in Jamestown, which bordered Greensboro, and G'boro was supposed to be one up on us due to size. I graduated in 74.

I had an excellent education. There was no "dumbing down" of the white kids at my schools. If the black kids (or the white kids) couldn't keep up, they flunked, simple as that. But most didn't.

Compared to the college grads in their 30's and early 40's that I see, I could run circles around their education and I didn't even go to college. They can't spell, they know no grammar. If they are capable of writing, it usually looks like a 5th grader's homework paper.

Anyway, maybe it was the part of Greensboro she was from, or just her upbringing, but North Carolina was the best of the southern states, believe me. Moving down here to Myrtle Beach was a total culture shock for me as far as the racial circumstances.

So I don't get it. But I wish I had a better idea of where she lived and what school she went to.
Ask her if it was Ragsdale....


myrtle beached whale said...

My friend is actually a couple of years older than me, making her about five years your senior. I am hoping that your experience means that the situation improved in those five years, but I am afraid your observations are the exception rather than the rule. Though North Carolina boasts some of the best universities in the country they are still sorely lacking in education. In 2007, over 30 years later, North Carolina was still only 39th in SAT scores, which is a good indication of achievement in education.
I am glad for you that you were fortunate enough to receive a quality education. Unfortunately, not the case for most.

Redheels said...

I saw Jan's comment. I wanted to respond to it.

I am glad she enjoyed the education that we all deserve here in NC. She just might feel different if she had been in a more rural NC high school in the early to mid 1960's. I would like to think we have the best educational system here, but I don't try to fool myself.

To my sorrow, I know several individual that graduated from my school who can't read a newspaper or a book and can hardly write their names. That is a tragedy.

You are right, Rick, we do have some great colleges. I wonder how many of the students attending those colleges are actually NC educated. I would love to see the statistics of how few Duke undergrads are actually from NC. I will bet it would be shocking. I am hoping there are more now than would have been enrolled 40 years ago.

myrtle beached whale said...


Thanks for your comments. I think my posting probably caused some knee-jerk reactions from some southerners, but facts are facts and history is history. Denial will not change what happened and continues to happen.

By the way: In-state student undergraduate enrollement at Duke is 15%. I do not have any information about how many NC students apply and their rejection rate as compared other applicants. I know the overall rejection rate is about 78%.

JBelle said...

I remember distinctly when Martin Luther King marched: reading it in the Coeur d'Alene Press made no sense whatsoever to me. What were they marching for? (my mother, from LA: to be treated like everyone else) Well why aren't they treated like everyone else? (people don't like them) What do they do to them? (make them sit at the back of the bus) Why is that bad? (smells in the back of the bus) ???? huh? Why would they do that? My Own Private Idaho refers to much, much more than the Joe upstream Marble Creek.

JimmyKirk said...

Hey Rick: I agree with your evaluation of where we grew up. We had NO point of reference for any kind of discriminated group. The times were such that we gnerally did not even know or think that we were richer or poorer than our classmates. I think in general, almost everyone was in the same socioeconomic strata. The Postwar years had pretty well evened out the nation's economy, and the US was in a growth mode. Northern Idaho enjoyed the benefit of the natural resources of timber and mining, and we were surrounded by agriculture as well. Just about all of our classmates families had a good job, and (test me on this ...) a stay-at-home Mom. As you recall, by the time we were in High School, the Bunker was owned by a (Texas?) firm, Gulf Resources. Management moved Southern families up north to run the plants, and we finally got an influx of some "outsiders". Remember Juan and Henry? I thought they were great guys, smart and friendly. Again, I am pretty clueless about lots of unpleasantries (such as Paul, who you mentioned). I'm thinking Juan ran for Class President. (or was it Henry) I remember his campaign speech: "Hello, I'm Juan,please vote for me for President. Thank you" (Sits down.)