Tag: race relations

Kyle Larson, NASCAR, and That Ugly N-Word

By Michael April 25, 2020 0

Kyle Miyata Larson is an enigma. He is an American professional stock car racing driver, one of a few Asian American athletes in what is mostly a white man’s sport. His mother, Janet Miyata Larson, is an American of Japanese descent. Her parents were rounded up and imprisoned as if they were enemy combatants by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the beginning of World War II. His father, Michael Larson, is an American of European origins. He taught his son the stock car racing trade. read more

Trump, My White Bigot

By Michael June 9, 2016 2

Donald J. Trump is my white bigot. I mean every African American that I know in my generation has a white bigot they can point to as the epitome of racial prejudice in American. Trump has not always been my personal white bigot. But it seems a white bigot has always been present at every stage of my three-score years pulse in the earth.

The first white bigot I encountered in life was from a history lesson taught by my grandmother Puella Harvey. She taught me that President Calvin Coolidge was a great enemy of the downtrodden and that Herbert Hoover was not much better. My mother was not alive when Coolidge was president and barely in the world when Hoover served, so I have to take granny’s words for it, as I have no personal recollection of either man she considered a white bigot.

The first white bigot I can recall placing on my white bigot list was Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus. I was 20 days shy of my sixth birthday, when Faubus opposed the Little Rock Nine  in their efforts to integrate Central High in Little Rock.

His actions could only be explained, my grandmother taught, because of white bigotry. I was a couple of days into the first grade at this time and could not understand what was the big deal about going to school with white kids.

I was happy to be in a classroom of all black children. The white kids I had encountered up to that point in life all called me bad names while throwing rocks or spit balls towards me.

Then Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge gave a big policy speech in Macon, Georgia,  near the farming community where I lived. He talked about maintaining separation of the races. He called for white people to boycott products advertised on television programs that featured black men cavorting with white women as if they were equal. The adults believed Talmadge was a white bigot; needless to say, so did I.

In 1963, I added Alabama Governor George Wallace to my white bigot list. Wallace stood in the door at the University of Alabama in an effort to block two black students from attending the university. His snarling, red faced defiance of President John Kennedy merited, I thought, induction as the first white bigot that I would designate for inclusion in the universal set of white bigots.

Four years later, Georgia Governor Lester Maddox made my white bigot list. Maddox was a bad white man. He publicly pushed and shoved black people out of his Atlanta restaurant. He pledged to attack, with an ax handle, any black person who attempted to enter his establishment.

In 1970, I played college baseball at Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley, Georgia. One day we were playing a game on campus against Alabama State College from Montgomery, Alabama. So our fans began to poke fun at the Alabama State players by decrying their white bigoted governor, George Wallace:

“We gonna get this game over in a hurry, because we know old George Wallace wont let y’all back in the state after sun down,” the Fort Valley student body shouted to the roar of laughter.

The Alabama State bench was undaunted: “Our governor has a college education and don’t ride a bicycle backward,” the Alabama State players shouted back in clear reference to that Georgia white bigot. Maddox did not finish high school and had ridden his bicycle backward on late night television. It was a lighthearted moment. Alabama State won the game in time to get back across the state line before sun down.

A year later, I transferred from Fort Valley State to Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. While there I came into contact with Charles Woods from Dothan, Alabama.  Woods was a perennial statewide candidate. His face was disfigured from a plane crash that had occurred during his service in World War II.

Woods owned a television station in Dothan, Alabama. He would cut his own campaign commercials, which often, in his southern drawl, went like this: “I want to be your governor because we have to stop the Niggas. They have taken over our schools. They have taken over the football team, the basketball team and now they trying to take over our baseball team.”

Although I felt sorry for his disfigured appearance, the content of his character quickly placed him on my white bigot list.

After returning to Georgia from college, J. B. Stoner, a white supremacist from Marietta, Georgia, who had a strong dislike for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., moved onto my white bigot list. He was followed by David Duke over in Louisiana.

During the early 1970s there was a television sitcom character, Archie Bunker, who embodied the heart and soul of white bigotry. Bunker became every white bigot who had ever lived. In many ways, the brash in your face campaign style of Donald J. Trump, is an Archie Bunker in real time.

Like Trump’s chest pumping over having a singular African American friend, I can point with pride to my white bigot, Donald. He makes my list after much thought and consideration. As hard as I tried I could not come up with any reasonable explanation for why he disparage Mexicans, Muslims, women and African Americans. It’s simply bigotry and ignorance to consider only those whose ancestors migrated here from Europe as true Americans. This seems to be the ethos that Trump wants to spread.

Not all white people are bigots, but we need to have the ability to spot a white bigot when one consistently flaunts his bigotry at every opportunity.

SOURCES:

Larry Sankey

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/calvin-coolidge

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/herbert-hoover

http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=102

http://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=608

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at 

haroldmichaelharvey.com read more

Jackie Robinson Made Us Better

By Michael April 18, 2016 2

Jackie Robinson is again the subject of a Ken Burns documentary, so I went into the vault and pulled out this piece I wrote in 2013 when the movie “42” was released.

There are a number of ways I could lead into this story, just suffice it to say, I cried all the way through the movie “42.”  I’m not sure why the tears were pervasive and streamed down my cheeks as the true story, with a few poetic liberties taken, of Jackie Robinson’s integration of Major League Baseball played out on the big screen.

It is a story I was very familiar; as the name Jackie Robinson in the 1950s was spoken in my home as often as the names of the people who lived in my extended family.   Robinson lifted black Americans on his shoulders and paraded them around the American pastime so the world could see American Negroes at their best.  In doing so he lifted from the shoulders of America the white man’s burden and created a new calculus whereby the problem of the color-line could be solved.

The unconventional plays performed by Jackie Robinson in white major league baseball was routine stuff that Negro ball players did game in and game out in the Negro Leagues.  The fact that Robinson did it playing against white players inspired his community.  The Brooklyn Dodgers quickly became the favorite team in black America beginning in 1946.  In the 1950s, before puberty, I was not aware of the magnitude of Robinson’s contribution to American life and development.

I thought that Stan Musial and Ted Williams were better, as ball players, but my elders were quick to point out that Robinson broke the color barrier.  They would say this with such pride; I knew it had to be a significant accomplishment.  I just could not see the big deal, because everywhere I went, the color-line was clearly marked as a bar to deter my free roaming will.

In 1955 after leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only world championship, Jackie Robinson brought a team of Negro major league baseball players to Luther Williams Field in Macon, Georgia to play an exhibition game against a team of white major league baseball players led by Mickey Mantle.   Ironically, 57 years later a Hollywood film crew would ride into town and shoot “42” in old Luther Williams Field.

I had wanted to attend that game 57 years ago and thought I had a seat in the car, but when an overcast day gave way to a cold October rain later in the evening, it was decided I should stay on the farm and not take the ride into Macon.

My grandmother kept us up way past midnight waiting for the men to come back from the game.  When they returned there was excitement in the house.  Robinson and the black ball players did not disappoint, but a controversial call on a fly ball hit down the right field foul line apparently doomed their fate and the white players won a close game.

My uncles bought a bat from the concession stand.  It had Jackie Robinson’s signature engraved into it.  We played with that bat in our pick-up games.  This bat though worn is still in my Uncle John’s estate today.

In 1956, Jackie Robinson did something that rivaled his entrance into the game of white baseball.  Following a World Series lost to the New York Yankees, the Dodges decided they would trade an aging Robinson to the New York Giants.  Robinson resolved not to be a slave under baseball’s “reserve clause,” instead, retired from the game of baseball.

The trade was a slap in the face of all he had done to bring baseball and America into the 20 th century.  As hard as he fought to be looked upon as a man, the “reserve clause,” a form of indentured servitude that tied a player, mostly white men prior to Robinson, to a team for life, was used to say:

“Jackie Robinson, you are still a piece of chattel, subject to be sold and traded like cows, horses, or Negroes prior to 1863.”  He would not be treated like anything less than a man, a legacy seldom mentioned when talking about his contributions to society.  Some say Robinson was heart-broken and that this led to his early death in 1972.

His retirement from baseball came a year and a half after the first Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed the “Separate but Equal Doctrine” enunciated in the Plessey v. Ferguson case in 1895.

Robinson had a definite impact on the law, but things were changing slowly and as a adolescence in 1956, I had little hope that any real change would trickle down to my everyday life.  Then one day in ’63, King told America about a dream that he had and listening to that speech, people in my community had renewed hope that just like Jackie Robinson made it possible for black and white guys to play baseball on the same field, that soon blacks would be fully integrated into American life.

While watching the movie I recalled a recent conversation with a childhood friend, Kenneth Nixon, the older brother of former Los Angeles Lakers point guard, Norm Nixon.  Kenneth wondered what would have happen had we not integrated the Lanier Jr. High School for Boys back in 1965.

I told him that had we not done so and countless others like us in other parts of the country the progress  America has made since Jackie Robinson would not have taken place.  Like Jackie Robinson, we were expected to suffer the taunts and name-calling without striking back.  We did. America is a much better place because we did.

Perhaps, this is why I could not control the tears.  The movie” 42” brought back the days when like Jackie Robinson, I was a pioneer for racial progress.  It hurt today like it hurt 47 years ago; that same pain, yet that same pleasure too, just knowing that what we endured, we endured to make all humankind better human beings.  Mr. Robinson, you made us better as men, as women and as a nation.  We are forever in your debt.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.

 

Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal

By Michael June 13, 2015 14

The strange case of Rachel Dolezal has the country up in storm. Dolezal was born to white parents of Czech and German ancestry. Sometime after emancipation she decided to identify as black. She immersed herself in the African American culture, tanned her skin, weaved her hair; and spoke in the cadence and sauntered with the swag of a black middle class woman.

Quite frankly, I find what she has done refreshing. She could not have appeared on the national scene at a better time. Dolezal’s claims of being black is just the fresh air that the country needs to finally get a grip on the great racial divide that W. E. B. DuBois said would be the main problem in the 20th century. DuBois, I believe, surely thought Americans would have solved the problem of race by the 21st century.

It saddens me to report to DuBois’ legacy: As Americans, we have not solved how “the lighter races of men relate to the darker races in America, Asia, Africa and the island of the seas.”

Individually, some Americans have. I have met several white women who identify very deeply with black culture and the struggle of the African American community to rid itself of the shackles of racism. One of whom told me just the other day, that as a young white woman in the work world, it did not take her “long to figure out that the white man was the problem.”

Albeit, none of my friends have taken the Dolezal step and rejected their European ancestry and self identified with people of African descent.

Dolezal’s bold and courageous move speaks volumes for race relations in America. The Christian Messiah preached that if you wanted to be like him you must be prepared to “… leave your possessions, pick up your cross and follow me.”

This Dolezal has done and like the the Christian Messiah, she has suffered her own crucifixion, in the media, by white and black people. Whites find it impossible to believe that a white person would voluntarily give up the privilege of white skin. Perhaps because few of them would be willing to do it.

From the appearance of it, Dolezal has rejected her biological parents and created a new life in the black world. None of my liberal white friends, no matter how progressive, when pushed have said they would be willing to forfeit the perks of skin color.

On the other hand black people feel a sense of disrespect, as if, Dolezal is treading on precious black space. Precious because the dominate white culture only allows a small percentage of black people to occupy space with rich soil. Blacks are reluctant to share what little good space there is in the American melting pot.

In the Soul’s of Black Folks, DuBois writes about the “concept of twoness” experienced by black Americans. The experience of being American, yet not being treated like an American and how black people struggle with who they are as a result of this “unreconciled twoness.”

Dolezal has wrestled with DuBois’ identity crisis from the white perspective, as she has tried to reconcile the American dream of white Americans, with the American nightmare of black Americans. She has opted to live black, to think black, and to work for black advancement, all the while entrapped  by her genetics, which dictate that she is predisposed to live the white cultural myth based upon the lie that somehow white people are superior and blacks are inferior people.

Dolezal freed herself from her genetics the only way she could, and the only way all of us can, by freeing the mind.

How cool is that?

Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

Starbucks Talks Race over Coffee

By Michael March 19, 2015 0

Starbucks just added a jolt to a morning cup of java. The jolt is not from some exotic Central American  or African brew. This bounce is not due to an extravagant aromatic coffee bean. The added sway does not come from what is in the cup. It’s what is written on the cup and what the Starbuck’s server says to you when you pick up your cup of java that is jerking Americans awake.

This week, Starbucks introduced it’s “Race Together” cup and encouraged its employees to begin a discussion with its customers on race.

Finally, someone has joined President Obama’s call for a national discussion on race.  It was seven years ago this week that President Obama first called for a national conversation on race. This speech was delivered in Philadelphia and is credited with securing him the Democratic nomination and ultimately the presidency. However, few Americans heeded his plea for honest racial discussions.  

Following the jury verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, Obama again renewed his call for a national discussion on race in a Friday afternoon news conference. As I wrote in “Justice in the Round,” President Obama did not call this news conference to announce that black people should engage in a national discussion on race, but that white Americans should begin these painful discussions.

Few did.

The President again asked the nation to begin this important dialogue following the turmoil in Ferguson.

Starbucks has launched a campaign to start this conversation over a cup of coffee. The idea has met with skepticism in the first few hours . The last thing a caffeine addict wants in the early morning before that first cup of coffee is a serious conversation on any topic.  And racial discussions are way, way down the list.

Yet Starbucks and kitchen tables across America are precisely the places where this racial discussion must begin.

Wake-up America! Have a cup of java and a frank discussion on why you feel the way you feel about people in a  racial group different than your own. Hopefully, your discussion will change how you view people who are not members of your ethnic, religious, political or social groups.

 

Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Racism on the Brain

By Michael March 10, 2015 6

Racism on the brain is a disease. It affects many erstwhile well adjusted white people. Racism on the brain is a curable disease. I think President Barack Obama should issue a challenge to the nation to eradicate racism on the brain.

He should boldly declare this goal like President John F. Kennedy boldly charted the nation on a mission to the moon within the decade of the 1960s.

The President should be so bold as to narrow the focus of his challenge to white Americans who suffer from racism on the brain. Yes, I think he should limit is scope to white Americans, and you know the ones I am talking about. The white people who thinks it is necessary to denigrate black people at every private moment when black people are not present.

I have had progressive white friends tell me, “You should hear how white people talk about you all when there are no black people around.” I presume these are liberal and progressive white people like the white friends who have shared these private discussions with me. I can only imagine how horrible the taunts are from conservative white Americans.

Now if you are white, do not race card me, you know what I am saying is true. Surely, you have, whether you participated in the discussion or not,  been present when all manner of disgusting generalizations have been leveled at the black race.

It is time to stop perpetuating this nonsense. Please do not tell me that I would stop if the blacks would stop. You have the privilege, so why not take the high ground and cure the racism in you first. Even if it does not bring about a change in black people towards you it will not matter, because you would have established that you are the better person. After all, you have always contended that you were better. Now is the time and the manner to prove it.

On Sunday, when I was leaving the 50th Selma Anniversary, a group of Latino Americans were gathered in a circle protesting the immigration policy. There protest was in Spanish. A middle-aged black woman walked passed them and snarled, “Speak in English so people will know what you are talking about.” Clearly, this woman showed insensitivity to the Latino Americans. I took her to task and told her she should learn Spanish and that those Americans had a right to voice their protest in any language they chosed.

In order to cure racism on the brain, it is incumbent upon each of us to speak up, no matter how slight the offense may be whenever, we hear someone denigrating someone different from their own group.

Racism on the brain can and should be eliminated in this decade. Pull up your pants white people and eliminate racism on the brain.

 

Harold Michael Harvey, JD, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com