Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bea on Racial Relations

I would like to express my thanks to faithful blog readers who have contacted me with condolences regarding Bea's death. It is true: one does feel totally disoriented.

To answer a general question, By Bea's Bedside, as a blog, will stop soon, since my purpose was to document the final months of my mother's life. But, we will do this gradually to help everyone who has complained of withdrawal symptoms!

As the weeks went by, I sometimes found notes which did not necessarily fit into the daily flow. I will now share some of them with you. Let's start with Bea on Racial Relations:

"Current US society, with its obsessive emphasis on the bottom line, has brought welcome improvement in race relations. Black millionaires like Oprah and Bill Cosby have effectively demonstrated impressive abilities to make money. Modern media has provided the means, but the effect is what counts. It seems to me that the new avenues by which these creative people have advanced themselves financially can also educate Whites and other Americans, such as Hispanics, to their intelligence and charm.

The important result, I think, is that the role of Blacks is in acute process of change. I think it is important that this evolution be celebrated.

Now that I am in my 90th year, I think back to racial relations early on. Mabel, the Black Bermudan who worked for my family was someone I loved and hugged. At that time, the movement of Southern Blacks to the North had not yet begun. When it did, we were fortunate to have a distinguished Black leader in Martin Luther King.

Our country needs a few reminders of the progress we have made: During World War II, I was working for the Office of War Information as head of the Radio Section. For this assignment, I had a large staff. At that time, African-Americans made up 12% of the population. So I decided to hire 12% Black in my staff. When my section head’s Southern secretary heard this, she said that the day a Black joined our department, she would walk out. I responded, “That fine with me.” But I discovered that when the staff went to lunch together, we actually had to form a phalanx around our Black staff member in order to be received at local restaurants, right in the shadow of the Capital.

And, earlier on, working in New York, I had a call from a photographer-friend whose assignment was to photograph the Black lady featured as Aunt Jemina on a package of pancake flour. He was trying to find hotels in which this lady could be received.

While at CBS Radio, I was asked to do a report on the extent to which the war message was reaching rural blacks. I arranged for a sociology professor from Fisk University to work on the project. Then came a snag! A vice-president informed me such a project would not get their consultant’s approval. When the consultant did hear about it, he got in touch with top people in personnel and – bingo! – I was fired with absolutely no explanation …

What changes have occurred in the last 50 years! Now members of my family have close contacts with Blacks – all of them rewarding …"

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