On 28 August, 1963, I came home from somewhere one mid-afternoon. The new school year hadn't started, so the early part of the day remains a blank. Except that I was in Charleston, West Virginia, and we lived in a big ramshackle white house at the end of a dead-end street way up in the hills.
When I walked through the door, our old black-and-white TV was on in the front room, and a black man was giving a speech. An impassioned speech. His voice seemed to tremble, not with weakness but with power -- a power I had never heard before. He kept telling me that he had a dream.
I knew who this man was. His name was Martin Luther King, and today there is a national American holiday in his honor and he is regarded by most all Black people and many white people as more or less a saint. His generation's Nelson Mandela. His is so famous that he is even parodied, much like the Mona Lisa (we have all seen her with a moustache, haven't we?).
The anthem of the Civil Rights Movement: "We shall Overcome." Joke about Martin Luther King. What did King say when his wife presented him with triplets? A.: "I have overcome." Funny, huh?
Let me explain something to you, and please, please, take it as gospel, coming even though it does from a limited man with a limited ability in the large scheme of things: That day, on that black-and-white (pun realized but not intended) TV, I heard the words of a man whose voice and spirit literally shook the earth. I say literally because, when Reverend Kind finished his fabled "I have a Dream Speech", the cameras pulled back to reveal the whole scene that had surrounded the towering stem of the Washington Monument-- that superbly simple, simultaneously mighty and powdery masthead of liberty-- and the long aisle which led to the Lincoln Memorial and the warm stones of Lincoln's sculpture, ( as if Honest Abe were leaning forward and actually listening to King), a sunami of freedom swept the television screen and the multitude of people gathered were like celestial confetti. It was a moment of ecstasy. And it was one of the defining moments of the '60s. And the camera shook.
Yet not everyone was as moved as I was and many in my generation were. In the states of Mississsippi and Alabama, Segregation was so intense that qualified Black students were refused admission to the state universities. In fact, Governors Ross Barnett (Miss) and George Wallace (Ala) literary stood in the doorway to stop the Black candidates from entering. President Kennedy was forced to send in the National Guard to force admission. The Redneck Reaction (Poor White Southerners known in those days for their religion, 'patriotism', alcoholism, and racism -- not necessarily in that order) was always violent. Always. But King's Movement, followed the non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Ghandi. The Negroe people accepted the fire hoses, the punches, the insults, with courteous and resolute equanamity. A woman named Rosa Parks gained immortality by refusing to give up her seat on a Southern city bus to the white racist who demanded it.
But gradually, as they say, the 'worm turned.' On university campuses and in the cities a different kind of (young) Black was emerging. And these Newbloods were not as non-violent as King and his followers. Moreover, in the midst of this sprang up a man named Malcom X, advocating a radically different philosophy, one which sought no covenance with Whites, but rather an aggressive separatism. Thus arose the Black Muslims. A philosophy based on retaliation against Whites was soon building fires everywhere across American cities, culminating in the famous Watts (ghetto in Los Angeles) riots, which saw Black people chanting "Burn, Baby, Burn, as they set fire to their own neighborhoods in protest against the inequities they saw and lived amid. Fury was everywhere, and the truth is -- though Black people will NEVER admit it (since it would chisel away at King's sainthood) -- by the time he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 -- Martin Luther King's non-violent philosophy had become an anachronism for the majority of upward bound Black Americans. There is a saying that there is 'strength in numbers'. Black people are physically strong as a rule (their former slave masters bred them accordingl to produce 'strong niggers' to work in the fields)- and at this time these big, strong niggers became the worst nightmare of those old crackers who had imagined they would always be slaves. Blacks inundated the big cities. Violent, ignorant, hungry, sexy. The white geeks fled to the suburbs. The new city Black Person was no shrinking violent. He did not want to be the White man's brother any more. And so the friendly, charming Negro was replaced by the angry Black Man.
I remember one story. I was in Washington D.C. I had gone there to take lessons in classic guitar with a Greek named Sophocles Pappas who had studied with the great Andres Segovia. It was August and blistering hot. I stayed at the YMCA. It was so...sweltering..but I remember I used to go to an all-night coffee shop (because I couldn't sleep), and sit at the counter. There was a young, extremely pretty 'colored' girl who worked there. She was from North Carolina, I remember. She was so beautiful and friendly...probably a girl from the church, and we were both strays as it were, she a displaced 'colored' and me a white teenager in Washington D.C., but in the cafe, I loved her. I wish I could have married her. That chocolate woman who was so wonderfully friendly to me, and so innocent (by 'innocent' I do NOT mean virginal, as white people would interpret it). Now, if I met the same woman, she would be hostile. She would put up a badge or barrier and her racism would be worse than mine. Or so I guess. Pretty screwed up, isn't it. But I am being real.
However, during those convulsive years, the Civil Rights Movement succeeded. Many initiatives were put into force to promote the advancement of 'colored' people. Of course, there was also the matter of the Viet Nam War (subject of another day), and a vastly disproportionate number of Blacks were drafted into the army and sent to try their luck in the Asian jungles. Why? Because they were almost always poor and had no one to pull the strings to get them off the hook (as I, for one, was able to do. No Viet Nam for Eric LeRoy. Eric was a University Student)) The Rednecks liked to say back then: "We don't hang niggers no more. We sent them to Viet Nam." But when they returned -- when and if they returned to the good ol' USA, were not treated as heroes. It was NOT as if they had passed some kind of exam by fighting for their country. No. They were just 'niggers' again. A shame., A blight on America.
Fast Forward to the present.
If you look at Black people in America today, you will find a very mixed bag. First, you have the milllions who have realized at least a part of what must have been King's dream. They speak Standard English, are often affluent, successful, and respected. Their kids drive cool cars, travel to cool places, wear designer clothes, and have bought into "the American Dream' (maybe not quite the same as Dr. King's dream, come to think of it, but what the hell.?) And because they have 'made it', they are no longer newsworthy. They are invisible. Nothing of interest to the vultures in the media. Then you have the larger than life Black athletes, rappers and sex-studs who are real rich and real sassy and, man jes don giv a you-know-what? -- and they have 'clout' because they are rich and famous. Some, like Michael Jordon and LeBron James are great guys who have made everlasting contributions and deserved to be idolized; some, like Mike Tyson, are just bums who never really lose the ghetto mentality and continue to reinforce all the negative stereotypes (adored by the media). . And finally, you have the grim reality of Black life in America as it is experienced by the vast majority -- the 'Hood, the drugs, the hoes, the glocks, the crack, the hopeless despair, the brutal outlook on life, the whole vicious circle.(this sordid process worshipped by the coyote media.)
I am basically a nobody is the unfolding of this grand epic, but, since I am after all the author of this article, you might well ask, what about me? How do I feel now? And that is one hell of a tough question. Here is my answer. I have grown, not to really despise or hate Black people -- because in my heart I never can -- but, I suppose, to distance myself from them. to wash my hands of them. I don't want them in my life anymore. In Russian this is not a problem, but if I were living in America again, I would say to myself: They are too wild, too angry, too reckless and ruthless, and, above all, I guess, too confrontational on all levels, just too much trouble..." That's sad, isn't it. I loved them; I danced and drank with them, marched in the streets with them, walked with them, slept with them. You see, I was trying to 'find' myself -- Americans are always doing this, and the '60s was the place to be if you had set out on this particular odyssey..and Black people had the answers for me. My own neighborhood of anal-retentive white geeks basically jeered at my confusion or tried to forbid me access to this fertile crescent of life,, but Black people saw something in my clumsy good will and opened the screen door and let me come in like a puppy dog. And taught me how to dance. And make love. But above all, how to be real. Read carefully please: Black people had a basic kindness, a kind of extra dimension that I am certain was born of their suffering, that White people had no idea about. It was real because I was there and I felt it. And I remember.
Well, it was '60s thing in part, and in part it was because of the horrors Black people in America were subjected too, horrors so basic and dehumanizing, so cruel and degrading, and often lethal -- yes, deadly -- that when I speak of these realities, the ones that Martin Luther King fought against with a super-human courage, my Russian friends think I am kidding them or at the very least exaggerating.
Whatever you do, don't let anyone try to fool you into believing that racism in America back then was just a 'Southern' thing or something that the present day Politically Correct have dreamed up.. Racism was everywhere. Think of it like this: The South was the rampaging toothache, but in the North the basic gum disease was spreading its poison throughout the whole mouth and face.. It's just that in the American South of that era, it could cost you your life, not only if you were an 'uppity (rebellious) Black, but if you were white and seen to be a 'sympathizer.' If a group or gang of white people singled you out as a 'nigger lover' (their favorite phrase) you could get killed.
And what do I mean by 'racism'? It really pisses me off today when young and mostly useless Blacks try to play the 'race card' at every opportunity. And what is meant by the 'race card'? It means claiming racial prejudice to be at the root of every problem black people face, and, even more, as a means of justifying failure. It means trying to blame white people every time when, bro it's yo own Black ass dat done f#cked up.!
But back then, Racism was real and it was America's ongoing holocaust. Back then, Black people could not enjoy the same basic privileges and rights as whites. They could not eat in our restaurants, drink the same water from our fountains, go to our schools, compete with us for our jobs, fraternize with us as social equals. They had to scrub our floors, do our washing, say "Yes Sir" and "No Sir" to us, and sit in the back of our buses. If you want to know what real and serious racism in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave was like back when even Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali), upon returning home from Rome as Olympic Boxing Champion was not allowed to eat lunch in a Louisville, Kentucky diner (Louiville was his hometown) -- if you want to know what it was really life for Black people ('colored people, Negroes, etc, or just plain 'niggers'), just go to your next search engine and type in something like "Racism lynching in the American South." Take a good long look.
That was the America I grew up in. Now of course everyone over there is all cool with everything and constantly lecturing the rest of us (why does it always seem that they are talking to Russians when they say these things?) on Human Rights, Gay Rights, Women's Rights, and, and, and..., and why do I just want to send it all to Hell.
It is because I grew up in an America that they don't want you to see or know about. These Hollywood-creatures today scream from their pulpits and university stages, and reveal their ignorance on all fronts. They see Hitler in every face they disagree with. But they never see themselves,.. or these self-serving Hitler portraits that arise -- excuse me, self-portraits -- in their own faces and mirrors..
Black people themselves have turned out to be a hell of a lot less than I hoped. In America, they remain, after all the programs, the 'affirmative action', etc.,, etc, the chronic under-achievers in America. Other so-called minorities -- Jews, Asians, etc. fly to the sky, but the Blacks keep finding ways to f#ck up. And then blame White people. On top of that, I am getting older and angrier and less tolerant every day. My limbs weaken, my breath shortens, but my ability to smell shit, even when hidden under all the various ointments and perfumes, radically intensifies. Most of the stuff they are selling you is phony, guys. Black people in America today will talk a lot of jive about 'slavery', and then pull out their smartphones. And if you so much as look at them the wrong way, you are a 'racist.'
So I guess now I am a racist. Ok.
But when I walked into that house in West Virginia on a late summer afternoon 54 years ago, and listened to a handsome, resolute, indestructible Man (never mind that some f#cked up cracker racist murdered him a few years later, good ol' America!), I saw the best that humanity can offer. I heard a MAN cry out "I HAVE A DREAM." And that dream was my dream too. During the 60's the best of us believed that. Way back then and Way over yonder. We believed that men and women of all colors and creeds could learn to love one another.
That is a mighty powerful opinion to have, don't you think? Just glance out of your window, my friends, and watch the slime sliding by on grease. Watch and listen to the anger, the horns blaring, the frustration and fury. And forget you are in Moscow. Just name your city, and you are there. Tokyo. Madrid. Mexico City. New York.
And try to shout with conviction, "I have a Dream." Then try to believe it. If you can, then you understand and will always be a part of the American '60s.
===Eric Richard Le Roy===
And – yes – probably the one who has a DREAM can be addressed as MAN (or WOMEN, to be fair). Too few people can say this nowadays.
Thoughtful reader will notice, indeed, that Eric is not a racist. Actually, he is quite opposite. Indeed, some people use their color skin, or sexual preferences in order to get more than they really deserve.
We have almost forgotten about real things, covered under the consumerism, gadgets, etc.
Take your time.
Think about it.
By any means – the time is all you have. And it will pass.