We have just finished producing a short documentary titled "Cornie". A chronicle of one man’s journey through the 20th century and beyond, Cornie brings lessons from the past to the future. His is a story of how to struggle through adversity and witness inhumanity yet emerge with dignity, grace and good humor.
The nearly century-long reminiscences of Robert L. Watson, affectionately known as ‘Cornie,’ paint a vivid picture of the life of an African-American in the 20th century and beyond. Born at the dawn of the first World War, he was a veteran of the second, where despite his service to his country he was nevertheless disparaged as a second-class citizen. Sadly, this was nothing new: in his youth in historic Mercersburg, PA, he endured segregation and institutional prejudice that severely limited his options. Yet in the face of these imbalances he discovered that not every privileged white wished to shut him out, and he gained a quiet dignity that gave even unabashed racists pause.
He is still alive and living in Mercersburg. He is an amazing man with many stories of his life to tell. We would be happy to send you a copy. Thanks. Mark/Kristy
I remember when Eisnehower sent the troops to Little Rock and I agree with his decision. However, the old saying applies, without exception, "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him/her drink".
The schools were integrated and schools throughout the Country became integrated and we even moved to bussing to make sure schools were integrated. The problem is not with the schools or the White population. The problem is with the Black Community.
The blacks (African Americans), their monikers have changed several time during my lifetime. The African Americans (to be P.C.) are going to the same schools and it cannot be argued that they do not have the same opportunities the White students do, the same classes, teachers, texts, exams and grading scales. I find it totally irrational to blame the lack of an education in the African American Community on the lack of opportunity.
The problem as I see it is that the African American Community, for the most part, does not value an education as the White Community does. Two many of the parents are uneducated and therefore cannot pass the value of an education onto their children. The parents are unable, to often, to read or write themselves and cannot assist their children with their education. How can a child be expected to achieve or even excel when their parents do not appreciate their needs; they cannot.
I do not accept nor will I ever except the , convenient excuse, that the African American children are not afforded the same educational opportunities as the White community. I realize it is convenient for the news agencies and the contemporary psychologists to promote this idiocy to make news and write their next books of fiction. Don't get me started on the contemporary new agencies and their uninformed over paid comentators.
I am not a College Educated person however, do have a few years of College. I was not the stellar elementary or high school student either however, was educated enough to help rear two children who became very successful and highly educated individuals. One son has a Doctorate in the Life Sciences and the other is a CPA. Their mother and I were not wealthy either, we had to scrape and save to help them. They did manage to pay for most of their college education themselves. We valued an education and were able to assist them when needed with their school work. If we couldn't we were able to read their text to help them with the work.
I was one of two students who voluntarily integrated the Oktaha Public Schools in Oktaha, OK in 1966, at the age of 8. The other student was my sister who was 16 at the time. Unlike the Little Rock 7 who had to be escorted by the U.S. Army, there was no violence at Oktaha, no protests, no news cameras, and no fanfare.
In May of 1967, my sister was the first Black American to graduate from Oktaha High School. I was the lone Black elementary student for two years before integration was mandated and almost all of the "Colored" schools were closed in the area. I can remember my parents meeting with the school superintendent at our home to discuss why it was so important to set the example for the community and if my family volunteered to send their children to the "white" school, the community could set their own agenda rather than letting someone from Washington dictate how the community would operate. In my opinion my parents and the Superintendent were ahead of their time.
My father told me that I would not have any trouble at the new school, because I was going to treat everyone with respect, not because of the color of the their skin but because they were fellow humans. My father also said that I was to expect no favorable treatment of any kind because of the color of my skin, and that I had to demand that people treat me as a fellow human. Easy words to say, but a big responsibility for an 8 year old boy.
I followed my Father's advice and had a very successful and fulfilled educational experience in the Oktaha Public School system. I graduated college and law school, but unfortunately found myself having to explain to my daughter that she would have to overcome discrimination because of her color, just as I had to do and sadly continue to do to this day. Things have gotten better, but unfortunately we still have a long ways to go in this country in terms of equality, especially economic equality. It appears that I will have to have the same discussions with my grandchildren that my grandparents had with me concerning inequality among whites and blacks in America.
It now 2007 and opportunities are still very limited for Blacks included well educated Blacks in America. Ninety-Five percent of all U.S. Corporations are still headed by white men and in too many cases educated Blacks are forced into employment with low paying government careers or low paying private sector positions. When is enough education enough? How much experience is enough? The answer seems to be that it is never enough.
Desegregation is not the primary problem for African American academic improvement. More must be done to improve employment among Blacks. Until that happens it is important that young African Americans have some attachment to the future. I have sent an article to the Atlantic Monthly suggesting a program:
“Blue Sky for Black America,” is an article derived from my Black Utopia Project (BUP). This project employs utopia as a device to teach young, potentially “at risk” African Americans to conceive, codify and invest in their own concepts of the future. You may note that in Hawthorne, California, just last Saturday, September 8, 2007, police shot a twenty-one year old mother to death after she slashed her own daughter and two police officers with a box cutter. The markings of “suicide by cop” seem all over this and similar incidents.
My University of California at Berkeley PhD dissertation, Black Film/White Money, a political economy of the entry of African Americans into the American feature film industry from 1896 to 1994, was published by Rutgers University Press, and won a 1997 Gustav Meyer Human Rights Award. Films I researched and filmmakers interviewed often described young, disadvantaged Blacks as people without a confident view of the future. Even Spike Lee decried hopelessness as perhaps the major malady among inner city youths. With this is mind I began research on teaching kids to map the future using the device of utopia. I published excerpts from BUP in a few articles, including, “Agency, Race and Utopia,” Socialism and Democracy, Summer 2003,” and “Blacks in Dystopia: 1969-1971,” Futures, 35 2003.
The "Blue Sky" article proposes a high school utopia program and is written in a manner designed to keep “at risk” African Americans at the forefront of the reader’s mind.
In my mind, there is no alternative to desegregation. Certainly, the road has not been easy.
I watched the ABC news tonight and empathized with Ms Nancy Rousseau, principal of Little Rock High School, who, no doubt has had many challenges; and, I suspect, sometimes wondered if it is worth it. I hope, Ms Rousseau, when you contemplate this issue, you do realize you are a part of something important (not easy; not perfect.)
Many of the opponents of desegregation 50 years ago would say that "children should not be a part of a social experiment". My reply to that would be that sometimes our children find themselves a part of a "social experiment" whether they want to be there or not. Usually, this was where they found themselves.
We Americans are a people who pride ourselves on our opportunity to experience "freedom"; I have no idea if we merit that designation; but we do experience a lot of freedom. This does not assure an easy way of life. I would like every child to have the freedom to pursue his/her academic, and personal goals. Believe me, in 1957, we did not offer this opportunity to everyone. In many cases, how one earned one's living after high school (if there was high school) did depend to a great degree on a sort of caste system: where one was in the social, racial, economic, pecking order.
Some might reply "But they should have their own schools: separate, but equal." I have always thought one of the lessons secondary education should offer would be the "study" of other cultures. I realize we do not offer as much history, geography and cultural studies as we once did in the public schools; however, I still believe the mark of a truly educated person would be her/his knowledge and understanding of others. We have had this for the observation in our schools! What amazing preparation for the "real world". (Maybe my "real world", which is larger than Seattle, WA or Lemoore, CA; thank the Good Lord!)
I am 71 years old, Caucasian. I work as a health care provider on a Navy Base. Daily, I get to see the best of what has been brought about by desegregation. I get to utilize the languages I speak, relate to my patients in their own culture to whatever degree I am capable. Keep in mind that the military was once segregated also; now we don't do things that way. I would imagine that most of the people who stay in the armed services until retirement are glad their children have attended desegregated schools.
So what about those White children or African American children who associate with only others of their own cultures? Well, they are free to do so. I do hate for kids to feel they could be physically hurt if they cross that culture line. I know this could be a problem; but young enough, kids seem to sort themselves out on their own: keeping in mind they learn from what they hear at home.
My children were born in 1957, 1958 and 1960, in Seattle, WA, to a white mother and a black father, both educated at the college level; so I have a few "clues" about this subject. We were fortunate, for the most part; there was an option of my daughters attending integrated schools, which was what we chose. The children were, for the most part, friendly with all their classmates. They left their primary school as we hoped they would: realizing the world is a big, interesting, multicultural place. I hope their classmates also benefited from knowing my children. I assume that to be the case since they stay in touch with some of them in spite of the fact that they live thousands of miles apart.
I could go on and on in this vein. The past 50 years have brought many changes: good and bad. Desegregation did not turn out to be easy; but we have come closer to offering all our children equal access.
Ms Rousseau, I admire you. I know there are days you go home wondering if it is worth it. I have an idea how hard you work when you could be in some "country club" school environment. Hold on to your vision. I know you are making a difference! Hang in there!
Little Rock Central High School
I watched the interview of the four students talking about the fact that in their school, the white students hang out together, and the black students hang out together, but not black and white together. They made it sound like it was normal and without animosity to have one side of the classroom white and the other black. I'm sure there are students from that school that are now soldiers fighting side by side as Americans, not as black or white. I am also sure that they have thought of the years they spent seperated by their own choice, in the same classroom, and now wondering why. An example; abc's story of the black soldier impaled by a live rocket bomb, and his white comrads that concealed the information about the bomb, as they knew the chopper would not transport him because of the danger to others around him. The Asian medic who operated and the bomb specialest and others who assisted to save the soldier's life didn't care about his race....... to them, they were simply Americans, all there for the same purpose. A very touching story!
I have a Foundation and have started the "Adopt A Nursing Home Patient" program. We find volunteers to go to nursing homes and assisted living centers, to visit elderly who seldom, if ever, have visitors. It has really taken off, and the volunteers are enjoying it as much as the patients. I think a similar thing would work in this school. If one volunteer from each side of the class would adopt a student from the other side of the class, and just spend time with that student, invite him/her to join in some of the activities, go have a coke, get to know each other. The only expense is time. Once the program gets started, it becomes contagious. A group of students could adopt a group of students. There are any number of ways it could be done. I encourage you to try it...I know it could be good.
I find it interesting that you can speak for "the blacks". Many times "the blacks" are not going to the same schools and are not recieving the same quality of education. Yes, many strive and succeed but yet, we still have to account for the thousands that still fail. Too(not two) many of "the blacks" are uneducated??? We do not value education??? What world are you living in? You must take you ques from Rap city or something. While the dropout rate for "the blacks" is high according to figures(which I never believe), when I go see my daughter at the college that my wife and I scrape to send her too, I see many of "the blacks" that value education. I wish many of you could spend a day in our skin to see what we see.