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if a non white person tried to order a meal back in 1850 would they serve him?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by green papaya, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    I was fortunate, I guess, to have the privilege of growing up with school friends from a wide variety of backgrounds. I have friends who are the first of their generation to be born here from Italy, Greece and various parts of the Balkans, from Argentina and Chile, and other friends who were born in Vietnam, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. I grew up in a poor working class suburb, and some of those kids, my friends, they were tough guys. And you'd see us together, playing football, rough-housing, complaining about homework and hanging out together, the Slavs, the Italians, the Asians, the Anglos and the South Americans, and some of Aboriginal descent, and the idea of 'race' didn't occur to us. Culture did; it meant some of my buddies' parents spoke a different language at home, and we got to eat awesome different types of food when we were at each other's houses. I just thought that was the whole world, in primary and then high-school. Dudes with a variety of different facial features trying to get through teenage hormones together, talkin' the schoolyard BS, checking out the chicks, dreaming of our first cars, cramming study notes to get through Math, Science, History and English.

    Those years shaped everything I believed the world was. We knew our Vietnamese contingent - all skinny, cheeky, martial-arts loving cats who on the flip side could, when they weren't goofin' off with the rest of us, study pretty darn hard - came from a difficult background, being refugees from a war in which their fathers and uncles fought alongside Australian and US troops against the Communist North. We learned words and phrases in a variety of languages: hello, good-bye, how are you?, I'm hungry, I'm tired, and, of course, all the swear words, in Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Italian, Greek and Vietnamese. We had fun together, we got in trouble together, we did school assignments together, we played sport together and we faced all the issues of adolescence together. Our only understanding of the word 'discrimination' wasn't related to ethnicity, but our socio-economic realities as kids living in south-western Sydney. We weren't the 'silvertails' from the northern or eastern suburbs, we were derided as 'Westies' by the rest of Sydney, the poor people, the working class, the hoodlums who used to run around stealing hub caps at night.

    Then came the time when we were old enough to drive, and we ventured outside our neighbourhood and surrounds. We went to dances and concerts in other, heretofore distant, parts of the big city. One of my mates got called a 'black ----' one night by some clown, and it started a hell of a brawl. We didn't understand what the issue was with his skin tone, but we did know that the second word was the worst insult ever. Or there were comments about another mate's eyes - no big deal to us, the shape of his eyes meant no more to us than the fact that mine are blue as opposed to green or grey or brown - but we knew he was being insulted on account of his appearance so it was on again.

    So we grew up and learned a strange truth. People in the world at large had this big issue that seemed important to them, and it was called 'race'. To some people, sandy-blond blue-eyed freckle-faced Benny Holiday, being of Anglo origin, had no place hanging out with guys named Gino, or Tien, or Dimitri, or Jose, because they were 'different'. They came from other 'backgrounds'. These were kids I'd played with in the sandpit with toy cars when we were in kindergarten, for pity's sake. They were like brothers to me (44 years later, most of them, those who haven't moved interstate, still are). And someone is going to insult them to my face?

    We learned about the civil rights movement in America, and weird ideas like segregation and 'people of colour' being required to sit at the back of buses, and even the way our own First Peoples were treated by the the dominant Anglo society, and we thought 'you people are all %$^& crazy!' The idea of some morons covered in white gowns and hoods terrorizing people because they were of African descent seemed like some sort of sick, twisted bad joke. People wouldn't really do that, would they? It didn't, and doesn't, make sense to me.

    Now our kids all play together when we meet up for BBQ or go out to a park or playground someplace. Like us, they don't even stop to think about the ethnic features of the kid next to them. What does it matter? All they care about is having fun together. Playing with dolls, or cars, in the sandpit. Going down the curly slide together, laughing. One day they'll grow up enough to share ideas, philosophies, foods and music from different cultures with each other, and they'll be enriched by it, as we have been. Now I'm all nostalgic, I'm gonna call some of the guys tonight. Organise a BBQ now the winter cold is starting to wane.
     
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  2. Inkstainedwretch

    Inkstainedwretch Practically Family

    Messages:
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    Location:
    United States
    Jack Benny would never tolerate racist comments directed at Eddie Anderson ("Rochester.")
     
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  3. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,685
    Location:
    New Forest
    Sorry if this came across as "just a joke," it's anything but, I was being cynical but I could probably have worded it better. That's the problem with just the written word, it's easy to get yourself in a hole, then trying your best to explain, just digs the hole deeper.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
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  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Indeed. The Benny troupe played a lot of military bases during the war, and wherever they stopped it was made very clear that if any hotel wanted them as guests, they had to accept the entire troupe. When a hotel in some jackhole town in the midwest refused to admit Anderson, Benny turned around and led the entire party -- actors, musicians, support staff -- out the door.

    Their last appearance on stage together was just wonderful. In one of his last TV specials before his death, Benny tried to get "Rochester" interested in working with him on one of his new projects, none of which were much good, and then suggested that maybe he'd come back to work as a valet. "Aw, Boss," Anderson drawled in that distinctive voice, "you knowwwwwww we don't do that any more!"
     
  5. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

    I'm convinced this is an important factor in the way we form our individual beliefs about others as we grow up and grow older. Though perhaps not quite as varied as your experience(s), I also grew up surrounded by people whose cultures and backgrounds were different from mine--a neighborhood with a mostly hispanic/latino population, dad's co-workers were mostly Asian, and so on. On some level I knew they were different from the family I grew up in, had different ways, ate different foods, etc., but none of that mattered to me beyond making them more interesting. They were just people, living their lives. At some point I learned about racism, but I've never understood it beyond knowing it exists. If I dislike someone, it's because of who they are as a person, not because their skin is a different color from mine or because they came from a different country.
     
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  6. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,876
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    Spot on, Al. " . . . none of that mattered to me beyond making them more interesting." I was too young to get it back then, but all of us got to learn new perspectives on looking at so many facets of life simply because we hung out with each other and we came form different cultures. We were too busy being obsessed with pimples, girls, flunking Math and the latest craze (like break dancing back in 1984 - oh man!) to notice that we were actually learning a whole lot from each other's family-driven ideas and views of the world. And I don't remember the parents caring that much either, so long as they thought you weren't a total hoodlum they were happy to let us be kids and do our thing regardless of ethnic origin.

    I reckon you and I would have had a blast if we were in the same social group back then!
     
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  7. Growing up in Tampa there were numerous ethnic clubs...the Italian club, the Spanish club, the Cuban club, etc. they were much more than social clubs, but a central part of everyday life for those ethnicities. They ran schools, hospitals, banks, in addition to being a financial and social safety net. A handful are still operational, but the old Spanish hospital (where my very Scots Irish grandmother insisted on going) is gone along with most everything other than the various club administration buildings. Membership has dwindled to the point where they’re on their last leg. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective, I suppose.
     
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  8. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

    Politics? I thought we were discussing social issues. :confused:
     
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  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Precisely -- social history, to be specific. There's a difference.
     
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  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    My experience was kind of different, but I think the results were the same. I grew up in a monoculture -- an all-white town, an all-white school -- and not just all-white but with very few exceptions all the same kind of white: Anglo-Saxon/Scotch-Irish -- which was anything but an idyllic paradise. There was poverty, there was violence, there was crime, there was rampant substance abuse, there were all sorts of symptoms of a diseased, inbred culture. I can remember being kept in the house because a man from the next town had chopped up his girlfriend in the bathtub and was believed to be "on the rampage" near our town. My own father got a fifteen-year-old girl pregnant and had to flee town at gunpoint. None of these things could be blamed on race, none of these things could be blamed on The Other.

    So it was mystifying to me, growing up, to hear people spouting off about race -- there was a guy who used to hang around our gas station sometimes who would leave copies of "The Spotlight" around. That was a neofascist paper full of anti-Semitic, anti-black fulminations about how Those People were destroying Our Proud American Culture. I'd glance at this stuff and then look at all the Pure White Protestant culture around me and all the desperate, damaged souls it produced, and I'd say "Really?" Racism is built on myths, and that's one of the worst.
     
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  11. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    11,481
    Location:
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    Rarely would I bet you and Miss Rand line up, but other than the sharp elbow to "collectivism," you, she and I seem aligned on this one:

    Ayn Rand on Racism:
    Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

    Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

    Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.
     
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  12. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I'm more on the side of Walter Rauschenbusch when it comes to collectivism, but other than that I think she's on the button there. A child of any race is born an empty vessel. It's what gets put into that child's mind that makes them what they'll become. As Brothers Rodgers and Hammerstein put it, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."
     
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  13. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,685
    Location:
    New Forest
    That is something that I completely agree with, yet, why am I so irrationally prejudiced about what might seem trivial? In the UK we have a system of parking for those of limited mobility. If you or a member of your family is wheelchair bound, or you have a serious disability, you can apply for what we know as the blue badge. For some reason I always equate disability with impoverishment, it really irritates me to see a top of the range car, displaying a blue badge, as I said, totally irrational. Strokes, brain injury and the myriad of other inflictions have no respect for status or rank so it shouldn't bother me one iota that someone can afford a very expensive car, it could even be chauffeur driven, if it's got a blue badge on display, then that's there to help someone with a disability, whatever I think.
     
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  14. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I think we all carry cultural memes in our heads, things we've been exposed to in books, movies, whatever -- and one of those is the image of the so-called "crippled beggar," a figure which recurs again and again and again in just about every culture. There was a time when a disability did mean poverty for most people -- unless you were born into a wealthy enough family to be carefully kept out of public view. There are still places in the world where this is true -- and, bluntly, it was true in the West up until the last century or so, due to the gradual evolution of the concept of a social safety net.

    The example of FDR is an interesting one -- he gets criticism from some quarters today for his efforts to conceal the extent of his own disability, but that was merely a reflection of the era he lived in. A time when a sitting Supreme Court justice could publicly refer to the President as "that crippled son-of-a-bitch in the White House" was a time when it was essential for the President not to acknowledge that his disability hampered him in any way. Today, with the progress that's been accomplished in understanding such things, he could be much more open about it -- but not in 1937.
     
  15. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Location:
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    I am no fan of FDR's politics, but this is, IMHO, absolutely true. It's what FDR had to do to succeed and it was society's fault not his that he had to hide his handicap. Criticism of him for that is an example of something we see way too much of today which is applying today's values and standards to another time without taking into account the values, context, norms, etc. of that time.

    It's why Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" was received with such anger as the Atticus Finch of that novel was a very moral man, but a moral man of his time and not the perfect hero of "To Kill a Mockingbird -" a hero that aligned better to our standards today. It is why so many historical figures that we once considered moral heroes or, at least, good respectable people are now denounced as we are taking them out of their time and context and applying today's standards unforgivingly to them - standards that many people today would fail if they even honestly looked at themselves ten and twenty years ago.
     
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  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "Presentism" is a common historical fallacy, and professional historians try to avoid it. But there's the other side of the slope, too -- that's entirely excusing egregious sins with a handwaving "that's how it was."

    Judging Branch Rickey, for example, by the standards of 1945 in the way he handled the integration of baseball is appropriate -- he was doing the right and moral thing by the standards of his time, even though some of the way he went about it fell short of what would be acceptable today. But judging Larry MacPhail for the way he tried to *oppose* the integration of baseball by *today's* standards is also appropriate, because history has shown that he was as wrong in 1945 as he is today. He had the opportunity to do the right and moral thing but due to his own cupidity -- he didn't want "those people" scaring away his boxholders from Westchester -- he chose not to.
     
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  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Agreed again, context isn't an excuse for everything cr*ppy that was done in its day. But as an example, I think the way Spencer Tracy's and Katherine Hepburn's characters approached the marriage of their daughter to a black man in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" reflects a balance.

    Their characters were liberals by the standards of their day and, clearly, not arrant racists, but they struggled with the idea of their white daughter marrying a black man in a day when that was far out there on the curve (which was the same response the black man's parents had). It's easy today to just dismiss that as narrow-minded bigotry, but I don't think it was - I think it was and example of good people living within the context and limits of their times.

    And returning to "Go Set a Watchman," while that Atticus Finch says some offensive things to our 2018 ears, for his time, he was a forward-thinking, good man trying to see outside of his cultural context but still, to a degree, confined by it. To denounce him for not living up to today's standards is unfair, but IMO, that's not giving him a pass either.
     
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I think the biggest historical fallacy in considering historical figures is assuming they were incapable of growth> To continue with the baseball analogies, consider the case of Dixie Walker, star right fielder with the Dodgers, who by most accounts was not happy about having to play with Mr. Robinson in 1947, and who by most accounts tried to get up a petition to keep him off the team until Mr. Durocher told him exactly where to stick that petition. He was a deep Southerner, a man of his place and time -- behaving as you'd expect such a man to behave. That doesn't make it right, but it does make it understandable. And yet, Walker was intelligent enough and sensitive enough a man to realize and ultimately acknowledge he was wrong -- both publicly and privately. To judge him for the man he was in March of 1947 and ignore the man he became, in part due to those events, is unfair both to him and to history. People grow and change and learn from their mistakes.
     
  19. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Location:
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    And that's part of the beauty of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" as you watch most of the leads grow - at different speeds and in different ways (as happens in real life) - during the movie.
     
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  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Well, to quote Mister Rogers again, "the very same people who are good sometimes are the very same people who are bad sometimes." And if that wasn't the case, movies and literature would be pointless.
     
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