Friday, September 25, 2015

Waiting For Moses

In the late 1970's I was learning about the racial ethnic cultures from new friends and colleagues. They were helping the white boy "to get it".  I needed to understand in order to do my impossible job, which was to be sacrificed upon the alter of compliance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by desegregating The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.  I really did need a job, you see.

I was given a very fine education on the subject of racial bias, segregation, insular societies, and cultures I never knew existed.
I was, for what ever reason trusted by the various groups I worked with.

Two of my black friends who were 12 and 15 years older than I took me under their cloak of protection. They were people of the "Brown" transition of the mid-1950s, of sit-ins at the lunch counters in OKC, and of the segregated and desegregated system of de jure separation of races in my State.

The two men, and later several others led me through the labyrinth of racial politics within, among, and between the various elements of the Black Cultures I had to deal with.

Now I said all that to present a simple homily of what is white privilege as seen from the view of those who have not the benefit. They said, White Privilege is exactly like Egypt in the time of Moses. There were all of those Egyptians going about their daily business almost totally oblivious to the Hebrew slaves among them. Even the most common Egyptian was held in high regard as a citizen of the society. Where as the Hebrew slaves had no rights or privileges, only drudgery and work and only a hope of redemption.
They were waiting for a Moses to lead them away from Egypt to a Promised Land of Milk and Honey, to their land of their privilege. In that example I was told that desegregation was not their goal, nor did they seek integration with the larger society.They didn't want equality (they knew intrinsically that they were superior) they wanted equity, and privilege.  They were waiting for Moses to lead them to freedom and their land of promise.

That, as I came to understand it, change my own goals in my job to goals of divesting the system of the laws, regulations, and practices that perpetuated the system of white privilege. I spent almost three decades creating equity and removing systemic inequity.  I was to tear down and seek out the vestiges of dualism constructed under the Jim Crow laws of separate and unequal societies.  I couldn't be their Moses of course, nor could I accompany them to the promised land. My problem was mostly the white privilege ingrained in the State, and white people who did not want to surrender it. Here we are 40 years down the line and the white population has circled around to a full rebuttal of their having to surrender "Their America".   It is a desperate last grasp of privilege by a majority race.  It will lead to a time of equity or a time of apartheid, and we are on the cusp of one of those two futures.

No comments: