Saturday, July 25, 2009

Black and White

I attended an all boys private school from 7th through 12th grade in the late 1960's. We were almost all well to do and white. There were few minority students.

We were among the most insulated of the insulated. We did not know from the sting of prejudices. We were the elite. We could be intellectually compassionate for the plight of others. We could be friends with minority students and consider ourselves color blind. In our world, maybe prejudice did not exist.

Earlier this week, I read with interest a post on a blog of one of my former classmates. He was remembering with great fondness a black classmate with whom he had become close during high school. Later, these 2 friends drifted apart, lost touch. He subsequently learned of the untimely death of his old friend, at about the age of 35, from AIDS.

The writer of the blog posed the question of whether, in his view of the world, we had moved past issues of color. I think we found a clear answer this week in Massachusetts and Washington. President Obama let his guard down, for just a moment, and exposed the raw nerve that lies just beneath the surface.

I wish the world was as we envisioned it from our ivory tower. I wish the words of my former classmate were more fact than fantasy. But we were not the victims, and it is not for us to announce that all is forgiven and forgotten. One confrontation at a front door was all we needed to bring reality home.

1 comment:

Jack Epstein said...

Like myself, you are a Jew, and as such I have felt the sting of discrimination many times in my life. If you have lived this long never having had that experience you are very fortunate. I don't suppose the world will ever get past issues of color, race and religion, but we do have the capacity to learn how to live together more peacefully. I recall, with pride, supporting and participating in the civil rights movement when I was a young man in college and believe we've made much progress in America in the last 50 years. Let's keep in mind that professor Gates resides in a city with a black mayor, a state with a black governor, and a country with a black president. That is progress, but certainly not perfection. All the same, president Obama did a lot worse than momentarily letting down his guard. He is the president of all Americans, and as such he should have excersized the proper restraint and political wisdom of keeping quiet on a local issue he admittedly did not have adequate knowledge of. His imprudent remarks, accusing the Cambridge police of "acting stupidly" are inflammatory and have the potential to increase racial tensions unnecessarily.