Dear friends and receivers of my blog post,
I have not posted here for too long. Some of you may not really know me, because it seems I keep adding to the list of recipients who become only passive “contacts” due to my lack of technical savvy. Sorry.
I have mainly been in a state of retreat from new internet communication for several specific reasons: 1)a crisis of confidence in my internet skills which kept blocking out my accounts due to lost passwords, or worse, sent out mistaken messages. That scared me; 2)a probably age-related rise in my own sense of being “out of it”, or that everything I could say is already being said better by someone younger, wiser or more connected; and 3)an honest lack clarity about how to respond to today’s realities. The fact that Trump and the Hard Right behind him have not started a war somewhere, or done things worse than were expected/feared since his ascendency left me holding my breath, not wanting to add more foolish predictions to the daily blogosphere. Now I realize that I miss communicating with a wider circle of old and new comrades.
BUT the latest set of media pictures/words from white, mainly Southern men have reminded me of the deepest root of my radicalism — my deep knowledge of, and hatred for, the (Southern) white racism that defined my earliest family and community life for the 21 years until I escaped in 1968. I have written most recently on my website (“What’s in a Name?”) about how I graduated from the Jacksonville, Florida Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in 1964 which had been so named as a statement of continued reaction during the 1950s integration struggles and how its final un-naming caused controversy in 2014, the year of my 50th reunion. At the time I enjoyed five minutes of local media fame by trying to get my fellow alumni to publicly honor the name change, and to recognize at our event the students and community activists who led the effort to achieve it . (The alumni reunion committee wouldn’t let me do so publicly, but I’m hoping that the small publicity surrounding my failed attempt shamed them at bit.)
Since then I have continued to be proud of their successful effort, and glad that it connected me to local Black and white activists in Jacksonville, whose continued struggle in an area still so stuck in deep racism inspires me today. I have tried to keep in touch and am mainly just glad that they are there — and, honestly that I am not. I can’t go “home” to that.
Yet now, I notice when the same words and deeds I grew up with are recalled from even younger public figures, whose responses are still so confused. Today I am moved when Reverend Barber, and writer-activist Bill Fletcher call us to respond not with demands fro resignation in disgrace, but for current, more focused, anti-racist action as repayment for their horrendous past words and deeds.
Of course we should remove statues of dead white racists, and take their names off public places. But more important is that we insist on public reparations — defined within efforts informed by a deep awareness of local history and a serious accounting of the continuing cost of past racist deeds and words.
How do pay back the long denied effects of racism? We spend money on projects aimed at uncovering the damage. We involve young inheritors of racism’s effects in documenting the full story, and in devising meaningful responses. We create a real “never again” mentality, with money and demands attached. And we keep monitoring the responses, and keep coming back for more accountability. I want to help do this, yet I don’t how to begin.
I welcome your reactions. And I promise to respond. I’m also committing to reach out personally to people who are part of my network. If you don’t really know me, I ask you to check out my website, and my past posts, and start a communication. If you knew me in the past, through CPCS, please contact me because I am now rededicated to writing the book I was researching for several years about our College, still to be titled “Who Did we Think we Were? Radical Higher Education and the Neoliberal Imperative: The Experience and Meanings of the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts/Boston.” I’m still seeking a publisher, but a current CPCS faculty member, Raul Ybarra, is offering to join the project. Hooray
Otherwise all I can say is that I have a 9 month-old grandbaby, named Sage, who offers a real reason for hope and hard work for justice. And I am still involved in anti-poverty activism through the MA Poor People’s Campaign, and though less so, through the national Basic Income movement. (I promise to post more updates from both movements on my website, again I have been avoidant.)
BUT most important I want to hear more from any of you about what else we should be doing, or talking about, together. Thanks