Tag-Archiv | American History

I would like to have met James Baldwin

The most important part of the U.S. form of government is not division of power, checks and balances, or rights, but it is good intention. The Constitution provides a framework of powers and restrictions, but we must ask ourselves what we would like to achieve. Fear and self congratulatory language have often led to perceived, fundamental changes that, though dearly wrought, changed the rhetoric but not the reality. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes.

James Baldwin decided to leave Paris in 1957, when he saw the front page headlines with the pictures of Dorothy Courts ridiculed and alone as she attempted to enter high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. He did not miss anything about the United States except for the people who made him who he was. Ms. Courts faced the crowds alone, and he believed he could no longer sit in Paris and talk about the American struggle and the Algerian war. She had deserved someone to be with her.

Ten years later, when asked about the past successes and future perspectives, Baldwin said that he did not have much hope as long as people were asking the wrong questions. He said, “It was not a question of what happens to the Negros or to the black man….It is a question of what happens to this country.” A lowering of racial barriers was obviously insufficient, and a change of intentions was necessary. A better question was “what do we want to achieve together.” The answer should not be the political equivalent let’s serve up some of yesterday’s cake with fresh icing.

Watching police and citizen violence on television, the majority of the country supported an end to legal segregation. Whites in the north and west supported ending legal segregation when it meant pointing the finger somewhere else, but support slowed when change needed to start with themselves and not with someone else. Surprise, “redlining” was segregation. Racism and segregation continued even with the legal basis for discrimination gone. Still, some white supporters congratulated themselves and walked away. They had laughed at Gov. George Wallace in 1954, and voted for him in the presidential election in 1968.

The victories of civil rights did not fundamentally transform the country. Even with court cases and legislation, some questioned why their lives were exactly like they had always been. Young black men being sent to Vietnam told Dr. King that the civil rights movement had been for people like him but not for people such as them. The goal had been reached, but the prize had been boxed up and carted farther way.

Criticism of racism and the resulting economic and social pain were obscured, deflected and defended by the exultation of other “more fundamental values.” Changing rhetoric followed victories, and the resulting laws and strategies recreated racially based economic and social conditions that the victories should have overcome. It was similar to having the rug pulled out from under you again and again. Whenever you stood up the world was explained to you in a different way, but it felt and looked pretty darn similar.

Over all of US American history, few people would step forward and say, “I am racist.” Racism resulted from “more fundamental values.” For example, in the beginning, many more would gladly commit that they were supporters of the unrestricted use of private property and right to contract. After the Civil War, they revelled in now defunct sciences (social darwinism and eugenics). Following WWII, they were anti-communist and admitted that there would always be winners and losers in economic struggles. In the 1990s, safety and security were defended as sources of opportunity, and post-September 11th, security of all forms has ended policy discussions that call it into question.

They were all these things but not racist, because they held whatever fundamental value currently supported their privilege. The world looks and feels the same, but it is explained in ways that are not only different, but with presumptions that should not be challenged. Thus, the need for change seems scary and any inkling of racism should be explained away, since a challenge to the defined values is a challenge to the country. The challenge to the country is what Baldwin said needed to be done.

The United States has a form of government and organization that requires engagement and participation. Unfortunately, the three parts of democracy, popular government, equality, and protection of rights can and have been be wielded as weapons to protect one’s own interest and destroy opposition. Stalemate and delaying are very easy and effective. It seems weak to bring good intentions, and to explain them in ways that further a conversation rather than end it. There is not another choice. Will everyone be willing to let down their rhetorical guards? Can US system of government function without good will and intentions? The answers depend on our intentions.

San Antonio Cowboy Breakfast

Heute morgen standen tausende Besucher und Einheimische an, um nicht nur ein kostenloses Frühstück zu geniessen, sondern auch weil sie an diese traditionsreiche Veranstaltung teilnehmen wollten, die viele für den Anfang der San Antonio Livestock Show und Rodeo halten. Seit 1979 haben Freiwillige und Spender die Tradition des weltgrößten Frühstücks erhalten, das auf dem Parkplatz eines Einkaufszentrums angefangen hatte, und das heutzutage auf dem riesigen Parkplatz einer Country-Tanzhalle stattfindet. Das erste Cowboy-Frühstück wurde den Reitern einer der verschiedenen Pferdetrecken serviert, in denen Reiter in der Woche vor der Livestock Show von den kleineren Ortschaften nach San Antonio reiten und Strecken bis über 200km zurücklegen.

In den letzten Jahren besuchen zwischen 30.000 und 50.000 Menschen das Frühstück, und alle haben eine reiche Auswahl an Essen und Getränke. Jedes Jahr werden tausende Tassen Kaffee in den Stunden zwischen 4.30 und 8.30 ausgeschenkt, und mit noch mehr tausende Tacos aller Arten sollte keiner hungrig weggehen. Verschiedene Restaurants machen das Essen, und Freiwillige teilen es kostenlos aus. Leider werden den Kaffee in Styrobecher serviert, und die Becher und die Alufolie, in der die Tacos gewickelt worden sind, türmten hoch in den Mülleimern, bevor bezahlte Dienste die großen Sacken abtrugen. Trotz des vielen Wegwerfbaren war alles ziemlich sauber gehalten.

In Texas ist das Wetter sehr wechselhaft, und das milde Wetter, das heute herrschte, stand im direktem Gegensatz zu den -3 Grad, der die Teilnehmer letztes Jahr begrüsste. Als die Besucher Schlange standen, wurde es allmählich kälter und windiger, aber der Regen sollte nicht bis heute Abend kommen. Das kostenlose Essen lockte viele Besucher an, aber viel bleiben länger, als bald sie die Musik hören. Heute morgen begann die Country Musik Band, Soda Creek, gleich nach 5.15 zu spielen, und trotz der frühen Stunde tanzen einige Besucher auf dem Platz vor der Bühne, bevor sie zu ihrer Arbeit gehen musste. Die Band wurde 2007 von dem Lead-Sänger Mario Flores in Helotes gegründet, der kleine Ort, in dem der berühmte Country-Veranstaltungsplatz Floore´s Country Store beheimatet ist. Die Band spielte viele ihre eignen Lieder, die auf ihren zwei Alben sind.

Die San Antonio Livestock Show hat Millionen an Studierenden gegeben, und die Stiftung des Cowboy-Frühstücks gibt auch Stipendien, obwohl die Gesamtmenge niedriger ist, als die der Livestock Show. Viele Studierende der Kochschule, die einer der Studiengänge des St. Philip’s College ist, machen bei der Essenausgabe mit, und das College erhält jedes Jahr von der Stiftung Stipendien in der Höhe von 15.000 Dollar. Falls Sie heute nicht dabei waren, müssen Sie bis nächstem Jahr warten, aber seien Sie sicher, die Planung des nächsten Cowboy-Frühstücks ist schon in vollem Gange.