What Lies Beneath
Congressman Steve Cohen is calling on congress to adopt a resolution condemning the display of nooses for the purpose of racial intimidation. He is also pushing for an apology for slavery and segregation during the Jim Crow era.
Now I have heard some saying that this is nothing more than a politician pandering to his constituents. Duh, of course politicians pander. I think it’s included in their oath when they take office. “Do you solemnly swear to pander when ever possible, to tear-up at National Celebrations, and to over use cryptic phases such as - I do not recollect.” That being said I think anyone who has even a slight knowledge of Cohen will know this is who he truly is. These are his views. Agree with him or not you must commend him for his conviction.
On the issue of an apology from the United States to African Americans for slavery and segregation I have given this issue much thought. Before I share with you my two-cents let me first share a reoccurring experience I had as a child here in Memphis. When I was around eight, this was in the sixties, I was asthmatic and had to regularly visit our family physician. I remember he was a white man with big hands. When my mother would take me to his clinic we would come in through the back door and sit in a small room that stored lots of boxes and had no windows. The only light for this room came from a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. There were never enough wooden chairs and people had to stand. I almost always sat in my mother’s lap. The nurse would take me to the doctor’s examination room. When the doctor arrived he would do something that would fasten itself to my memory to this very moment. He would reach over to his desk and pick from two thermometers, each immersed in a liquid solution in a glass jar. One jar had the letter “C” and the other jar had the letter “W” written on it. The jar with the “C” was dirty and had greenish slime on it. The jar with the “W” looked hygienic and clear. It was obvious that it was cleaned regularly. For me he would always pick the “C” jar. He would take the thermometer, shake it once and insert it in my mouth. I never complained, and I never told my parents. It was as if I somehow knew that was how things were.
Years later I would have the opportunity to revisit that building that was then owned by a friend of mine. I came in though the back and there was where my mother and I would sit. The room was nothing more than a storage area. In truth it wasn’t even a room, just a space. I proceed to the front of the building and there I saw a large waiting area with several windows, restrooms for men and women, and a drinking fountain. This is where the whites would sit. I am now in my forties, by no means an old man and these are the memories I have. I don’t even dare imagine the memories my mother must have.
You have to ask what could drive rational civilized people to do something like this? For that matter how could we as humans build concentration camps, or gulags? We would like to call these people animals, but they are not. That’s what is so frightening. They are us, just beneath our well trained politically correct nature lays the hate. It patiently waits while feeding on our fears.
I support Congressman Cohen’s resolution. Not because I need someone to apologize to me. The man who treated me less than a human has long since died. This request for forgiveness should come from a nation, an institution that says, never again! This apology is for all of us, for tomorrow you could be the prey. We must never allow this hate in all of us to ever rise again, and the way to do that is to constantly remind ourselves that it is there patiently waiting for us to forget.