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"The big, huge meteor headed toward the Earth. Could nothing stop it? Maybe Gypsy could. She was suddenly on top of the meteor-through some kind of space warp or something. 'Go, Gypsy, Go!' yelled some of the generals. 'Give me that!' said the big-guy general as he took the microphone away. 'Listen, Gypsy,' he said. 'You've got to steer that meteor away from Earth.' 'Yes, but how' thought Gypsy. Then she got an idea. Right next to her there was a steering wheel sticking out of the meteor."
Honky! Kike! Kraut! Froggie! Paddie! Limey! Towel Head! Chink! Canuk! Squaw! Red! Polack! Wops! Nigger! By the time I left New York City and the neighborhood I was raised in, I knew just about every pejorative for races and ethnic groups that existed. In my mid-teens I moved from inner city New York to Duluth, Minnesota. I could not believe all the blond haired, blue-eyed people I saw there. I figured they were either some exotic race or a caste of lepers. I thought perhaps they were escapees from the world of which I came. They would have been seen as down-right homely, with their expressionless faces and pale no feature visages. Later I found out they were Scandies, who were dumb Swedes, Weegians and Danes. Recently the word "Nigger" has cropped up in the news. Mark Fuhrman used it endlessly and F. Lee Bailey used it some more, describing how often Mark Fuhrman used it. It became known as the 'N' word and for weeks all the news was abuzz with it. Many liberals thought racism was over and done with. It surfaced to the public consciousness once again. All the laws put forth in the sixties were at best impotent and at worst promotional of racist behavior. We should have learned by now that laws cannot change the hearts and minds of the people. Laws, and their subsequent degrees of punishment, can repress beliefs and feelings and prevent people from voicing their opinions, but they cannot change how people look at each other in their heart of hearts.
Prodded into thinking about the recent race intensive trials and travails, I told people I wanted to write a column about race. "Why? I was asked. "What do race relations have to do with health and fitness?!!" Churning in my mind, was a syntheses of all I had observed: events in my own life, events others related to me, things I read about and watched on TV through the years. I concluded that a racist society was an unhealthy society, mentally and physically detrimental to everyone. Plummeting headlong into that unique matrix of ethnocentrist-xenophobia, which in the United States took on it own peculiar flavor of racism, we frantically search to avoid our dangerous destination. There must be guiding force that would lead us away from the explosive results of racial prejudice. Where can we turn to escape the ballistic explosion, that could leave many of us hurt, sick or dead. Blinded by our laziness, we grope for a steering wheel. Which direction should we follow in order to realize a healthy, strong and fit society? Just as the person who puts off exercising and bemoans the results of a weak body, we resist the training and practice that will lead us to cooperative alliances. We find it so much easier to blame someone else, or hide out in our own little worlds and think that the other person is too different from us and our kind. We rationalize our indolence by deciding that no one will ever understand our point of view. We have two options at our disposal. We can give up and give credence to biological myths of racial superiority, leaving humanity to careen into the morass of a horrible race war. We can locate the accessible steering wheel right in front of our noses and set our orbital path toward the one apparatus needed to exercise our abilities to get along with each other: Knowledge.
"It's too bad that whole families have to be torn apart by something as simple as wild dogs."
"They're rioting in Africa...tra la la la la la la. There's starving in Spain...tra la la la la la. There's hurricanes in Florida...Tra la la la la la and Texas needs rain. The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch. And I don't like anybody very much...-(sung by Pete Seeger in a lilting, happy voice).
As my education in the School of Life continued, I discovered within the human family our diversity was a bane and a boon. I also discovered that as diverse as we are, we shared similarities in our capabilities of being destructive and creative. These capacities cross all ethnic and racial lines. The white Europeans gave Indians blankets with small pox that wiped out many tribes. Custer was an alcoholic and a poor leader, whereas Sitting Bull was a great military strategist who led his soldiers to victory. I also learned that Indians owned slaves. The Cherokees hired people to capture enemies from other tribes and if they didn't kill them, made them into slaves. The Spaniards made great discoveries and built grand scale cities in South and Central America. In South America, the treatment of slaves was known to be harsher than treatment of slaves in North America. Portuguese and Spanish plantations were known to work their slaves with little concern for their health or welfare. The Irish came to the United States to escape the potato famine. They came as indentured servants, often used to do work considered unsafe for slaves. The negro slave was worth more and it was more economical to risk the lives of a few "Paddies" than to take the chance of some "Niggers" falling overboard and drowning. Jews who provided so much intellectual and cultural substance to Europe, were systematically exterminated in World War II. Though the Germans led this ethnocentric movement, life in Russia wasn't a spring picnic for Jews either. The Germans felt, with some justification, ripped off and screwed over by England and the rest of Europe in the division of spoils after World War I. These same persecuted Jews, when the British balked at honoring the Balfour Agreement, used terrorist methods for dealing with their enemy. They invented the letter bomb and developed methods of torture and genocide used on the Palestinians. The Palestinians then turned around and committed terrorist acts themselves. Prior to slavery in the United States, Africa had a robust slave trade. Wars and kidnapping was a way African kingdoms had for acquiring slaves. White Europeans who were lost at sea and shipwrecked off the west coast of Africa were also enslaved. Arabs promoted slave trades and often acted as middle-men for the international trade market. The Chinese, for all their great civilization, practiced infanticide. The Scandanavians managed to rape, pillage and loot much of Northern Europe. Eric the Red was definitely the inspiration for Hagar the Horrible. And why was he called "horrible" one might ask. Perhaps because of all that raping, looting and pillaging. The Japanese were well known during World War II for atrocities committed upon the Filipinos and United States prisoners of war. They also forced Japanese women to bind their feet, leaving them crippled. Then we have the not so modern strife between the Croats, Bosnians, Muslims and Serbs, et cetera, et cetera. So everybody had something and if I left any nation, culture or race out, it was not because of favoritism, it was because of space. We could conclude from such a smattering of information that the human species will fare no better than the dinosaurs. We will leave the earth to once again be inhabited by roaches and microorganisms. Que sera, sera! Our human arrogance is once more foiled. The bright side of all this is that we of the human world also have an inate capacity for improving our lives and contributing greatly to the progress of the human family. When we have information to help us, we can dramatically change our disposition from fearing others to working, living and loving together. If I have read my history correctly and observed my society with a modicum of alertness, no one culture, race or even religion, the moral indicator of many cultural communities, has claim to righteousness or the moral high ground. We of the human persuasion have the capacity to learn those skills of getting along. We have done great things and accomplished great tasks when we worked together. We've built space stations and gone to the moon. We've moved mountains and built cities. We learned how to feed the world's cities and could, barring ethno-political struggles, assure healthy diet for all the world's population. We built bridges and railroads. And we did all this despite our different size, shape and smell. We crawl, walk and talk, however we seem barely out of infancy in skills of communication. We are still budding adolescents with wondrous, uplifting potential, observed now and then in individuals and small groups. We use our skills under duress, during those times where we are forced to leave the center of our own ego universe and have compassion for others regardless of our differences. Instead of taking the long out-dated stance of beating our chests and bearing our teeth at those who are dissimilar, we can develop, from knowledge, the one skill we need to fend off the wild dogs of fear and envy: Communication.
"You can't tell me that cowboys, when they're branding cattle, don't sort of 'accidentally' brand each other every once in a while. It's their way of letting off stress."
"...But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud. 'Cause man is endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud. And we can be certain that some lucky day. Someone will set the bomb off and we will all be blown away."-(and Pete Seeger sings the end to this haunting melody.)
My youngest daughter when asked once if she lived far from her school replied: "Oh no! I live very close. I live right here on earth." Somewhere we lose our perspective of who we really are and where we live. We learn our school is better than the other people's school. Our city is better. Our state is better. Our country is better. Our hemisphere is better. Our women prettier. Our children smarter. Our dicks longer. We also learn that our religion is superior. Our culture is superior. And our skin coloring is superior. Where did we forget that we all have the brand of this good earth and what happens to some of us, happens to all of us. We have many problems to deal with. We have health problems such as air pollution, war, unchosen pregnancies, population control, AIDS, and some other diseases getting discovered and dispersed throughout the world. We have various social problems to consider. Poverty can contribute to undesirable results in such professions as prostitution, drug dealing and other forms of underground economies. Many of us turn to illicit means of enriching our lives, when above ground alternatives seem unavailable. Living and surviving in underground economies, lead us into a mean existence, often terminating in prison or death. For many people our deprivation is exacerbated due to race or culture, rather than on anything any of us strive for. Women contend with the problems of children birthed without support and compassion, condemning us and our offspring to indigence and deprivation. These problems affect us all. Our social and mental health is jeopardized. Our strength is sapped. Our hopes are crushed. We feel the stress of our societies' malfunctioning. We want to strike out. We want to blame others, because they are different. "Don't blame him! Don't blame me! Blame that fellow behind the tree!!" We brand people as slower, weaker,more morally deprived, yet by a twist of fate that could be any one of us. Some of us will fit one category or another, despite our race, religion or national origins. Regardless of one person's or one community's problems, which vary in who has the most for the moment, these problems have very little to do with whose community the dilemmas exist. We are all affected. We cannot avoid each other. We cannot hide from each other and we certainly cannot live in separate worlds. We are right here on earth and we must accept the responsibility for our own personal behavior and solutions to our problems, with the expectation that our society will be supportative and aid our goals toward solving those problems.
"If you see an animal and you can't tell if it's a skunk or a cat, here's a good saying to help: 'Black-and -white, stinks all right. Tabby-colored, likes a fella'"
"The world is white no longer and never will be white again."-James Baldwin
Islam emphasizes racial equality and has accomplished a remarkable degree of interracial coexistence. The conclusive model in this realm is the willingness to intermarry. The Muslims see Abraham as a paradigm of such acceptance in his marriage to Hagar. Malcolm X discovered in his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, that racism had no place in the Islamic world or any other world for that matter.
The world is no longer white, black, brown or yellow. We in the United States are entering a new era in which old racial molds are rapidly becoming obsolete As the politicoes argue, what race based programs to cut and what to submit, every day ordinary people are changing the racial flavor of our society through intermarriage. White ethnic mixing is high and rising. Intermarriage rates for Hispanics and Asians are rising all the time. Even the miscegenation laws that were in place in the South as late as 1967, did not keep blacks and whites from marrying. Each year approximately fifty-thousand births are recorded to black and white couples. My own family of brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews is a Rainbow Family. As time goes on I find it almost impossible to create categories of race. What do some of my children's, children check off, so that the government can place them in a racial niche, for the purposes of enforcing racial preferences? Will these children become an embarrassment to people who want to keep us separated? Or will they be welcomed and understood as a sweet taste of a milk and honey in a progressively cafe au lait society? We can lay waste to old conflicts, confident that the generations coming up in this world have some answers. We can support their belief that we can all get along, instead of nurturing old hatreds in their pure and innocent hearts. Perhaps they will bring with them the fruit that the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement germinated. If we adults have the vision to do so, we can take our youth's bursting idealism and help them as they attempt to cast off biology as a basis for claims of superiority. We can encourage productive behavior, hard work and superior achievement in all our children. Those children will, in turn, fulfill the hopes of all people, who struggled to make the principles of freedom and justice for all a legal reality. If we all support a system of equal justice under the law, without biological bias, we can metamorphose that legal reality into a tapestry of that great moral high ground that Jesse Jackson talked about in his campaign.
Carl would have to be fast to beat the stranger. Real fast. 'Draw,' said the stranger. Carl went for his gun, but then, 'Hey, where did all these angels come from.?'"
I love going to the gym. I work very hard and see others working hard around me. We at the gym are quite diverse. We come from different cultures, races and nations. We are both male and female. We are united in the fact that we are trying to enhance our lives by building a stronger, more flexible and healthier body. We encourage each other with words and action. We admire each other's hard work. We even become friends and though we are not obligated to be good buddies, there is a definite camaraderie that comes from sharing like goals. Within our diversity, we are polite and respectful to each other, which, as far as I am concerned, is a good start. We know what we want and we strive to achieve it. How in the world, however, do people with different needs and wants flourish together in tranquility? Not effortlessly! It is hard work to resolve differences. We have the strength and competence to adjudicate differences. We may even find we enjoy the process of advancing toward resolution. Our mistakes lie in the expectation that we will not have to deal with each other's differences. We manage to convince ourselves that the other person's deportment just doesn't measure up to our standards. We are so righteous about our own behavior, we cannot imagine why the other person or group does not behave as we do. Though some forms of transgressions are clearly not accepted by nearly everybody, other taboos are culturally, religiously or socially based. A great many wrongs are rooted only in our unique thinking and we fight out of an inate desire to win. This group of people are better athletes. This group has a higher IQ. This group over here morally superior and know right from wrong better than that group over there. And white men can't jump. Black women can't be physicists. Jews can't play football. Asians can't be tall. And Arabs Well! Uh! They sleep in sand and ride camels. We compete with each other, when we really would be better off cooperating and seeing what we can do together to solve problems. If we could say things to each other in the atmosphere of cooperation, we could have a problem solving dialogue, instead of a gun fight at Not-So-OK corral. Gun fights solve nothing in the long run. Racial relations are not won by gun fights. Even if one side seems to win, the other side withdraws only for the purpose of figuring out how to get even. I would rather see us make the effort to communicate our needs to each other, admit when we are wrong and cooperate to make things right. Maybe eventually we can share millions of memories and jokes. Maybe we can meet each others eyes across a crowded room and understand we all want to feel safe and happy. Maybe the person with whom we make contact will be someone who makes us feel at home. Someone to cry or laugh with us. Maybe even that someone we thought was so different from us, will turn into someone we cuddle with in front of a fire place, make love to, marry and have new children of a new age. Maybe those children will possess the best we all have to offer. We will no longer think who were all those angels. Those angels will be us and we will be right here on earth.
"I hope that someday we will be able to put away our fears and prejudices and just laugh at people"
Once again, of all the possible solutions, allowing us to get rid of the fears and prejudices we harbor toward each other, only one will work: Communication!! We can talk to each other, sharing our fears, anxieties, dreams, hopes, memories and desires. We can laugh at each other's quaint habits and make jokes about each others way's, without being mean spirited. Love knows no color. We can love each because of, not despite of, our different ways. We can marry and have children. And while we are talking to each other, we should keep in mind the equally important element of communicating: Listening
Harriet Tubman-an excerpt
"...The "Thing"-- a Human, a Woman,
-From Songs of Days and Years, by Sarah Fell Yellin
Spans from town to town
To tell, to plead, to sing and inspire
Her courage opens hearts,
Her fighting-will breaks prejudice
Of race and sex.
First woman, soldier-partisan
Nurse and preacher.
With John Brown, Nat Turner,
With Denmark Vessi and Fred Douglas
She shares the platform and battlefield.
Like the Morning Star, she is always there
To meet the Dawn!..."
"...The "Thing"-- a Human, a Woman,
-From Songs of Days and Years, by Sarah Fell Yellin
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