Results tagged “power & privilege” from LTG Blog

Riding on a crowded Lexington Avenue Subway right before Obama’s overseas trip, I overheard the two middle-aged black guys standing next to me, their leather briefcases tucked between their suit pants on the train floor as they rode uptown.

“Man, Barack better be careful over there! One misstep and McCain’ll be all over him like white on rice,” the taller one said.

“You know they’re just waiting for that. He says one thing wrong, it’ll be back to why Black people better stick to domestic issues. Can’t handle those foreign countries,” the shorter one with the purple silk tie replied.

“Yeah, you know how it is. Obama mess up once, then it’s all about what we can’t do in the first place…You just gotta’ worry for the brother…”

V: White Fathers Revisited

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Growing up a popular kid in a small town had its advantages. I didn’t like going home all that much, and there were always friends to drop in on: down the block or across backyards in elementary school, hitching to see junior high buddies who lived down at the beach, or driving that old lima green ’48 Pontiac with Hyrdomatic transmission over to those fancy houses in Mystic once high school hit.

Being an all-but lily white, small New England town, doors were always open, and a brief knock followed by a squeaky hinge and a friendly hello was all I needed to enter my friends’ homes. Nobody worried about outsiders or the omnipresent “them” as a potential threat to our tree-lined serenity. From my blinkered eyes, the town’s expressed notion of “difference” had nothing to do with race or ethnicity or religion (except for my father, who feared Papist threats the way Howard Hughes feared germs) but “townies” vs “Navy brats.” Groton was the home of the nation’s largest submarine base, so new kids showed up in our classes every year or so, some staying for less than two years, others—the lucky ones, I figured—for five or more as their fathers headed into retirement. Being a townie, I didn’t visit them too often, except for the cool ones who, through athletic skill or looks or some remarkable capacity for effortlessly fitting in, got to be as popular as the rest of my crowd.

How do you explain your life’s story in America if you’ve lived here in this country for 350 years, are white, straight, Protestant, and hard-working, and still remain pretty much working class? Back in the 1960’s, my pipe fitter father starting working on our family tree. Active anti-war leftist that I was back then, looking to the past seemed like a waste of time at best when there was a whole new future being born. Given how eccentric the old man was, I just added genealogy to his list of wacko topics.

Growing up in a small New England town in the 50’s and 60’s had its benefits for a rambunctious white kid like me. You could ride to the beach on your bike and get in for free, everyone’s favorite son. Walk to your elementary school two blocks away, worrying only about the chow dogs up the street who barked just a little too much. Early evenings at the local library, trying to read a book for social studies without staring at the strange white straps appearing beneath girls’ blouses. Horse chestnuts in the Fall, snow in the fort all winter, spring and summer breezes off the Thames River, beckoning, always beckoning to try, just once, to fly. Seemed like a good life to a twelve year-old.

Senator Obama’s comments about Black fathers got me thinking about my own father, a descendent of the Dutch West Indies traders of the 1600’s whose own father at the turn of the 20th century chose to homestead in Washington state over dreaded work in a New England mill. Entering the job market at the height of the Depression, Dad landed not with the engineering job he felt he deserved but as a pipefitter, a job he was embarrassed by all his life.

Barack Obama's Father's Day speech critiquing Black fathers for not taking up their family responsibilities got me to thinking about the fathers -- all of them white -- whom I knew growing up in a once-small New England town back in the '50's. My brother and sister and I grew up on a tree-lined street with grassy lawns in the back where kids played ball in the day and hide n'seek in the evenings. For someone driving by, it would have seemed just about perfect, rosy as a summer peach, a "Jack 'N Jill" cover come to life.

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