Posted at 11:42h
, Way of Way
Some years back I was friendly with a man, Everett, the parking attendant in my New York City office building garage. Everett hailed from South Carolina which he left in the late 1950s to serve in the Korean War. After his military service, he lived in Boston for 15 years and then moved to New York City where he was living for 10 years when we met.
As he lived in the South before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I was curious what life was like in the South from the perspective of a black man. (Oh, did I forget to mention Everett was black!) Everett said life down South was good in terms of black/white relations. Whites and blacks lived segregated; everyone knew their place and relations were friendly. He never felt uncomfortable with whites. He never felt anyone hated him because he was black until he moved to Boston. In Boston, black people were marginalized and often came in harm's way if they went to white neighborhoods but as service workers. Things got progressively worse when schools were forced to integrate. New York City he found was more friendly to black people but not by much.
On occasional trips to visit family in South Carolina, Everett found the good old days no longer as mandated integration disturbed the old social order and tensions were high between whites and blacks. He often wondered whether the idealists pushing for integration were more interested in creating racial conflicts and upsetting the social and political order than peaceful coexistence or whether they had good intentions but no common sense and insights into unintended consequences.
Moreover, while integration provided more economic opportunities or high-paying token jobs, Everett felt the cultural collapse of the black community and the economic divisions and related stress that integration created came at too high a cost. That is, as the creation of an integration focused social order required the destruction of an older order, perhaps integration via evolution would have been better than via revolution.
I asked Everett what others in his community thought of his views. He said no one took him seriously because he was a Republican....