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I do not remember my father ever having shown prejudice towards anyone. He may have. Memory is a fallible thing. And I was not with him through every day of his life, especially those many days and years he lived before I was born. But I don’t remember any such incident, and I remember the opposite in him quite well. He was willing to let people stand or fall on their personal merits and flaws, not on their skin tone, ancestry, or religion. Oh, he might occasionally have used some words that could get a man canceled by the mobs today. But when he did, they were not applied to a whole group of people by ancestry or religion or culture. They would be applied judiciously to a single individual. My father was a police officer, a street cop. He encountered all sorts of people: the good and the bad of every ancestry. If he did have a prejudice, it was probably against lawbreakers. But that was a class of people who classified themselves through their actions.
My mother? The first thing to say is that she is not who she was when I was growing up in the 1960s. I think she tried very hard not to be prejudiced in any way. She was raised in the Deep South in the 1940s and 1950s. I seem to remember she said something on the order of, We had three synagogues in our city, and only one Catholic Church; I went to school with far more Jews than Italians or Irish. (This is not an exact quote, let me be clear. It is also trying to paraphrase something remembered from around fifty years ago). Yet, I also remember her occasionally using phrases and casual stereotyping of Jews she dealt with. That said, they were very mild compared to what one can easily find today, or could have found any day in the last few thousand years. Unfortunately, even the most pristine can be tainted when it is in the very air we breathe.
Her interactions with black people were a bit different. Mother had grown up around black people: the maid, the cook, the handyman who took care of and painted the houses her family owned. (You may be gathering from this what sort of family my mother came from in the Deep South.) She has many stories of growing up in that time and place, such as how the maid would take her with to do the shopping, because the maid could sit in the front of the bus when she had a little white girl with her. Or Mother remembered being about five years old and wanting to use the “colored” water fountain because she wanted to know what colors the water would come out. She prided herself on not being prejudiced against blacks. She worked with black people during her career. When it came to prejudice against blacks, she did not tolerate it. One thing I remember was her telling us about a word now euphemized as the N-word. She said, “It’s low-class to use that word. It is a mispronunciation of ‘Negro,’ and those who say it show their roots.” As a Southerner of a certain class, “Low-Class” may have been my mother’s most condemnatory phrase.
Some years ago, I met a man who was in his eighties at the time. He has since passed on. When he was a kid growing up around Detroit, his grandfather worked for and was friends with an industrialist. Bob liked to talk about his visits with his grandfather and the grandfather’s boss/friend. The boss respected Bob’s grandfather, because he could fix anything. The boss liked a “can do” spirit. And little Bob loved to spend time with the pair. He considered the boss his friend, too, because the old man would play with him and teach him things. Mind you, Bob might have been around five when this was happening, so he hardly had full exposure to the man his grandfather called friend.
That industrialist that Bob knew and liked when he was a child? He was one of the most vitriolic, hate-filled, anti-Jewish campaigners of the Twentieth Century. And if from that description, you guessed Henry Ford, you would be right. Maybe the child Bob never saw that aspect of Ford. Maybe he never learned of it after. Or maybe it never mattered to him. But maybe five or ten years ago, Bob was still proud to say that he had grown up around Henry Ford. I am not sure that I would have been.
It can be difficult to part ways with friends or icons of one’s youth.
On Ricochet lately, I have seen several bits and snippets of life. A member posted about the difficulties one of his children has dealing with Progressive friends. They can prattle on about their support of abortion and left-wing causes, but if the conservative speaks up? Shouted down or could risk unemployment. Friend, those are not friends. They may be acquaintances, but better to be friendless in this world than have “friends” like that.
Then there has been a black commentator who has been the darling of conservatives and libertarians for a few years who has recently started equating Hamas and Israel. Icons are made. Icons can be broken. Maybe she never should have been lifted up in the first place, but she is choosing her side now.
Meanwhile, a black woman raised in Islam recently claimed to have become a Christian. By saying “claimed” here, I do not mean to denigrate her. It’s just that I don’t really know what it means to become a Christian. In her case, it is a very visible step in aligning with the good that Western Civilization had brought the world and which less-civilized cultures would destroy. I salute her for this, even if I have no idea what it means to her to become a Christian.
On the other hand, there has long been a strain of Christianity that would call Jewish people “Christ-killers.” That is not the Christianity I believe in or practice. The one thing that I am certain of regarding Christianity is that Jesus fellow who lived and died about two thousand years ago? That guy? He lived and died a Jew. His initial followers were Jews. If you’re a Christian who hates Jews, you are an anti-Christ. You hate Jesus. Don’t argue. Don’t talk to me at all. Let us part ways. Go play with Hamas. I’m sure they’ll respect your Christian views.
My own brand of Christianity isn’t doing so well, itself. It has been taken over by feel-gooders, New Agers, and Progressives. It didn’t start that way. It started by trying to be more conservative than the Christian churches of the day, going back to the basics. Somewhere along the way, some of the leadership seems to have snipped out a few too many things. Is Jesus still in there? He’s hard to see anymore. But where is the version we had a hundred years ago? At least they probably don’t hate the Jews. They probably don’t even hate the terrorists of Hamas. Hate is too strong an emotion for the drained and the dead.
There is a fellow with about a million YouTube channels who has several catchphrases. One of them is, “The past was the worst!” No matter what we see around us, there was no Golden Age. Forty-five years ago, Jimmy Carter was President. Eighty years ago was worse. A hundred years before that was worse than that. And let’s not even talk about the Seventeenth Century. Or the Fourteenth Century. The past was the worst. Yes, we still have people around us who celebrate evil things. Yes, we still are surrounded by prejudice. But by nearly every measure, we are better off every day we march into the future. The dystopians and Malthusians want to turn back the clock. But they don’t remember what yesterday was like, let alone the truth of their Golden Age.
I promised a ramble. It may not be up to the standards of the rambles of @johnh. His are usually more scientific, high-minded, and technical or about his travels and languages. If you’d prefer a better ramble, try him out. But this is what I have for you today.
What are your thoughts on prejudice? Any memories? Any realizations?Published in