Brainy Quote of the Day

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again...

Pro Publica (link below)
"It's Deja Vu, all over again." Yogi Berra

I was born in Winston-Salem, NC at Kate Bitting Reynolds Hospital (named after tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds' sister-in-law) in 1962, one of about a dozen African American hospitals at the time in the US. I emerged in a segregated south eight years in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. Kate Bitting was also my mother's employer - she was an LVN. My father - a US Navy vet of WWII - was a line worker for the local textile mill, a vanishing industry in today's America, among contemporary others. They, like my older sister, who worked as a payroll analyst at R.J. Reynolds - earned retirements for their efforts and fidelity.

East of US 52 in Winston-Salem, NC, a neighborhood was established on Cleveland Avenue - the result of American Apartheid/Jim Crow - along with restrictive covenants preventing my parents from considering the purchase of a home in any other, more desirable location (or, ANY African Americans being in covenant-covered suburban hamlets after sundown).

I knew the Teflon kingpin "Po Charlie," and all his drug houses - I avoided entering them out of a respect for, and healthy fear of my parents. He brazenly announced when "5-0" was coming for a raid, knowing due to his paid informants in the department in those days, they'd find nothing. A switchblade pulled on my best friend and I by a young lady's brother - she had been the sad victim of a rape apparently, unbeknownst to me - generated a forked sprint by myself and my best friend: he up 19th street, I up 21st! (We joked about it over the phone later: he'd gotten to his home first.) I saw Charlie's minions and prostitutes plying their trades as I walked to school.

My heroes were segregated along with me: teachers, doctors, dentists, and clergy - the closest I'd ever get to Martin Luther King before or after his demise; listening to his fellow baptist ministers thunder jeremiads on the wrongs of society every Sunday morning. Education became important to me at its evident denial under "separate but equal": books decades out-of-date; written/crayoned in or pages missing. Our teachers at the time, pooled their own funds and stencil-copied (pre-Xerox tech) lessons to supplement the anvil-weighted chains southern gentility clanked tightly about our ankles. Our angels were determined we would not be denied.

My older sister - a student at Winston-Salem State Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University) did like a lot of other young people, and put her life on the line numerous times (more than I care to remember) for the world we have today - some now myopically taking for granted, it's diversity and expanded freedoms have always been "here." Others now, descendant of this hierarchical privilege, fretting the universal constant - change - regretting and pining over a nostalgic utopia that on our side of town, never existed. 

"With all deliberate speed" meandered into North Carolina via forced busing when I left Fairview Elementary for Rural Hall finally in '71 - a former restricted covenant utopia. Looking at news reels of the high schools at the time: chains, baseball bats and fights; riots, teargas and protests - the older set-in-their-ways had more tumultuous adjustments to make, from those that had no problem with the established southern "order" to shackle us in place; simultaneously without thought or shame calling us "lazy." The world over, from Ireland, England and Nigeria with Boko Haram: extreme poverty, isolation, xenophobia, oppressive sexism, religious extremism and encouraged ignorance eventually breed gangs and violence.

"Welfare queen" entered the lexicon vis-a-vis "the gipper": cool conservatism was born in the B-movie actor-president, and the poster child of young conservative cool played by Michael J. Fox on "Family Ties." Due to that fictional example, it possibly contributed to Reagan/Bush Sr. taking more of the youth vote in their landslide victory against Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. It was "morning in America"; bigotry was "in" and Lee Atwater's "Southern Strategy" was modernized to be so attractive, coded, subtle in subterfuge and effective enough to attract black conservatives not discerning (or ignoring) his political Jujitsu.

"What's past is prologue." William Shakespeare 

No soon after a section of the voting rights act was gutted by the "Supreme Court" in the 21st century, southern states in the old confederacy enacted voting hurdles reflecting back to restrictive covenants in real estate, estimating soap bubbles and poll taxes. Sadly, so did my home state of North Carolina enact the most draconian ID laws on the flimsiest misappropriation of mathematics.

The problem is, we're no longer in the past. The Soviet Union fell in 1991 (though Vladimir is staging a nostalgic, oligarchic comeback). We are two years away from being second in the world to our banker, yet we're fighting openly and online, an uncivil war, that in the magical thinking of reestablishing "tradition"; "the-good-old-days" will funnel us all very quickly - strained through that filter of libertarian utopia example: Somalia -  down the drain of a failed state.

ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones details in her latest report how gerrymandering of school attendance zones and, surprisingly, support from a small pocket of black elites has transformed Tuscaloosa’s education system into a remnant of its former glory. Central High School today doesn’t have the same caliber of teachers or curriculum as its integrated sister school, Northridge. Central is also on a state watch list and has been plagued with low graduation rates -- all problems associated with segregated schools, which the Supreme Court thought it had addressed 60 years ago.

ProPublica: Resegregation, 60 years later, Minhee Cho

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