Jul 14, 2013

REVISED: Why blacks are pissed off, when it happened-- my experiences after 50 years

Radioman KansaSitty:

My experience with black people was non-existant when my parents moved me as a youngster to KC and the white suburb of south Overland Park.

I graduated from a white Shawnee Mission high school and took its academic courses. Yes, even 4 years of Latin, imagine that! (No it wasn't my idea, but my aunt taught Latin and English at Westport HS for 50 years but she'd retired abt1962 and my dad insisted to please HER, not me.  Wasn't long before Latin wasn' t taught anywhere, especially east of Troost.)  I mention that because at one time, like when I was a small child and before, Westport High School was a place where many of your grandparents, or great grandparents went to school.  An all white school.  A KC prep school.  Studying required.

 I expect a lot of KC's moneyed ancestors went there and endured my spinster aunt teaching school there.   But that was then, when she was president of the Browning Society.   Ever heard of poet Robert Browning?    (I had to google it to get his first name--was never into poetry despite what my 8th grade teacher made me memorize.)  All I know, is I couldn't write even at West, made substandard English grades and one post grad summer days under her strict ways, my next year at college brought me an A in English.  Ended up with a career in journalism, go figure!

Aunt Stella's neighborhood, at 46th and Forest, was turning in the late 1960s. Retired white people were dying off, as she did, moving away, and the neighborhood changing to minority quickly, being one block east of Troost.   Her house is gone now as are some others. Small lawns remaining no longer manicured green.  Houses are no longer well kept.   I wouldn't get out of my car there, anymore.

The racial change coming  in KC and elsewhere.
What I really wanted to say was that after high school but before college, I landed a summer job in 1965 as an ice cream man, working for the guy who had the upscale Ice Cream Parlor at French Market, 95th and Metcalf.   Driving one of his trucks paid better, on commission.  My territory with that Mr Softee truck was between 15th and 31st, from Cleveland to VanBrunt. So my experience living around only white people changed drastically. All my customers were now black.

I learned they were good kids in spring 1965, eager for ten cent ice cream cones.  Yes, unlike suburban kids, black children found a dime and were outside at the sound of the ice cream truck's jingle.  It was a cultural thing  -- different than Overland Park kids who were raised to be air-conditioned, indoor cats as they are today with their online video games.  

Then, I hung around older black kids that summer before heading home on my little Honda motorcycle that was so trendy then, and found friends with them that summer.   It was a good experience for me in the long run.  They had their own kinda cool, I discovered.

Eating east side food. Hanging out, learning about this new culture which was poor, unlike my own JOCO neighbors.  But I found them very interesting and actually not all that different in before the Change.  Friendly.  But they had values all right.  No gangs.  Dads lived at home to raise them, I think.  They had modern values of the time.  Do I dare say "white" values?  No.  Just my own values, same as theirs.

To my knowledge, my parents never uttered the word "Ni&&er" when I was young. Only later.  So I never had that 'white' attitude about blacks. It just never came up.  I didn't know about racism.  Sheltered, I guess, in the sheltered suburbs of Shawnee Mission White Kansas of the sixties.

Then in mid 1965, something happened that changed everything between blacks and whites.

The Watts/LA riots broke out, Detroit caught fire...the Black Panthers got active and young black people suddenly felt empowered and angry. 

I no longer felt welcome in that territory. Suddenly I was whitey! I could feel it. Resentfulness isn't really all that subtle. My friendships cooled.  I went away to school at the end of that summer, and didn't see many black people again until I was drafted into the Army in 69, nearly 5 years later.

In the military, black soldiers during the Vietnam era turned their music up loud, daring white soldiers to complain.  Despite integrated military, the tribes stayed to themselves whenever possible.  Do you remember THEIR MUSIC? Temptations, 4tops, so many others from the late sixties? Not so often heard on the WHB station that played mostly Beach Boys!   Animosity wasn't hard to sense, especially by Southern white soldiers hating blacks as always, and black soldiers impressing each other in their disdain for whites and the white establishment.   This was new to me but the hostility was clear enough and I learned quickly to stay with my own tribe.

Black teens learned what they'd seen in the media-- to be angry, resentful, separatist. 

This all happened DURING and after MLK's marches even before his death.  Right after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act,  granting new legal rights to ALL citizens, not just the privileged whites.  The Kennedies, John and Robert had set the national political stage, but the assassination of JFK in 1963 passed it on to LBJ.  Luckily, this southern Texan carried the banner to signed legislation.

But after the high of legal victory, blacks remained unhappy.   No changes happened right away!

Since that turning point which I witnessed as a young white kid even without prejudice, who later went into NEWS where I continued to learn about cultural things, northern society was never the same again.

Americans struggled everywhere, trying to implement Brown vs Topeka board, ruling that equal but SEPARATE SCHOOLS was Unconstitutional.  Including in KC.  South side parents were pretty unhappy black kids were being bussed from the ghetto to Southwest High!  And kids HATED being thrown together.

Segregated black school 1940
1970s: KC started integrating schools with court ordered busing as did some districts in other BIG CITIES with mixed races. Lotsa growing pains.

White people left the newly integrated schools for private (Catholic or non-black) schools and many escaped to the suburbs where black families were scarce.

Were they wrong to do that? Do white students and their scholarship lift poor and blacks up?  Or does the introduction of black children cause the schools to water down the scholarship for the white kids?

 I think many white parents didn't want to take the chance, at the first sign of student disorder. We parents have just ONE chance to educate our kids for success, and most moneyed people were more interested in their OWN KIDS' opportunities than being part of a larger movement of tolerance and a societal experiment. So they sold their houses and moved to Kansas. Richest to Shawnee Mission East. Till SM built the other schools. Boy did Johnson County spread out in the 1960s FAST after the KC schools desegregated!  That migration took less than 20 years after the Desegregation case.  That's called "WHITE FLIGHT". Common across the country.  Google it.

Blacks should look at that, wonder why it happened, and FIX IT!  Yes, maybe they have a problem fitting in!   Only THEY can fix it.  I submit GOVERNMENT CAN'T, the MEDIA can't.  It has to come at the lower level, the church level, the parental level.   Bill Cosby tried so hard on his own and with his TV show to bring up black family values.  But it didn't turn the tide, did it?   The ghettos are still full of single moms struggling and distracted with survival to raise boys morally right!  THEY must be the one to ask, "Where are their dads?"   And invite them home to raise their boys.

Later, elsewhere...

Wichita's always been a bit of a 'mini-Kansas City.'  I was in Wichita witnessing desegregation replayed THERE, in the mid 1970-80s... a time when black and white kids, forced to change schools and share classes, were resentful and resistant. Minor school riots. Kids less learning academics then, and more learning only how to get along... This all in the backdrop of the Hundred Years War called Vietnam.

I watched all this happen back then, working in television when TV wasn't just preoccupied with police and fire news. We actually did news and I spent a lot of time working the Education Beat.   Yup, schools let TV in, and to talk to students without some school PR flack hovering right there, to control my interviews.

With an open media, parents much better understood their children's experience at school before schools started clamping down on the media to teach them in secret.  Protect themselves.   (And for the media, well news beats don't exist anymore under tight TV budgets, just liveshot skills in front of CRIME SCENES.)  Today's schools won't let media in anyway without permission slips designed to shield the schools more than their kids.   What can you do?   Vote school board members OUT is about all you can do.   Or pressure them to open up the schools to the media and quit pretending that potential lawsuits prevent an open environment.   They will always hide behind lawyers if you let them get away with it!

Tribalism.    Blacks and the Vietnamese.

The black kids were even resentful in 1981 when the Vietnamese refugees showed up from Manila after years of virtual imprisonment in refugee camps.  

Many blacks thought Viet kids were getting more welfare (which they WEREN'T) and their parents got better jobs than the blacks who'd been there a long time, being underemployed.. They did not realize that the Viet culture was very hard working, industrious... eager to make something of themselves in America, glad to be out of the refugee camps, and they developed a reputation to employers, they were good workers.

Some boyish looking Viet men even used their youthful looks to lie about their ages and slip into public schools for an American education. They could barely speak English but the schools adapted and taught them ESL (English Second Language).

Black kids were just livid. Parents vocal, jealous to share the welfare tit with these foreigners. They told me this on camera, on the news.

File video, just a Wichita wedding party
You'll see a lot of Viet descendents living in Wichita today, because word got around Manila that the aircraft plants in Wichita would hire skilled Viets. And they worked hard, and their $16 an hour union wages did indeed buy nice cars. Yes plenty lived in low income areas, but not all blacks were convinced the Viets were getting government help beyond the Catholic Services which settled them and taught their adult refugees English.  Most Viet refugees were educated, US supporters... not field hands harvesting rice back home.

Their Asian children blended in, and in fact took to wild American kids' culture TOO quickly.   It didn'' take long for them to lose their cultural Asian obedient ways to become materialistic American kids! For them in the refugee camps, coming to America was like dying and going to American Heaven.  Their parents could hardly control them after they became Americanized.

I offer this using my very best observational abilities remembering HOW IT WAS as I saw it unfold, and being paid to story tell it on TV.  Educated Viets weren't shy about talking to me about their neighbors.

So.  Racism existed among angry blacks after mid 1965 ... Among Viet Refugees (that is, those educated Viet friends of America who escaped the murderous Northerners who killed anyone who worked for the US during the war) They were called 'boat people', brave people who with their families set sail for the Phillipines to escape the North Vietnamese after the US left in 73.

As to the northern blacks... things changed in the mid 60s. Older blacks weren't so angry. Calling them "Negros" was okay, they didn't need to be called 'blacks'. And certainly not "African Americans" which was the PC phrase coined much later.

Perhaps, they were QUIETLY resentful before 1965 but they predominantly were married and raised their kids. And less angry.   Didn't see that much television.  More accepting, as older people often are in their waning days. Many found post 1965 life in the north FAR BETTER LIVING than their depression or wartime days. MLK, getting rid of the "Colored Only" signs at the toilet or restaurants was actually pretty good advancement in 1965-1980. It was PROGRESS, if not PERFECTION. Older people tend to be more patient with change. Young? Not so much.

Unrelated file photo
Where have all the fathers gone?

We've discussed this already.  I speculate that it was LBJ's Great Society programs to provide money  AFDC (Aid to Dependent Children) that made black mothers cut many of their low-value men lose to live as single moms on welfare with their babies, instead of putting up with the unmotivated, unsuccessful fathers who can't support their babies.

Remember, all this time, employment was difficult and low-paying for black men. White racism was alive and well and good companies fled to Johnson County. It was virtually impossible for black men, with segregated black educations and few skills, to raise their kids as educated white people could.  It's not to me, otherwise out of my expertise, to explain why the black culture saw the breakup of black families and so many women struggling to raise their sons alone.

Back to the anger--unfulfilled promises

THE POST 1965--BABY BOOMER BLACK KIDS, felt justified in their anger. The separation divided wider.   They resented their white exclusion in the good economy.  Despite high school graduation after being told to study so hard, the jobs didn't come as they did for more privileged white kids.

YOUNGER BLACKS have been pissed off and resentful ever since. I think THAT is where the overt BLACK racism had come. They no longer accepted it... Martin Luther King taught them NOT to.

WHITES, ESPECIALLY SOUTHERN WHITES-- HAVE BEEN RACISTS ALL ALONG, and long before. They could get away with it because they had the established businesses and managed to pull up their white sons and daughters into their industries.

Nobody was giving black kids a break...and no matter how hard they studied, they jobs worthy of their effort just didn't happen. LBJs promise about equality after the Civil Rights Laws just didn't happen in time for THEM to realize the benefits. It was a longer fight than young people had expected.


It's time for whites to quit whining. 

Don't be mad at your dog if he turns mean after you kick him every day for much of his life.

Let them have a piece of the "American Dream".   I submit there's plenty to go around.   The blacks are really tired of being kicked around. Even in cases like Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Especially so. Black mothers love their kids just as much as you love YOURS! Get it?

Radioman sed it.   Disagree with my views on racism of the last fifty years?  PLEASE.   Comment.   Be polite but thoughtful to tell readers how YOU perceive racism during your lifetime, as I have.  Otherwise, we shall assume more than a hundred of Tony's readers agree with me!

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