May 20, 2024

#community dignity

my grandfather, as Captain (about to get Maj., retired LtCol.) in the US Army wanted to move his family back to the states. he had already been decorated several times over battling in foreign wars, played baseball in the negro leagues and had graduated from West Point military academy. moving from Germany to the states as a black family in the 60s was a touchy proposition. to cut to the chase, my grandparents literally found a white couple in the military willing to fly to Texas to pose as my grandparents and helped them find a decent house in a decent neighborhood (in which they still live, btw) after the realtor only tried to place them in run-down houses in run-down neighborhoods.
to offer some other anti-stereotypes about the black side of my family, every one of my grandparents’ children is college educated (I don’t have a degree, I’m the only one of college-age cousins that doesn’t have one… and only one person on the white side of my family has a professional degree.)

my father told me as a child, his father was ‘explaining the world to him‘ knee-deep in the 60s, Texas.. (with massive paraphrasing I’m sure) “son, you can’t look a white person in the eye. it’s not that your aren’t as good as they are. you are just as good, talented, and important. but they will never understand that. a few will, but that doesn’t matter. keep your head down and do a good job for the sake of doing a good job. don’t ever let them think that YOU think you are lesser.” now there is a mountain of context I’m glossing over in my family’s life… but can you imagine the frame of mind, the kind of life and the context that creates the need for that kind of lesson?! …as well as the 70s where my parents were harassed for being a mix-race couple…
when I was ten my parents wanted to take me to Disneyland, universal studios, etc, and we did. drove from Texas to Cali saw some family in Cali. I remember a couple of stops along the way were rather long and drawn-out. it seemed every restaurant or hotel wasn’t ‘good enough’ or something, I didn’t really know (knee-deep in the eighties by now). I remembered this but thought nothing of it, really. a couple of memories struck me years later and I asked my mom about it. cut to the chase, restaurants/hotels wouldn’t serve/sleep my father and myself. the memory I had was of my dad going into a hotel and coming back out saying there was no vacancy, my mom goes in and comes back with a room key.
now I don’t have all the facts, statistics, research in front of me, but I do know that communities are living breathing entities. they spark, they grow, they live, they die… they change. a majority of our communities have grown in numbers and have grown in maturity. black, minority communities are suffering, suffering for lack of opportunity. yes there is the individual responsibility angle and yes my grandfather was individually responsible and he raised his family as such, but that doesn’t account for the systemic racism that persisted to demoralize an entire population (and still does). also, he successfully got out of the community first. now the real work can begin-type mentality.. but that doesn’t help the community. non-minority communities are suffering also, always have been…. ‘poor white trash’. why are they suffering separately but equal? because there aren’t any opportunities within their communities. you have to leave in order to achieve anything, and that isn’t always possible and it only leaves the community to die.
People in poor communities need to have the opportunity to earn a dignified life, have respectable jobs and mature their communities too.

added rant:
…we need guaranteed jobs. we need massive public works projects on the scale of the interstate system (solar panels on every roof initiative or something like that…) we need people devoted to their community through emotional ownership through pride of community. with a guaranteed minimum income and maybe dabble in de-ownership of land, we will see the only-motivated-by-money-i-own-land-people become ‘the lazy’ while the rest of us that have ideas and only-want-a-comfortable-single-family-residence-apartment-loft-creative walk-ride-bike to work innovative type-living create great things…


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