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Who are we? Where do we come from?  Where are we going?
This generation born in war, born in the jail cells of the South, born at the Pentagon march, watches in disbelief as the country is paved over, malls replacing corn fields, synthetic food replacing corn, cash replacing value. What has become of us? Is the country brain dead? Is this what we have done with our freedom? Our greatest surviving value is greed.
Is that what our legacy will be? What shall we tell the children? Bleak Beauty.Com
2000 - A Race Odyssey
Julian Bond March 22, 2000
 Princeton, New Jersey

 

INTRODUCTION
Julian Bond first came to public prominence
as director of communications for the Student
Non-Violating Coordinating Committee in
Atlanta where with his droll comment "what do you mean we?", he helped organize the city's first sit-ins in 1961. He has since
emerged as a major American thinker, known for his radicalism, his wit and his deep and abiding faith in the potential for justice for all human kind. He has been Chairman of the NAACP since 1998. This speech was delivered by Julian Bond at Princeton, New Jersey, on March 22, 2000.

 Bleak Beauty presented the excerpted text because it one of the first great American speeches of the new decade.

"Look at it this way: It is the fourth quarter of a football team between the white
team and the black team. The white team is ahead 145 to 3. They have been
cheating since the game began. The white team owns the ball, the uniforms, the
field, the goal posts, and the referees. All of a sudden the white quarterback, who
suddenly feels badly about things which happened before he entered the game,
turns to the black team and says: "Hey, fellows, can't we just play fair?"

 Ask yourself what has changed. ED. Also see Michael Moore's Stupid White Men

 2000 - A Race Odyssey by Julian Bond

I am going to spend my few minutes talking about race. This is not an easy subject
for Americans. How do we discuss race without making some people feel
uncomfortable or feel as if they are being blamed for something they are sure they
did not do? Nonetheless, this is where we must begin.
We have just witnessed what almost no other living Americans had ever seen: the
death of an old century and the birth of a new one. The passage of a century - one
hundred years - is a grand old age for a woman or a man; it is only a fraction in the
lifetime of a nation. We are such a young nation so recently removed from slavery
that only my father's generation stands between Julian Bond and human bondage.
Like many others in this nation, I am the grandson of a slave. My grandfather was
born in 1863, in Kentucky; freedom didn't come for him until after the 13th
Amendment was ratified in 1865. His slave mother had been given away as a
wedding present to a new bride, and when that bride became pregnant, her husband
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- that's my great-grandmother's owner and master - exercised his right to take his
wife's slave as his mistress. That union produced two children - one of them my
grandfather. At age 15, barely able to read and write, he hitched his tuition - a steer
- to a rope and walked 100 miles across Kentucky to Berea College, and Berea took
him in. Sixteen years later he graduated, and the college asked him to deliver the
commencement address.
He said then: "The pessimist from his corner looks out on the world of wickedness
and sin and blinded by all that is good or hopeful in the condition and progress of the
human race, bewails the present state of affairs and predicts woeful things for the
future. In every cloud he beholds a destructive storm, in every flash of lightning an
omen of evil, and in every shadow that falls across his path a lurking foe. He forgets
that the clouds also bring life and hope, that lightning purifies the atmosphere, that
shadow and darkness prepare for sunshine and growth, and that hardships and
adversity nerve the race, as the individual, for greater efforts and grander victories."
That was the promise the generation born in slavery made more than 100 years ago.

That was the promise made by the generation that won the great world war for
democracy more than five decades ago. That was the promise made by those who
brought democracy to America's darkest corners three and-a-half decades ago.
That is the promise we must all seek to honor today.

The Civil War that freed my grandfather was fought over whether blacks and whites
 shared a common humanity.

Less than ten years after it ended, the nation chose sides with the losers
 and agreed to continue black repression for almost 100 years.

American slavery was a human horror of staggering dimensions.
 It lasted twenty times longer than the Nazi holocaust, killed ten times
 as many people, and destroyed cultures on three continents.
The profits it produced endowed great fortunes and enriched generations.
246 years of slavery were followed by 100 years of state-sanctioned discrimination, reinforced by public and private terror, ending only after a protracted struggle in 1965.

Thus it has been only a short 35 years that all black Americans have
 exercised the full rights of citizens, only 35 years since legal segregation was ended nationwide, only 35 years since the right to register and vote
 was universally guaranteed, only35 years since the protections of the law and Constitution were officially extended to all.

And we are now told those 35 years have been enough.
 To believe that is the victory of hope over experience. To believe that is the victory of
 self-delusion over common sense. Honesty requires that we acknowledge the name
of the problem we faced then and face today. The problem faced then and now is white
 supremacy, a massive and largely unacknowledged system of racial preferences, a
vast affirmative action program for whites.

 Although the world we see today as the 21st  century unfolds is very different from the
world as it existed when the 20th century began 100 years ago, in many ways these
 worlds remain the same.

Then, as now, nativists argued for further restrictions on immigration, seeking an America that was ethnically pure.

Then, racists sponsored laws requiring segregation in all places; now, their
ideological descendants sponsor laws mandating the end of fairness in all public places.

Then as now, racial scapegoating served as substitute for real solutions to complex problems, reminding us that while so much changes, so much remains the same.

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Then "the law, the courts, the schools, and almost every institution in the South
favored whites. This was white supremacy."
When the twentieth century began, black people then were slaves in every way but
legally. Most could not vote. Most attended inadequate, segregated schools, went to
school for only a few months each year and seldom went beyond high school. Most
worked as farmers or semi-skilled laborers. Few owned the land they farmed, or the
homes in which they lived.
The black scholar and activist W. E. B. DuBois described black life then and the world
a black man might see: "He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without
land, tools or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled
neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the
very bottom of hardships. He felt the weight of his ignorance, - not simply of letters
but of life, of business, of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shirking and
awkwardness of decades and centuries shackled his hands and his feet. Nor was his
burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of
systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not
only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of
corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro
home."
This was the world in which three people met during the first week of 1909 to form
what would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP). All were white - one the descendant of abolitionists, another Jewish, the
third a Southerner - a Southerner whose mother's people were Kentucky
slaveholders, as my father's people were Kentucky slaves. That meeting resulted in
a Call - issued on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth - which asked as
we ask today, how far has the nation come in guaranteeing: "... to each and every
citizen, irrespective of color, the equality of opportunity and equality before the
law...?"
(In an omitted portion of the text Bond reviews change following the formation of
the NAACP and continued change since mid century. Ed.)
Who among us would have believed that a people's opinions and behavior could
change so quickly? In mid-century, mass participation came to the movement for
civil rights, so that everyone - student, homemaker, minister, every woman and
every man could become an agent of his or her own deliverance. It was our
democracy's finest hour.
The movement for expanded democracy pressed on, and by the middle 1960s, could
claim a large measure of success. Despite the steady forward march of progress, the
forces of reaction have remained ever strong, ever able to devise new ways to force
freedom into retreat. What made the freedom train slow down in the decades
leading to the close of the century just ended? The causes are diverse and the
contributors many.
Almost every thirty years throughout the 20th century, intellectual brownshirts
preaching the cracker-barrel science of eugenics produced books that vaulted to the
best-seller lists, providing a pseudo-scientific rationale for racial subordination. All
along, while most Americans professed to favor racial justice many opposed the
tools designed to achieve that goal. Their refusal has its roots in the historic strand
of racist reaction in America, in fears of loss of status and white-skin privilege, and
in our common refusal to consistently support a vision of equality.



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In 1968, the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson
 to investigate the causes and prescribe the cures for the riots of 1967 concluded
that "white racism" was the single most important cause of continued inequality between whites and blacks.

But within a few short years, as growing numbers of blacks and other minorities and
women pushed for inclusion and power in business, government, the academy and
 other traditionally white male institutions, a backlash developed in the discourse
 about race. The previously privileged majority exploded in angry resentment at having
 to share space with the formerly excluded.

Opinion leaders began to re-define and reformulate the terms of the discussion. No
longer was the Kerner Commission's description of the problem acceptable. Black
behavior - not white racism - became the reason why whites and blacks lived in
separate worlds. The burden of racial problem solving shifted from its creators to its
victims. The failure of the lesser breeds to enjoy society's fruits became their fault
alone. In a kind of nonsensical tautology we heard again and again: 'Oh, those
people are poor because they are pathological; they are pathological because they
are poor.' Pressure for additional civil rights laws became special pleading. Our most
privileged population reconfigured themselves as a victim class.

Today, the rationale for racial subordination has shifted from nature to nurture and a
rampant, a-historical individualism, rooted in group failure, denying blacks the right
to make demands upon the state.

 Today we live in a world where a guidebook for parents warns that "excessive pre-occupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." is a sign of drug use.
Despite the heavy weight of the self-satisfied and self-haters, despite the cold heartedness of the neo-conservative confederacy, a great deal of the solution to our current problems lies within our common hands.

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* * * * *
We meet at a time when the leadership of the House and Senate are more hostile to
civil rights than at any time in recent memory. They have become the running dogs
of the wacky, radical right. The signals are more than clear.

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives filed a lawsuit to keep racial
minorities from being fairly counted in this year's Census. The present Speaker of
the House was a co-sponsor of a resolution to eliminate all federal equal opportunity
programs. Late last year, the United States Senate mugged Missouri Supreme Court
Justice Ronnie White. A House Committee erased the Women's Educational Equity
Act, teaching the lesson that schoolgirls do not deserve fairness. They've tried to
undermine the Older Americans Act, which gives much-needed services to needy
elderly Americans. On the same weekend when all Americans were celebrating the
life and works of Dr. King, the highest ranking black Republican in the House
announced his opposition to spending more money for civil rights enforcement. He
also opposed adding crimes motivated by hatred against gays, women and the
disabled to the federal hate crimes list. The Majority Leader of the United States
Senate regularly fraternized with the leadership of a white supremacist organization,
speaking to their conferences, endorsing their goals, and hosting their leadership in
his Senate office in Washington.

We all wanted to be Y2K compliant; they seem to be KKK compliant.

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We want guarantees of justice; they give us pious lectures on moral uplift.
We want protection from an epidemic of gun violence; they give us the Ten
Commandments.

We want to get guns off the streets; they want to put guns (Armed Guards )
in churches and schools.

We want a budget that provides for all; they want to balance their budget on the
backs of the poor.

We want public schools that educate every child; they give us public welfare for
private schools.

We believe the Confederate flag should be in museums; they believe it should fly
over the State Capitol.

We believe we should see more than white faces on color TV. We want justice and
fairness for all; they tell us we're playing the race card.

When Elian Gonzalez returns to his father's home in Cuba, he will immediately
receive guarantees of freedoms there he could not hope to receive here in his
lifetime - the guarantee that his ethnicity will never be an impediment to his
ambitions. Young Elian will take this right for granted as he grows; it is a right
Americans of color can only wish and hope for.

Who is to say which nations values freedom most?

We are seeing a full-scale attack - against racial minorities, against women, against
the aged, and it comes not only from the Congress, but also from courts populated
by Presidents Reagan and Bush with radical judicial activists.

 In one of its first decisions of the new century, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that states are immune from claims of age discrimination. No wonder affirmative action is under attack - even by those who have benefited from it most, including affirmative action's poster child, Justice Clarence Thomas.

Affirmative action is under assault not because it has failed but because it has
succeeded.


Affirmative action created the sizeable middle class that constitutes one-third of all
black Americans today. In the late 1960s, the wages of black women in the textile
industry tripled. From 1970 to 1990, the number of black police officers, lawyers and
doctors doubled; black electricians and college students tripled; black bank tellers
more than quadrupled. Affirmative action is the just spoils of a righteous war.
If you think affirmative action stigmatizes black people, ask yourself this simple
question - would you rather have a good job and be thought unqualified or be
thought unqualified and not have a good job?
Look at it this way: it is the fourth quarter of a football team between the white
team and the black team. The white team is ahead 145 to 3. They have been
cheating since the game began. The white team owns the ball, the uniforms, the
field, the goalposts, and the referees. All of a sudden the white quarterback, who
suddenly feels badly about things which happened before he entered the game,
turns to the black team and says: "Hey, fellows, can't we just play fair?"
Of course, playing fair is double-speak for freezing the status quo in place,
permanently fixing inequality as part of the American scene. In their topsy-turvy
world, "fair" never means "fair"; it means the game will go on and the score will

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remain the same and the team that is behind will never catch up. The enemies of
fairness speak evil while refusing to see it or hear it. They have constructed a
fictional mythology of discrimination-denial whose main goal is to convince
Americans that racism has vanished and civil rights protections are no longer
required. They want to replace race with economic class as a cause of disadvantage.

But no one beat Rodney King because he was poor. No one murdered James Byrd because he was broke.

They are promoting a racial version of "don't ask, don't tell". But as long as race
counts in America, we have to count race. Here's what they really mean by
"color-blind" - get rid of race. Don't ask about it. Don't count it.
In the name of creating a fantasy color-blind society:
- The past and present Governors of California stopped collecting data on minority contractors. Don't count - when there's no data, there's no discrimination.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee killed a bill which would have collected facts and figures on "D. W. B. " - Driving While Black. Don't count - no figures, no bias.
- Some state and local governments will not comply with the reporting provisions of the Hate Crime Statistics Act. Don't count - maybe hate crimes will go away. Tell
that to the victims killed in Illinois and Indiana and California.
- Congressional leaders forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to drop plans to send testers to prove discrimination in employment. Don't count - no proof, no problem - maybe prejudice will go away.
- And they don't want the Census to count minorities - don't count - no numbers, no Negroes - maybe the Negroes will go away.
The removal, over the decades of the 1960s, of the more blatant forms of American apartheid has made it too easy for too many to believe today that all forms of discrimination have disappeared. Opinion polls reveal that a majority of whites believe that racial discrimination is no longer a major impediment for people of color.
In one study, 75 percent of whites said that blacks face no discrimination in
obtaining jobs or housing even as housing discrimination becomes more severe.
Polls show that most white Americans believe equal education opportunity exists
right now, even as schools become more - not less - segregated across the country.
Jim Crow may be dead, but John Rocker is alive and well. Race is the central fact of life for every non-white American, eclipsing income, position, gender, education.
Race trumps them all. The evidence is everywhere.
- A study of workplace discrimination found that blacks and whites with equal
qualifications were treated equally barely one-quarter of the time.xii
- A nationwide study of homebuyers found that minorities face increased
discrimination from mortgage lending institutions.
- A sweeping five-year study concluded that race still determines success in
everything from job opportunities to education to housing. As if these facts were not enough, most recently in film and memoir a dangerous nostalgic narrative has
arisen, glorifying the segregationist past. In that fantasy yesteryear a simple social
order prevailed; children obeyed parents and women obeyed men. All lived in a
closely-knit community where everyone cared for everyone else.
The truth is that black Americans then faced a borderline genocidal regime. Their
lives were cheap and subject to extinction at any white person's whim. But the
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narrative serves to vindicate a return to a more natural order before civil rights laws
mediated fairness, when patriarchy reigned and white supremacy ruled.
The same people who want to eliminate civil rights laws have re-written the tax code
to reward the wealthy, fought increases in the minimum wage, and packed the
courts with radical ideologues. Under their prescription for what ails America, we'll all soon be clinging to life support. Some Americans already are - clinging to life on the margins.

More of America's children - one out of five - are living in poverty now than was true
25 years ago. Every night 34 million go to bed hungry in America. We are the most
economically stratified nation in the Western world.
* * * * *
African-Americans will soon no longer be the nation's largest minority. By the year
2050, blacks and Hispanics together will be 40% of the nation's population.
 Hispanic and Asian American populations are expanding 10 times faster than white
populations; the African-American population is growing five times faster. Wherever
there are others who share our condition or concerns, we must make common cause
with them.

We live in a small world. If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of 100
people, with existing ratios remaining the same, there would be:
57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south,
and 8 Africans.
52 of the 100 would be female; 48 would be male.
70 would be nonwhite; 30 would be white. 70 would be non-Christian; 30 would be
Christian.

6 of the 100 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all six of
these would be from the United States.

80 of the 100 would live in substandard housing.

70 would be unable to read.

50 would suffer from malnutrition.
1 would have a college education.
1 would own a computer.
Looking at the world in this way, we are reminded of our mutual dependence.
When I started working almost four decades ago, there were five workers paying
into the national retirement system for every retiree.
We can't know who they were, but their names could well have been Carl, Ralph,
Bob, Steve and Bill. When I retire, there will only be three workers paying into the
retirement system - their names may well be Tawana, Maria, and Jose.
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We need to provide them with the best schools, the best health care, the best jobs,
and the strongest protections against discrimination we possibly can.
Thank you.
(Julian Bond has been Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors since February
1998. He is a distinguished Professor in the School of Government at American
University in Washington, DC and a Professor of History at the University of
Virginia.)
Copyright 2000 by Julian Bond



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