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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"The New Irrationalism"




the new irrationalism

As I’ve written elsewhere, almost every year since beginning my annual cultural memoirs in 2005, I have, during the last week of July, looked into my invisible “magic ball” in order to see if I might glean a new unifying concern for the year approaching. Although in 2015 I have already committed in My Year 2016 to the subject of “belief,” and have begun working on essays that relate to “How to Believe,” perhaps, I now feel, I need to focus more carefully on the growing irrationality of my own countrymen as well as citizens throughout the world. Groups like ISIS, Al-Queda, and the Taliban have already forced us to face foes that surely represented some of most irrational beings on the earth—particularly from our point of view (if, indeed, US citizens feel that they have any collective point of view).
     The recent release of Woody Allen’s new film, An Irrational Man, along with the statements of numerous figures running for the President of the United States in 2016, particularly the almost completely irrational rants of Donald Trump, along with frighteningly absurd and, as President Obama himself commented, “sad” statements, such as Mike Huckabee’s latest rhetorical distortion (he described the President’s and other world leader’s proposed treaty with Iran as “marching Israel to the door of the ovens.”) and Ted Cruz’ outburst, who for days after refusing to say anything about Donald Trump’s outrageous commentaries, suddenly called House Leader Mitch McConnell a “liar.”  Jeb Bush soon after spoke out for ending “Medicare.” 
     These comments came soon after Trump had described (despite his denials) most of the Mexican immigrants as being criminals and rapists, argued that the Mexican government was purposely sending them here, and boasted that if he were to become President he would build a long wall across the border to be paid for by the Mexican government. 
      A few days later he inexplicably argued that Senator John McCain—who was imprisoned for years in a Vietnamese prison where we was threatened and tortured—was not truly a war hero, adding the ludicrous comment that “I like my heroes not be imprisoned!” McCain is many things I do not admire, but to challenge his obviously heroic war-time survival is truly beyond rational thought. 
     It is not only his outrageous statements that makes Trump seem truly irrational, but his belief that somehow because he has a great deal of money (the estimates of his total worth vary widely) that he automatically is a good candidate. “I know people in other countries,” he argues, as if having business relations with a few executives makes him a specialist on foreign policy. He likes the Chinese, “they’re smart,” he insists, as if all Chinese citizens were one and the same and that the word “smart” had any meaning in his vacuous monologue. 
      Backing off a bit from his attacks upon Mexico, Trump insisted that he “liked Mexicans” and had many Mexicans working for him (which some journalists argued included illegal immigrants). Once again he seemed to presume that a contention of liking people of a certain country, particularly a people he condescendingly puts to work, might prove that his previous comments were not bigoted and incendiary. 
     As The New York Times, moreover, reminded us again today—as if we needed any reminding, given Trump’s comments of the past few weeks—that the billionaire tends to describe all those who disagree with him about anything as “idiots,” “fools,” or “losers,” reassuring us that he is a proven “winner” by the fact of his new financial worth. Certainly there is no question that Trump equates money with knowledge and an ability to lead a nation.
     To me many, if not all of these attitudes, reveal an inability to rationally discuss and a refusal to deal with the truth. Obviously, politics, and, in particular, presidential elections have from the founding of the US not always brought about the greatest sanity in those running for election. There is, after all, something quite irrational in even seeking such a position of power. Quite obviously, I realize, some of these viewpoints are not necessarily irrational but simply represent different world perspectives from mine. But many of these views, as move toward open prejudice and even hysteria, come close to being irrational.
     I do think it fascinating that not one Republican candidate of those in the lead (some with such low ratings they clearly have little chance of being elected)—I here include Trump, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Rand Paul—supports gay marriage, for example, even though it is now the law of the land. Some are willing to move on despite their disagreement with the Supreme Court decision, but several of them (Carson, Perry, Santorum, Walker, Jindal, Huckabee, and Rubio) are willing to either support an amendment or other changes in the law to make same-sex marriage illegal. Carson argues that being gay is a choice, and, recently, Walker told a CNN interviewer that he did not know whether or not being gay was a choice. Santorum describes homosexuals as being “Sodomists,” and argued that same-sex rights implies the same rights for bigamists, those who commit incest, and adulterers (a strange statement, in fact, because the last of these “sins,” adultery, is not nor has it ever been in modern times against the law.) Jindal went so far as to demand the end of the Supreme Court!
    Almost all who have addressed the issue are against the idea of including sexual orientation as discriminatory, either in the marketplace or even in crimes of hate.  
    Every single candidate for the Republican Party is against abortion, with many of them voting against the idea of the right to privacy. Santorum, one of the most extreme, would not even allow abortion in cases of rape. Carson persuaded the mother of a hydrocephalic baby to cancel her planned abortion. Most oppose stem cell research. Huckabee clearly crossed the “rational” line on July 31 by stating that, if necessary, he would not rule out “employing US troops to stop abortion,” suggesting that by doing so he would openly defy the Supreme Court. 
    All of the Republicans running for president strongly believe in no further gun controls, with some arguing for even fewer controls, Rubio arguing that the 2nd Amendment is a cornerstone of our Constitution. Perry recently insisted that he is entirely against “gun-free ranges,” arguing that people should be able to carry guns everywhere, including into movie theaters, to protect themselves and, perhaps, to kill would-be terrorists. He crosses further into near-irrationality by arguing the some individuals are “legally obliged to carry guns” by the 2nd Amendment rights. Walker also supports the right to openly carry arms.
    All speak out strongly against what they describe as Obamacare, including Trump, and many oppose any federal money going for health care, some, as I described Bush, above, are willing even to abandon Medicare and Medicaid. Carson would reconsider Social Security. Trump is the only one willing to help some, very poor individuals, to receive what even he describes as a far lower quality healthcare—but only if they are dying. 
    If I suggest the general pattern here is approaching irrationality simply because of the general  dismissal and intolerance of individual sexual and reproductive differences, while simultaneously supporting weapons whose major purpose is to kill animals and other human beings, these candidates surely cross the line of rational thinking when they all, with the exception of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Paul Rand, disavow climate change or raise significant questions about the validity of scientists who believe in such changes. Typical of several of these deniers, Rubio throws up a barrier around his words that hides a disdain for science and a lack of commitment to their warnings. As he recently wrote:

                      Humans are not responsible for climate change in the way
                   some of these people out there are trying to make us believe,
                   for the following reason: I believe the climate is changing
                   because there’s never been a moment where the climate
                   is not changing. The question is, what percentage of that …
                   is due to human activity? If we do the things they want us to
                   do, cap-and-trade, you name it, how much will that change
                   the pace of climate change versus how much will that
                   cost to our economy? Scientists can’t tell us what impact it
                   would have on reversing these changes, but I can tell you
                   with certainty, it would have a devastating impact on our
                   economy.

The presumptions behind these words are that 1, scientists are not necessarily to be believed (after all, the climate has always been changing), 2, that we can do nothing at all to alter those changes, and 3) that trying to do anything would have dreadful effects on our economy. All three assumptions are mistaken and are irrational to my way of thinking.
      Others such as Huckabee and Walker use a standard hedge to dismiss discussing the issue by declaring that they are not scientists, presumably, therefore, making them unable to have any sane viewpoint on one of the most important issues of the environment today. In other words, they cannot make a sane evaluation of the issue since, admittedly, they are disinterested in scientific facts and dismissive of scientists themselves.
      Although Bush does admit “The climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that,” he has consistently shown hesitancy about acting because of “the hollowing out of our industrial core, the hollowing out of our ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world,” an argument not so dissimilar to Rubio’s. 
      Rand seems to have recently made a turnaround in his position about global warming, joining 15 other GOP Senators in signing an amendment stating that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it. But as journalist Emily Watkins has warned, we have little reason to believe that the Kentucky Senator is serious in these matters, having spoken out against the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and even vowing to repeal them. In an interview from 2014, moreover, he commented that he was “not sure anybody exactly knows why” global warming is occurring, describing the scientist’s predictions as “alarmist stuff.” In his book of 2011 he wrote against “the radicalization of the country by environmentalists” spearheaded by the “propaganda” and “pseudoscience” of climate change. The newest candidate to enter the GOP race, Ohio governor John Kaisch proclaimed the day before I penned this piece that, although he admits climate change that it was dangerous to overreact. To “worship” the environment is “pantheism,” he argued, suggesting he would not proceed on any actions that might alter global warming.
     Christie is the only one who has openly confirmed that the climate is changing, and has actually supported legislation to do something about it.
     My comments above, moreover, say nothing about how some of these men might behave with regard to foreign policy. Most strongly support further NSA wiretapping and dismiss rights of privacy (Perry and Paul are exceptions). Most, such as Bush, argue for embedding troops with Iraqi forces. Perry wants to arm the Kurds and send special troops to battle ISIS. Although not explaining what he specifically means, Christie has stated “Given who I am, Putin would not have invaded Crimea.” Santorum argues not only for soldiers on the ground to fight against ISIS but calls for the assassination of Iranian and North Korean nuclear scientists. One can only imagine the ramifications of these decisions.
    Walker, as he has already done in Wisconsin, would surely continue to try to weaken unions and destroy the University and public school tenure systems, which allow scholars to speak out both to their superiors and to share unpopular ideas with their students without being easily fired. Again these are not necessarily irrational stands, but certainly represent an attempt to delimit the bargaining powers of workers and the free expression of scholars. 
     If I have failed to comment on Trump with regard to many of these issues, it is simply because he has publically stated very few of his positions other than what he feels about immigration, and even then he has iterated only his negative emotions, although today he argued for a situation of “legal status,” without the possibility of citizenship. Moreover, he asserted, he first wanted all illegal Americas (which is estimated at 11 million or more individuals) must leave the country. He could not explain how he might gather this vast flock together for such a grand exodus. 
     What we can suspect, simply based on his near-lunatic insistence several years ago that President Obama was not born in this country, that he will speak out even more provocatively than some of the other candidates. He now is completely assured that Hillary Clinton, by using her own email, committed a criminal act. 
     One of the appealing elements of Donald Trump is that, in his uncontrolled ramblings he is immensely entertaining, himself playing the role of the fool. I briefly joked that the GOP candidates were lucky to have Trump running, simply because he made them all look so sane and serious. But the jest quickly seemed stale the more I saw how the condition seemed to catching.
    Moreover, it does not explain why such irrational statements continue to put Trump higher in the polls. Nor does it clarify why he and his peers are not openly challenged for so many of their mean-spirited and quite illogical views.
    Even if we are to allow for the fact that politicians are particularly bellicose folk, with a long tradition of hateful statements, we must also recognize that American leaders are not the only irrational leaders of the day: one need only hear the threats of the Iranian leaders, of absurd commentaries of the Supreme Leader of North Korean Kim Jong-un, the frightful posturing and outright lying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, or even the sometimes bullying tactics of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, to realize that irrational behavior is an international phenomena.
     What happened to argument and debate, or what used to be described as diplomacy? Can people no longer have differing viewpoints, particularly in a world of such radical divides, without calling each other hateful names or simply dismissing the other’s values out of hand?
     Particularly since we live in such terrifying times, however, where some forces would wipe away presence of other religious and cultural values and sexual mores, need we not go out of our way to reestablish open discussions and dialogue within our own society?       
    Might there be a connection between these intolerant expressions and seemingly increasing confrontations between citizens going about on everyday occasions and police who quickly lose mental control, ending up in the death of innocent, often black, women and men (such as Sam Dubose, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Walter Scott)? If we suspect that these encounters, in fact, have been going on for a long time, but are just now being caught on the cameras which are carried on iphones and other devices by nearly everyone, it, nonetheless, reveals irrational behaviors that continue to separate us not only by race, but by social-economic status.   
    Just as dangerous, to my way of thinking, is the overheated puffing and often personal attacks of Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s dissents (which law professor, Edwin Chemerinsky argued recently in the Los Angeles Times was badly effecting his students by encouraging them to write ridiculing rather that seasoned statements), or the Facebook, Twitter, and attacks elsewhere on young teenagers, casual acquaintances, and writers (the fates of authors Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place come immediately to mind), all of which makes me fear that this kind of irrational behavior has become deep-set in our culture.
     In the end, perhaps, it is our blind commitment to our beliefs or our inability to no longer believe that fuels this kind of irrationality. Those who believe do so with a furor of intensity and mission, while those who can no longer believe often disdain and mock those who insist they still can and must! Both are different ends of the same gluttonous serpent, swallowing itself out of desperation and fears, both ends spewing their own admonitions and dismissals. 
    If, as many religious scholars and international analysts have argued, that the current violent Islamic groups at war with the West do not represent a rejuvenation of faith, but the last gasp of it, then perhaps we ought to question if some of those same issues are not at play in our own world. Tea-Party politics and ultra-conservative groups are not necessarily representative of a revival of that old time religion, but rather of their failure to dominate the American consciousness. For them, the black liberal Obama is apparently a demon to which they can point for their feelings of being ignored and unheard. While the liberals, on the other hand, have often attempted to turn the same man into a shining soldier of their empowerment. That the very human being in between these visions accomplished anything during his years as President—and he surely has—is a kind of inexplicable miracle itself. But if we truly want to move forward—or even backward in some instances—we will have to cease in this irrational hatred and learn again how to talk.   

Los Angeles, July 29, July 31, 2015



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Color Bind" (on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me)


color bind

by Douglas Messerli

 

John Howard Griffin Black Like Me (New York: New American Library, 1960, 1961, 1977)

For some inexplicable reason, I missed out on reading John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, first published in 1960. In my small town of Marion, Iowa, there were few if any blacks, and even the nearby Cedar Rapids had what I believe was a very small black population. I certainly did not grow up, at least to my own way of thinking, in a racist home or community (my father, superintendent of schools, was particularly sympathetic, I believe, with equal rights and education for blacks) but we had very little experience with blacks, and the larger issues that would soon enter the American consciousness occurred a few years later, particularly in 1964, the year I spent in Norway.

     

      By the time I returned to the US and began a university education, the kind of impassioned white plea for the “Negro justice” that Griffin had written had changed into angry and impassioned documents such as Stokley Carmichael’s Black Power, a book I did read, along with Malcolm X’s Autobiography, with their arguments for Black Power and black supremacy, works as Griffin, himself, notes in his intelligent assessment of the changes that occurred after his book’s publication in his Epilogue, ”What’s Happened Since Black Like Me,” that ultimately presented the good deeds of whites who had worked for racial equality as a thing of the past, as the black organizations worked to determine their own identities and positions.
     It seemed to me, as I note above, even before encountering the controversy around Rachel Dozeal and reading books such Your Face in Mine, that it is finally time to read the book recounting a white man’s experiences in the south who, basically, put on black face before traveling from New Orleans to Mississippi, and later to various locations in Alabama in 1959.
     If I began the book simply wanting to challenge the assumption that in order to understand the condition of black men and women during that year, we had to heed the words of a white man over the many black documents that already had revealed the tortures of everyday racism, by the time I finished the book, I gained a new respect for what Griffin had actually done. This religious man was, from his youth on, a figure with great empathy, working in World War II to help Jews escape Nazis, and who, when he discovered he as on the Nazi death list, escaped back to the US, only to be wounded in the Pacific as a member of the Army Air Corps. Growing blind for a head wound, he amazingly regained his sight ten years later. Indeed, one can quickly compare his blindness to his later commitment to color blindness, a connection which the author himself avows in suggesting that the issue of racism began to concern him when he could longer see the apparent differences between the races. That Griffin would also convert to Catholicism and maintain a faith based on the guidance of Catholic thinkers such as Jacques Maritain and Thomas Merton also attests to his commitment to enacting his spiritual values in relation to his fellow beings. 
     If we can look back upon the episodes of the book now with a kind of recognition of the naivetĂ© of it all, akin to the commitment of the Gregory Peck character, who “becomes temporarily Jewish” in the film Gentlemen’s Agreement to reveal the truths about anti-Semitism in post-war American society, we nonetheless must also recognize the courage it took to for a journalist to go on such a voyage in the Jim Crow South of the late 1950s, a few years before the more vocal and nationally-witnessed movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, which would begin to change the Old South.

     In New Orleans, Griffin does not so much encounter the immediate hatred of whites, but begins, nonetheless, to comprehend what it means, literally, to live in a segregated society. For the first time for many whites, the journalist makes clear what it means to go out into the world each day without readily available bathrooms, without being able to sit down in a cafĂ© to cup of coffee, without the possibility of even sitting down, in some places, without abuse and police interaction. Not only are black lives lived at the edges of the otherwise active worlds going on about them, but the blacks are forced to behave in thousands of obvious and sometimes subtle ways that pretend satisfaction and civility at the very same time that they remain, as true individuals, invisible to the whites who put daily force them into situations based merely on the color of their skin.
     Confessing the truth of his situation to a local shoeshine worker, who Griffin had known previous, the author himself is given a job, becoming a “boy” polishing up the boots of men who hardly recognize his existence or, when they do, tolerate him with hauteur.
     Hearing of a recent lynching of a black man in Mississippi, which a jury, despite evidence from the US government itself, refused to indict, Griffin determines to head out for more problematic encounters with the racial horrors of the South. Although he is somewhat dissuaded by black friends in New Orleans, and is warned even by his fellow black bus travelers on the way to Hattiesburg, he boldly ventures into a new world where he is suddenly thrust overnight into the “hell” of raucous late night black community, where blacks, simply attempting to enjoy themselves by dancing, singing, and eating through the night, are threatened at any moment with gun-toting young white men driving through the streets.
      If there was ever an example of what some have argued is the real problem about a white pretending to be black, who can, at any moment, take back his color to become one of the blessed race, it is revealed in Griffin’s actions; after being psychologically tortured by an ex-con on the bus trip, the journalist finds the sordid room he has been forced to rent for the night nearly impossible to endure:

                 I turned away from the mirror. A burned-out light glove
                 lay on the plank floor in the corner. Its unfrosted glass
                 held the reflection of the overhead bulb, a speck of
                 brightness. A half-dozen film negatives curled up around
                 it like dead leaves. I pick them up and held them before
                 the light with strange excitement, curious to see the
                 image that some prior occupant of the room had photo-
                 graphed.
                      Each negative was black.
                      I imagined him going to the drugstore to pick up the
                 packets of photos and hurrying to this squalid room to warm
                 himself with the view of his wife, his children, his parent,
                 his girlfriend—who knows? He had sat here holding blank
                 negatives, masterpieces of the human ingenuity wasted.

If this seems to be mere speculation of Griffin’s part, he soon moves off into an even more imaginative realm by attempting to explain how the black’s “jubilant living” and “whooping it up,” as whites describe it, is actually an expression of despair, a way to dull their sensibilities in noise or wine or sex or gluttony in order to escape the white racism.
      That may well be true, but we are given no sociological evidence that might prove it, and we can only recognize it as an empathetic explanation of the chaos in which he has found himself. Fearing the violence of the scene, Griffin picks up the phone and calls a white newspaperman friend, P. D. East, who has also been prosecuted for “seeking justice in race relations,” in whose comfortable home he spends the rest of the night and weekend.
      East is described later as a kind of wicked humorist, but his mockery of the way whites talk about blacks, particularly in the context of Griffin’s torturous night, is almost intolerable, particularly when East delivers him up again to New Orleans by way of Dillard University, where, after locking his car door in the paradisiac isolation of the campus, he mocks his fellow whites once again with the words: “Did you ever see a damn beautiful campus for a bunch of niggers. They’re getting uppityer and uppityer.” Somehow, over the years, the humor of this apparent self-mockery of his fellow bigots, has been lost.

      To give Griffin credit, however, he remains determined to investigate, and again takes a bus to Biloxi, this time hitchhiking back to Alabama, where he is locked in conversations with various whites, some bigoted, others somewhat interested, and, on one occasion, with  a seemingly completely color-blind young man.

     But even in these situations, in retrospect, I suggest that Griffin, despite his constant personal, quasi-sociological analyses of the meaning of the incidents he experiences, seems, at moments, a bit dense. Picked up by a young man in his late twenties who questions him about black sex, presuming like many whites, that, as the young man states it, “Negroes are much more broad-minded about such things [sexual],” “I understand you make more of an art—or maybe hobby—out of your sex,” Griffin chalks it up as representing yet another white who has allowed myths about blacks to dominant his imagination:

             He asked about the Negro genitalia and the details
             of Negro sex life. Only the language differed from
             the previous inquirers—the substance was the same
             ….He quoted Kinsey and others. It became apparent he
             was one of those young who possess an impressive store
             of facts, but no truths.

Even when the boy asks him to expose himself, Griffin appears not to imagine that the boy, in what seems apparent to me, was probably a gay man seeking to find a sexual experience with the other race. The fact that the boy later apologizes seems to hardly faze the open-minded journalist, who has, one perceives, missed the forest for the trees.

     On the other hand, soon after, when he is picked up, finally, by a black man who, perceiving that Griffin has nowhere to go, invites him to spend the night in his swampland shack with his six children and his wife, Griffin reveals a deeper gift of yarn  in his description of the humble world of this man who has nearly nothing, yet lives life with more grace and gentle pride in this family’s life that in any self-satisfied bigot. Griffin, in short, seemingly reiterates what blacks throughout the south later realized, that their new-found pride and self-determination not only would help save their own lives, but was necessary for the salvation of lives of their fellow whites.
     Even in a world filled with gators and snakes, these simple folk celebrate with cut-up bits of Milky Way bars, singing out their goodnights like the Walton’s in the nostalgic TV series. The overwhelming revelations that Griffin makes transform his sociological consolations into a kind pure poetry akin to the descriptions of the South of James Agee and so many other authors (at one point Griffin has an opportunity to meet Flannery O’Connor, but moves on in his journeys; it would have been marvelous for these two ardent Catholic thinkers to have actually the opportunity to meet) have discovered in their homelands:

             Thinking about these things, the bravery of these people
             attempting to bring up a family decently, their gratitude
             that none of their children were blind or maimed, their
             willingness to share their food and shelter with a stranger—
             the whole thing overwhelmed me. I got up from bed, half-
             frozen anyway, and stepped outside.
                 A thin fog blurred the moon. Trees rose as ghostly
             masses in the diffused light. I sat on an inverted washtub
             and tremble as its metallic coldness seeped through my pants.

                                                               ******
               I felt again the Negro children’s lips soft against mine, so like
             the feel of my own children’s good-night kisses. I saw again their
             large eyes, guileless, not yet aware that doors into wonderlands
             of security, opportunity and hope were closed to them.

One longs to find out how those children matured into adulthood.
     Just as we begin to realize the significance of Griffin’s acts, he slips off again into white face, appearing across the country on various television and news shows, including a somewhat imposing, but ultimately fulfilling, interview with Mike Wallace. The journalist becomes famous, while the hundreds of blacks he identified with have become nameless.
     Yet, strangely, his courage becomes even more clear as the year passes, a time during  which his family is threatened, an effigy of him is burned on the downtown streets of his home in a small Texas town, and his parents (his mother having herself been threatened) his wife and children, and, eventually, he himself retreat for protection to Mexico where they were exiled until 1961. 
      If we still might wonder if blacks might not have presented their messages about their inequality better than a white man, Griffin makes quite clear in his “Epilogue” just how impossible that might have been, given that there was so little communication between the two races. As he relates it, during the race riots of the late 1960s, he and other white spokesmen were time and again flown into cities fearing racial tensions. At many of these meetings, where he generally stayed with blacks, the white leaders did not even think to invite black community leaders to their meetings, and when chastised by Griffin and others for their racial attitudes, were ignorant enough to ask him where they might find such black leaders in their towns. Rumor became rampant, writes Griffin, even in my home town of Cedar Rapids (where the media wrongly suggested masses of blacks from Des Moines were being shipped to the home of Quaker Oats and Collins Radio). It was a time which, he reveals, liberal leaders like him might find themselves accused by segregationists for exposing themselves if entered a local bathroom alone, or in accosting a woman whose path they crossed. 
     At some lectures, where Griffin was applauded with his honest assessments of how, even after new governmental racial decisions were put into effect, that blacks continued to be isolated and ghettoized, black representatives, speaking from the same podium, were met with stony stares and hostility for stating the same things.
     In a strange sense, Griffin’s simple color transformation, continued, long after, to make both black and whites see him a man of mixed race; he was put in to a kind of color bind, where he was sometimes perceived as too black for the white community and too white for the new generation of blacks.
     As Griffin attempts to explain it, black and liberal whites both had to rethink the world they had once imagined of an integrated society where there was no discrimination and racial injustice. Blacks had to stop bowing to white leaders and to take over their cause, particularly after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and, accordingly, wise whites, like Griffin, who had devoted their entire lives to race relations, had to abandon their roles as spokesmen for the black race. Those who could not, Griffin notes, became bitter, even accusing the numerous new black leaders as incompetent.
     In short, Griffin seems to have able to comprehend his important role in the battle of race justice with a sad sense of the consequences of the inability of his countrymen as a whole to actually perceive their continued racist behavior, sometimes even those who thought of themselves as the most enlightened in the their communities. The results, as we have had to come to terms with this year, seem almost prophetic given that Griffin composed his Epilogue to this book in 1977:

           Polarization. Separation. No one has wanted this, white or black.
           It has come because the things we dreamed of did not materialize.
           Many still hold the old dreams even while accepting today’s realties.

Los Angeles, July 13, 2015