No easy fix

To the Editor:

From accounts on The Sheboygan Falls News Facebook page which I’ve followed, what happened with the basketball players is almost a petri-dish example of what blacks face in classic America and elsewhere, too – and have faced for generations. Think about what it would be like if something like that happened to you (any white resident of the area), or one of your children. What would your reaction be? How would you assess your prospects of being treated fairly going forward?

To my mind it reflects an inner fear and or prejudice that people have about race that in many cases, they don’t realize they have. I would not be surprised if those involved denied they were racially prejudiced, perhaps with more honesty than one might imagine in view of what happened.

I saw similar things when I first went to London in late 1968, when the U.S. was in turmoil over the civil rights struggle and large-scale immigration from the West Indies, India and parts of Africa had yet to hit England. I was bombarded with “why are Americans so bigoted” (when we aren’t) type comments. Not much later, Britain was experiencing strong racial prejudice and handling its racial clashes in an even worse fashion than we handled ours -- and one can find similar examples elsewhere.

These problems are often best illuminated in a place like the area in which you live where minority representation has historically been very low and people haven’t for the most part had to think about these sort of issues in their own lives. Seeing it on television happening elsewhere is not the same. In American communities where minorities have long been a factor, this sort of thing still happens, but it is generally now more subtle and people are more practiced in “politically correct” responses that serve to smudge over the underlying issues.

In saying all of this, I am not trying to blame anyone. Rather, I think what one sees here is just another example of the various downsides of what might be called “the human condition.” There is apparently no easy fix.

I remember back in the ‘60s, I went home from college for Christmas vacation and my parents were having a holiday party in their basement at that time. My dad was in the Navy and pretty much everyone at the party were other military officers and their wives. The civil rights struggle was making daily headlines and was the big issue of the day. Suddenly, Admiral Haddock (great name!) said in a very loud voice:

“Well, there is only one solution to this problem!” (pause as that part of the room fell quiet.)

(“Oh no,” I thought as my heart sunk. “Here comes ‘send them back to Africa’.”)

“They’re going to have to get a little lighter and we’re going to have to get a little darker,” the Admiral declared.

I’d love to say everyone quickly agreed, but instead there was silence. Who was going to challenge the Admiral, even if he was advocating miscegenation? I breathed a sigh of relief and my admiration for Admiral Haddock (RIP) has remained to this day.

Skip Martin
Seattle, WA


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