Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Desegregation and Me

I attended a dinner this evening commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark case entitled, "Brown v. Board of Education." In 1955, this case struck down the notion of "seperate but equal" and has opened the doors to equality between blacks and whites in countless ways. The speaker at this event, The Honorable William T. Coleman graciously pointed out that even though the United States of America has come a considerable way in correcting the wrongs of our past, we are not yet finished with appropriating the impact of Brown v. Board of Education.

As I sat in this lilly white room of attendees eating my $50 a plate filet mignon, it occurred to me that part of the problem to which The Honorable Mr. Coleman speaks are events like these. The only "colored" (as The Honorable Mr. Coleman referred to them-- he himself being African American) people in the swanky Atheneum Hotel at the Chautauqua Institution on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, New York were probably working in the kitchen washing dishes (I can't confirm this hunch because I didn't go into the kitchen). Nevertheless, here we sit fifty years after the Supreme Court Case that was supposed to make things right, extolling the success of desegregation.

I've never considered myself a racist. I always refer to my black colleagues and friends as "African Americans" (although I've always wondered why I don't refer to myself as a Scandanavian American). My favorite musical group growing up was the Commodores. Yet, I have this gnawing feeling that the first sign of racism is the denial that one is racist. I don't know, perhaps it's late and the filet has disrupted my ability to think clearly. This much I know (and on this The Honorable Mr. Coleman and I agree), desegregation will finally be realized when we quit extolling the virtue of landmark supreme court descisions in swanky hotels and instead invite our African American friends over for dinner and honest conversation about stuff that really matters.


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