Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Integration



This is a photo from a just-integrated Virginia school in 1954, published in the New York Times. Oh, what I'd give to hear the thoughts of the two girls during what I assume is their first encounter. I will say that to me, the white girl looks friendly, and the black girl looks scared. And being a writer, I think I could begin to imagine a dialogue and spin out a scene. And I think I will. Just not right now.
     I looked for a photo by using the search term "integration" and was surprised that the first four or five pages of images were almost all schematic diagrams from industry having to do with systems integration. And the reason I was even looking for an integration image was that I was thinking about a conversation that was going on at an online forum called DetroitYes. This is an extremely active forum, and the people who post there have been very friendly and very supportive about my novel.
     In a recent thread, someone from Wisconsin posted about a visit to Detroit and how surprised and impressed and even enchanted he'd been by the city. This is the kind of thing that devoted Detroiters like to hear. But one person chimed in by saying that this is the typical thing one hears from suburbanites who duck in for one afternoon, hit the highlights, and then go back to the suburbs, never really seeing the pain and misery and poverty that reside in most of the city. This person assumed that the Wisconsin guy was white, and then others joined in, noting the assumption, telling the second guy not to be so negative, and soon the conversation was about race.
    One person sounded a note of great optimism about the gradual and future blurring of the racial divide, and I noted that I have had people at my readings who have said the same--especially noting that with more biracial children, the divide will continue to diminish as these children negotiate the borders of race and how they categorize themselves. Several people agreed with the optimistic view, and then someone said something along the lines of "it gives me no pleasure to say that I think the racial divide is widening," and after that no one said anything. Of course, perspective is everything. It all depends who you are and where you live. A lot of the divide is more economic than racial, I think, though the two are so deeply integrated or intertwined. Perhaps I might create a diagram to show what I mean--similar to those I ran across when I first started looking for an integration image.

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