A Brief Correspondence on a Depressingly Perennial Subject

In response to an item about the King funeral, Marianne Dunlop of San Diego wrote to say:

When we lived in Orinda, California (adjacent to Berkeley) in the late sixties, some neighbors came to make a neighborly call.  Their first item of conversation was a nasty commentary about Dr. Martin Luther King, and then the wife said that she was afraid that some of the big black bucks from Berkeley were going to come over the hill and rape her.  Dick is ordinarily gracious but that time, fortunately, he was not.  He said, "Don't worry, when the big black bucks come over the hill from Berkeley and take one look at you, they'll turn around and go right back over the hill again."  Of course, they never spoke to us thereafter, but later on I had the pleasure of learning that their house had been robbed while they were gone. They said that they couldn't understand it because the only person who knew that they were going on vacation was their housekeeper (an African-American woman with an M.A. who couldn't find a better job because of the rampant racism of the time). For example, when we bought our house there the realtor told us that we could rejoice because our house had a "restrictions with racial..." clause, now illegal of course, and to his astonishment I told him to get that off, that it was filthy, and that we wouldn't buy the house if the clause remained.

John Turner replied:

A point I keep trying to make -- but not very successfully -- is that though these people have changed their rhetoric they may not have changed their attitudes. I'm sure there has been some genuine change of thought, and we can be grateful for that. But there are enough signs to convince me that an unspoken racism continues to affect politics powerfully and that it benefits the Republican Party. And yet, simply to say what's fairly obvious tends, nowadays, to put one in the radical camp. Why is that?

And Marianne explained:

Of course, you are right, but speaking the truth has always been outre.  It keeps the Morlocks, as H. G. Wells would have it, from getting their bread and butter (and this really is other human beings) and it keeps the Eloi from their fairy tales which they seem to find necessary even though it means leading lives of misery and unquiet desperation.

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