My brother owns a block of properties in South Dakota. This tends to shock a lot of people who believe that all black Americans must live somewhere other than that place.
I did a quick study several years ago from data at Tuskegee Institute and discovered something very few people know. Between 1882 and 1968 the following states never lynched a black American. Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, Wisconsin and South Dakota. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
The following states over that same 84 year period of time lynched only one. Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington. You can check out the details here.
My nerdy side insisted I look at such matters when I decided where to live. In the computer business, I understood that I could live pretty much anywhere I chose and I did live in Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles. But when it came time to move my entire young family I looked very carefully for all of our sake.
This was back in 1997 and I was in Atlanta at the time, which was touted as a black Mecca.
I couldn’t ignore the fact that Tiger Woods just won the Masters’ golf tournament for the first time. There was a great deal of controversy about the history surrounding racial restrictions of that course’s club, but that the first black winner was from California, not Georgia. Specifically, Tiger Woods grew up in Cerritos California, just 12 miles from where I write this today. Cerritos never had slavery, or Jim Crow. Although there have been 2 lynchings in all of California’s history it’s bloody unlikely they took place anywhere near Cerritos which was only incorporated in 1956, two years after the Brown decision.
So I asked myself why would black Americans choose to live in the top lynching states? Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas? In the end, I decided to move back to my home state of California. Eventually we wound up in an affluent town that was about 2% black.
Don’t get me wrong. I understood very well that after the Great Depression, lynching all over America slowed to a trickle. The numbers speak for themselves. However, when it comes to emotional subjects, people tend to forget rationality and ignore the real numbers. Thus, we find ourselves in such an emotional state where we make poor and superficial judgements about races and places.
White Supremacy and CRT
As much talk is made these days about white supremacy this and critical race that, I suppose it is the same kind of people that are shocked that we don’t have racial problems. By we, I mean my not-so-young family. We thoroughly integrated ourselves into American society.
I am proud of the fact that my children did very well in high school. Each of them attained leadership positions there and in Scouting, in what I suppose would be called ‘predominantly white’ institutions. They were respected, admired and made many friends. Each was accepted to their first choice of colleges and they’re all doing well now that they’re out. We live in multi-lingual, multi-ethnic Southern California and this is normal. We are expected to bridge all sorts of gaps. That’s why public high schools still have a foreign language requirement, remember? That’s not just a California thing.
I think I understand the fear many people have about being racially outnumbered. Not all of us make friends easily or are so fast to think on their feet in unusual circumstances. But I think economic concerns are what truly underlies the fear. After all, black America’s historical struggle for civil rights has always been about getting out of racially restricted ghettos and into the financial mainstream.
In the Ghetto
The Nationalists of South African perfected the ‘ghetto’ in their Apartheid system. The goal? Isolate people into poor areas with no industrial base.
No matter how much business they try to make between themselves, they will never gain competitive access to lucrative markets. Surely, people with middle class aspirations ask themselves: What if I don’t have what it takes to succeed out there? How will they look at me? What kind of work will I do? However these are not questions that are foreign to anyone from an underprivileged background. America is full of underdogs of all sorts. We love the scrappy underdog.
To exit a ghetto, poor rural town, or trailer park, and attain success in the larger world is truly traumatic for some. Others adapt and succeed. It is sad but true that some remain in an impoverished comfort zone of second class citizenship. Academics often study the problem of hyper-segregation in which there are pockets of America that are majority black, majority poor and suffer all sorts of social dysfunctions. It is a racial stereotype that black Americans are typically from such places and that it’s traumatic for all black Americans to adjust to the mainstream. We are constantly reminded about the violent South Side of Chicago, mean streets of Baltimore and burned out neighborhoods of Detroit.
The Unicorn Factor
The idea that a well-adjusted, well-integrated, admirable and respected black American is a ‘unicorn’ is a pernicious prejudice that underlies much of America’s current debate. The idea that white Americans and black Americans must struggle mightily to understand each other, work and play cooperatively, compete fairly, lead and follow responsibly seems to get stronger every day. This is a deception. These things still come naturally and easily all over in this country, even in the ‘lynching states’. There are threats to our open and free society, but Americans understand very well how to get along.
It should seem obvious that free speech, common decency, fair play, hard work and good sportsmanship are the backbone of an open and free society such as ours. Let’s not pretend that doesn’t work or any of us are unicorns for supporting that.