Sunday, August 2, 2009

Paper Puzzle: Through the Eyes of Gates and Crowley

By: Harold Michael Harvey

When I was a mere lad, my family treated me like a prince who would be King. Yet in our brief forays from the farm into town to buy supplies the lighter races of men whom we encountered treated us less like royalty and more like vagabonds. Needless to say images of those times, plague my psyche, perhaps to this very day. It had nothing to do with character. It all came down to skin color.

Seeing the picture of Henry Louis Gates, handcuffed and being removed from his home by the Cambridge Police brought tears to my eyes. It’s not that I felt any particular sorrow for Gates, the W. E. B. Dubois scholar at Harvard. “Skip” can fend for himself. He has friends in powerful places.

Nevertheless, the Gates affair validates the late historian, John Hendrix Clarke’s assertion in the last century that there is “no black man with power who a more powerful white man cannot bring down with one telephone call.”

Clarke’s theory did not take into account in the 21st century an African living in the White House would weigh into the fray and offer a beer to the captor and the captive. Thus Gates’ arrest for essentially mouthing off to a police officer overtook the president’s health care initiative and pushed it on the back burner. The nation as it was, a year ago, became obsessed with race.

I’ve been obsessed with race too, since a day in the 1950's when my grandmother told me I could get arrested for going behind the counter to play with the shop keeper’s grandson. At five years of age, I was perplexed.

Ten years later, I was thrust into the middle of an attempt to eliminate the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” facilities in America. I volunteered to integrate the local Junior High school in Macon, Georgia. I was treated less than equal for the four years it took to smash Jim Crow in the seat of his pants. It had nothing to do with character or smarts. It had all to do with skin color.

Therefore, I became a student of history as it relates to the psychology of race. What I have learned is that neither white men nor black men have the same perspective of a similar event. Alas, neither knows what is in the head of the other. Thus, there is a profound disconnect in discussions of race, because the tendency is to talk at one another and not with each other.

In 1977 I created two mythical characters, one white and one black. Both of them are newspaper reporters. The white reporter works for the local daily newspaper and the black reporter works for the black weekly tabloid. Both of them are good newspapermen. They live to deliver accurate and dependable news to their readers. Their lives are largely segregated. This is not because either reporter designed or desired it to be that way. But because this simply is what it is.

Their worlds are controlled by the social mores of their time, which dictates privileges to the white reporter that are not offered to the black reporter. Their methods of gathering information is different because one does not have access that the other has. It doesn’t have anything to do with education or skill level. It has all to do with skin color.

Both reporters covered a rather bizarre mass murder in a small southern town in Georgia. Each was pulled off the story by their respective publishers before the mystery was solved. They each put the experience behind them but had lingering doubts whether the public really understood what had just occurred.

Each holds pieces of the puzzle inside their heads. But because they do not talk with each other, the mystery goes unsolved for many years, until an event causes them to sit down and discover the humanity of the other.

Gates and Crowley provides the nation another “teachable moment” the president said. Will the nation sit in class and discover the humanity of their fellow Americans or find fault with the conduct of their respective villain?

© August 2, 2009


Ashley said...

What a very nicely written article!

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Ashley, thanks for stopping by the best political journal on the web and for the kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Harvey,

I applaud you for the way you articulated this delicate matter! Keep up the good work and remember, never "mouth" off at the police regardless of your location!

Nickalus T. Holt

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Mr., there is a moral to this story as there is to every story. Thanks for faithful including The Harvey Journal on your weekly reading list.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Another good journal journey.

Carol J. Reid

Anonymous said...

I've just ready your article, and what your saying is that Race is still an issue right.. Is racism postmodern or modern?

yes Racism is 'Modern' theoretically speaking, such as class structure as well it's entrenched, and I meant to say more inferior

I think there is new 'form' of racism...I wouldn't say modern, racism is deeply entrenched in our world, history tells you this doesn't it?

We must remember that all people feel racism not matter what colour your skin is.....I think your story is important, it's subjective..right

I think racism is found on a micro and macro level, there are undertons throught the media also, implicity stimulating Fear within society..


Harold Michael Harvey said...

Yes, Juia, I believe that Race still matters in America. I am not sure what racial overtones there are in Edinburgh where you live, but here in America it is an unconscious manifestation of decades of conditioning. I believe racism is a disease and with appropriate treatment, it can be cured.

Brad Bechler said...

Harvey, this style of writing is so nostalgic in a profound way. The characters are but a conduit of a larger message, a larger cancer that continues to manifest itself based on modern day social ignorance. There is so much dichotomy here and I appreciate your nail biting style of telling a story. Great work. Can't wait to see if formally in print.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Thanks Brad, I hope this work will be well received by the public. I think it can go a long way in resolving some of the social issues that has troubled and perplexed this nation since it inception.

jacqueline said...

Very well written!

I'm sure your past experiences have definitely added great value to the sensitive issues of race in Paper Puzzle. I'd like to read more.

Congrats again on being accepted by a publisher. Great work! Thanks for sharing. Keep us updated on the process!

Paper Puzzle