Roots: I made it up that I was born to wander in a Desert Wilderness and that my mother was born in Dumas, Arkansas because my unknown grandfather was Jewish. I fantasize that as way location of Jews at that time, my grandfather sent my grandmother there where she had his out of wedlock baby.
My mother’s middle name Ray and last Leah are not because of his family name. Leah was a message across lifetimes in explanation of his relationship to my grandmother.
My grandmother had six other children by her husband before this catastrophe happened. She was estranged from that family, my mother always ashamed of being a bastard. I only learned of them with some infrequent visits my mother made to her half-sisters after my grandmother had died.
My grandmother moved from Guthrie, Oklahoma to Praque, Oklahoma where my mother grew up, later speaking of accented Czechoslovakians who were involved in my mother’s upbringing. I fantasize all this as explanation of the spark in me.
Babies Remember Everything
I remember everything from being carried around in a basket ‘showing the baby‘ except for two weeks when I was sick. I remember when we were at the Browns, they said; He looks like a preacher. I agreed but there was something wrong at the same time. I was born into a strange land, a very strange place.
Another remembrance that stands out was when my mother took me down to a small town named Bixby on the outskirts where she was a school-teacher, ‘showing the baby.’ We were outside some sort of general store. These were different Browns, a lot lighter than my half-white mother who had an olive complexion.
I talk to babies with the same assumption of understanding as adults because they understand and remember.
They were sitting in the kitchen bad-mouthing my mother up and down, left and right. I never liked my father’s mother after that.
I tried not to go to her funeral but they tricked me into it. I threw up all over the after funeral banquet and swore I was allergic to avocados for years after that.
Fratricide: A Swing and a Miss
When I was two, my sister who was hostile, offered me to come out and play mud-pies with her. I was so thrilled. She usually treated me like she wanted me to die, but she was being friendly and I was so happy about that. I remember it was cold and wet and chilly, but I was making the best of this opportunity of acceptance. I got pneumonia. That’s the only two week gap I can’t remember, I was apparently fairly sick. That, my first up close and personal with a murderous heart.
The Great Oak
We had a big heavy oak dining room table with those big cross-braces underneath. Dada’d get into an argument with Momma, next thing I knew, Beating. I used to squat on the cross-braces and hide from Dada’s random Beatings. If he couldn’t find me, I’d get out of that beat for no reason.
My parents bought Book of Knowledge and World Book because my three years older sister was starting school. I started out looking at the pictures.
Book of Knowledge pictures are a lot better than World Book.
I went all over the world looking at those pictures; Astral Traveling. I was so proud I was trying to teach myself how to write, I tried to carve my name into my mother’s headboard. I deserved that Beating.
Dada never laid a finger on momma, but I had to take the Beatings for her, and my sister as well. Nothing I did, no Reason, just here it is. So, I escaped into those pictures in the Book of Knowledge under The Great Oak. Years later, when I read The Diary of Anne Frank, my soul was in that Attic. Being quiet. Praying for it to Passover. When I read her story, I was there.
I declared myself a stoic at age seven, set my goal to be a seeker of wisdom. For a child, there’s a lot to learn from encyclopedias. The Britannica was a distinct step up from World Book popcorn, the paths long worn out in the Book of Knowledge. All those pictures worn out.
Until the writing of my thesis at 21, I studied any philosophy I could get my hands on. In the fourth grade on career day where you get to say whether you want to be a fireman or policeman, when they asked; What do you want to be when you grow up? I said I want to be wise. That’s not a job, what job do you want to do? Philosopher then. That’s not a job. OK, psychiatrist.
In the Beginning
Beat for No Reason makes OCD, so I read the Bible from the beginning, became something of a Bible scholar. My parents got tired of dropping off and picking up instead of sleeping in so I was driving when I had to look through the steering wheel sitting on the phone book because I was the one who wanted to go to church. I’d just keep going, parking the car all the way. I stayed off thoroughfares. Took back streets.
My first real pay-attention contact with the addendum was when I was asked to teach catechism. I started having issues. Pastor Dallman was very understanding, loaned me Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Sickness Unto Death. A distinct I don’t think I can do this uneasiness became an irresistible compunction to leave. Instead of a bar mitzvah, I made a decision as a man of thirteen to wander. Doubling-down on my magic carpet of books, the library downtown became my new church.
Perhaps we can also blame the way I am on Rabbi Arthur Kahn. When I was in high school, I was talking to his daughter on the stone steps between classes. She told me that Jews don’t condemn other people for their religion. She had a very pure soul; I was amazed.
Her father reached through her into my soul, and gave me a clue. Later, whenever I heard ‘The Jews this and the Jews that,’ I found it more objectionable than talking about the duplicitous mother I knew.
Momma often spoke highly about Jews, smile, get animated. That’s the first ‘The Jews This and the Jews That’ I ever heard, and it was always the highest praise. She talked about the League of Women Voters. ‘Down to earth.’ Open and caring. Not with the fake and phony smiles through thin lips with angry eyes.
She talked about how a lot of them got in trouble when she was going to Berkeley. How people were afraid of being labeled Communists. Careers and futures ruined.
My parents never said anything negative about white people, that was more of an unspeakable. Something to pass over. say nothing. As though the walls had ears. More like, as I didn’t know my birthday until I had to register for Social Security, I might blab something.
Judgmentalism – racism as a religious cultural norm defines this desert wilderness.
The Lutheran church I grew up in always had a white pastor.
Once during day camp, we were playing with Pastor Thiele’s children. One of them decided to play the victim, started crying because she didn’t get to decide the game, her deific will contested.
He came out certain of our guilt, wrathfully overturning the tables of the money-changers.
Presumption of Guilt
I watched this play out from another space of my soul in my first contact with Racism as a Presumption of Guilt. Every day, to this day, the desert wilderness operates from that Presumption of Guilt. It’s as the dust in the air, every present, even when it’s raining.
Our pastor, our shepherd said; So what did ‘you people’ do? We were his unfortunate white man’s burden, threatening his child in our racially segregated Negro church with its white pastor.
No one had threatened her in any way. She just didn’t get her way. We were young, didn’t know how things were supposed to work.
Racism, judging other people is a cultural metareligion in the desert wilderness, as they thump their bibles girded in righteousness. It’s a part of their ‘doing the right thing,’ with a firm duty of judgment in dominion.
Racial Harmony in the old-South
As people are selective with whom they eat, they’re selective with whom they pray. Old-South racial cultures, by mutual agreement, overwhelmingly maintain their Metareligious traditions; persist in segregation as a mutual choice.
For money alone, there’s a grudging acceptance of Negro churches into the both still-segregated Southern Baptist fold.
The otherwise rare contacts I’d had with white people were either hiding from the bill-collector at the back of the house.
Downtown Brown Duncan
Once Momma and I went downtown to Brown Duncan, that became Dilliard’s where the white woman made us wait for any white person that walked up.
They’re certain they’re pious and honorable, very religious, good people, who’d be insulted were there any doubt of the righteousness of their intentions to preserve their ideas of as-it-was pecking order of dominion.
Growing up in a righteously racist environment like Oklahoma, more so than anything, creates race as a thread of consciousness; the why Negroes from old-South cultures even in emigration are racially sensitive. I didn’t like being kept back in school. Even though they lied about my birthday to get me in early, they wouldn’t let me skip grades. Time wasted in the land of Lilliput.
I’d tested genius in the 6th grade, college sophomore in the 8th; was wasting my time. So I decided to escape by taking the PSATs and applying to prep schools. I got letters of interest from Phillips Exeter and Groton Academies but they needed transcripts. Needing me to go to Negro high school to improve statistics, the Negro secondary school wouldn’t send them.
Integration was coming, and they were worried that their fiefdom would be closed and Negroes bussed. I transferred myself to Central that had a trial integration downtown, and was banned from Lacy Park, became a traitor to the race.
Central High School
I had misplaced faith in the white people of Oklahoma, as the white man who’d straightened my rims, to do the right thing. I wasn’t prepared for the virulent I encountered from teachers at Central. I made the mistake of believing the marketing that on demonstration of capability, that they would be fair. Have faith in Awe.
On the one hand, if parents teach their children that white people are racist, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy by being racist themselves, guarded. And on the other, being blind-sided by injustices based on race beyond human control knocks you senseless; a concussion on the first heavy blow.
At Central, I became accustomed to setting the curve to make a B. I became accustomed to excelling only to be told it wasn’t good enough. Mr. George Brewer, said I didn’t have any mechanical ability when my drafting was better than anybody else’s and I’d been repairing building and fixing any electrical device or yard tool and motor for years. Mrs. Blackburn, my 10th grade homeroom teacher looked at me with memorable disgust; the turd in her pristine pool of illiterate bumpkins.
I accepted 1st – 2nd in the 10th playing the solos while J.R. Whitby was 1st – 1st in his senior year as Jerrold Lawless not wanting to embarrass the big man on campus senior, but when he recruited a saxophone player from Edison promising first chair, I realized the racist didn’t want a Negro in 1st – 1st.
Taking lessons for years, I told the recruit, not only am I good, I practice. Try-outs too public to deny, my saxophone that I’d traded three years of gifts for was ‘stolen’ from the lockup that Jerrold Lawless held the only key.
Student Band Director
I tried for student band director. I’d excelled in Theory and Harmony, had been playing piano since I had to sit on a lift, played cello oboe bassoon, contest winning saxophone player, 1st – 1st in the Young Tulsans all city band. 2nd – 1st in Oboe for All-city Orchestra.
It went to my white friend, Daryl Cates who I practiced with and tutored. I was glad for him. A good guy.
Jerrold Lawless’ stealing futures from helpless Negroes for the good of society with impunity is the why of historical Black colleges today. Affirmative action. I’m glad he didn’t have me lynched as my parents feared in explaining why they took his stealing my horn lying down, as usual.
Gary Davis was a struggling to be average tenor saxophone player.
One day, while I had to ride the hump to the All-City band practice going by a field that had apparently been treated with manure he says; Smells like nigger-shit here.
Then when the other white people in the car objected he adds; But you’re not a nigger. Ha ha.
Easy Enough to Find
The school counselor, Bernice Tomlinson told me Northwestern Teacher’s College is the best you can do. I was running rings around the country bumpkins, but this was my highest aspiration; not Tulsa University, Oklahoma University, or Oklahoma State.
I asked to see the book of colleges and picked Amherst College, the best of the best at the top, easy enough to find. No band, but’ I’d make it work. Other than my extracurricular philosophizing, I’d already wasted at least ten years in the land of Lilliputian minds.
Denied reprieve in go along to get along with the explanation that ‘we have to live here,’ already a traitor to the race escaped to the fires of the still backward today, congenitally and willfully insipid. Ignorance as virtue.
Though I finished Central with a B average, I went to Amherst College on the strength of my SATs. All stupid in our way, I was aghast to learn that I’m only an average genius. I toiled away at my carrel in the science library alone, slept under it, returned after the party. White people invited me to study groups. Like an abused dog that runs when you stick your hand out in friendship; scarred from reddest red-state endemicin the desert wilderness, I couldn’t accept the hand of friendship. Didn’t know how.
People Are People
If I hadn’t been in segregated Negro environments, I might fantasize that old-South Negroes are less xenophobic than whites, get tense when somebody hits me with that ‘brother.’ My 4th grade Negro gym teacher Paul Fellows was a jock that didn’t like weak fat non-athletic ugly nerdy children. My 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Parker dropped me a grade for writing the proof on the board that the book was wrong. In my defense, he told me to prove it.
At Amherst College, racist Negroes from the old-South and Northern old-South emigrant cultures had difficulty embracing being an individual that those from miscegenation cultures advocated.
I encountered Prof. Bert Holloway at Howard trying to stomp you for being uppity by correcting his test, as the real, black Negroes against the mulattoes. Think you’re smart. Think you’re better because you’re light-skinned, have good hair. The same you’re not as good because your skin is lighter instead of darker.
People are people, colors are excuses. The desert wilderness of the world is an idolatry of superficialities, colors. Small things.
Incessant Money Grubbing
My father’s family was National Baptist. Incessant money grubbing along with the standard nepotism and cronyism in the pecking order were the explanations of why my parents had left.
The church enterprise is the original old-South African Putting Food on the Table. I’ve been in some that keep collecting, calling people out, shaming by name, until they make their number, Mercedes ‘building fund‘ payment due. The better ones only had three collections.
Money helps to move up, but a lot of it is ‘fitting in.’ Scratch the paint, get under the hood, and there’s always something underneath. Momma often spoke of mistreatment at the hands of ‘black’ Negroes. The pecking order, more than the money is the issue.
One might imagine that it was mulattoes being uppity when it turned out that black Negroes disdained the whiter Negroes that were more welcome as Catholics Lutherans and Episcopalians Presbyterians. Could ‘fit in.’
Under the Hood: Races within Races
At the time, there was a great deal of intra-Negro . With degrees of segregation akin to Native and Coloreds in Apartheid South Africa. The men seemed to be exempt from this, based upon being a professional, but all their wives, including Momma, could usually pass for something else if they wanted.
Then there were different kinds of ‘fair.’ Good hair. Aquiline features. There were the light-skinned who couldn’t pass, reminiscent of Hillary on Fresh Prince. And then there’s the Irish. Afroid features but ‘red-boned.’ Once upon a time, the joke: ‘black get back, brown stick around, and light just right’ really meant something. Left a lot of scars on Negro women.
The Black and I’m Proud was a revolution of esteem for Negroes. That’s clearly been to the benefit within and without. Today, beautiful ‘black’ Black women, people abound. While a Jennifer Hudson or Melinda Doolittle still can’t win American Idol, a generation was liberated, in an amazing way for those who lived in those times.
To Improve the Gene Pool
One day, I asked Dada why he married Momma. ‘To improve the gene pool.’ I didn’t know how to take that. Was it because she was the brains of the operation, or because she could pass for white. His not answering left it at both. I’m the spitting image of Dada. From that day I’ve been certain that I’m Shrek, the Ogre.
I was too dark to ‘fit in’ with the light and bright Jack and Jill crowd, and too light to fit in with the Carolyn Hansen crowd.
Being my sister’s three-year younger chauffeur, I was the fly on the wall. An invisible fixture. I saw how bad she wanted to fit in, and the looks in their eyes. I learned a lot from that, could have learned more.
Some Negroes pretend that they’ve suffered more at the hands of white people, I’ve had at least as much or more at the hands of Negroes. Most are simply in their role of the soul, justifying however to ‘be themselves‘ as better than. People are people.
Taught English by my school-teacher mother before starting school; I’ve always been a stickler for grammar and syntax, William Safire my hero still. I’d use their ‘thang’ instead of ‘thing’ pronunciation, but I’d cringe at the idea of ending a sentence with a preposition. Chagrined with the ax-slaying of the King’s English Geechee rejectionist of grammar and syntax.
I developed a vocabulary of simple words for the simple. Assuming that I could be free with my vocabulary while talking to adults, my 6th grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Batson, told me I’d do better in life if I didn’t use so many big words and could learn some tact.
Old-South Negroes, continuing the Us-Them of those who aspire to ‘talking proper,’ with their big words and impeccable grammar and syntax, are uppity to both ‘sides‘ of the old-South of anti-education, anti-intellectualism. That is reflected in a rejection of education as Uncle-Tomism as a metareligious duty.
Uppity Thug Life
This culture of rejection of education, as a rejection of selling out in parents who are ambivalent, and peers who militate against drinking the Cool-aid of Faith in education, faith in the man-as deity is directly descended from those whose nobility rejected the obsequious supplication of master on the plantation. The ‘thug-life’ ethos is a code-word for just that, Proud to be a Gangsta. The why of calling themselves (field) niggers. As a term of filial comradeship. Brother.
That is a cultural impediment within the educational potential of the old-South inner city Negro community. That’s my made up from Nothing reason for the difference in the arc of other ‘immigrant’ groups to the United States. The talking proper Negroes unshackled and the ‘soldiers’ keeping their shackles as a badge of honor. Holding to their xenophobia of acquiescence as assiduously as the white old-South holds onto theirs. The old-South across the board is uppity about the uppity.
Keeping Scars to Protest Being Scarred
Ironically, those Putting Food on the Table in this edutainment enterprise routinely have plenty of ‘big word’ vocabulary in grammar and syntax that rivals that Supreme Court nominee’s, but the cultural condemnation is being willfully insipid. Until the hip-hop intelligentsia attacks the cultural old-South rejection of the idea that participation in other than minstrelsy and gladiatorial pursuits is being a traitor of the race, these differentials will persist in a hopefully receding into a history of staying a slave to protest slavery. Keeping scars to protest being scarred.
Simple Words in Simple Sentences for the Simple
Then, I’m undone years later on the plantation when the white overseer removes my bonus for ‘verbiage,’ for the Latin (my foreign language) gymnastics of designing whatever sentence to not end in a preposition, even those with simple words in simple sentences for the simple.
The only things I’ve learned back on the plantation, is how to lie with impunity, reconciled by the customer’s poor judgment to engage a business with those with no honor. That, when there’s no honorable alternative in this business culture of our situation.
Forced to end sentences with prepositions, I’ve stopped wasting energy thinking of simple words for the simple, as if I’m supplicating the understanding of bottom of the educational food chain 5th grade standard of cousins in the desert wilderness.
Unwilling Becomes Unable
Relaxed from Latin awareness of structure, I’m now comfortable in my tactless skin. Linguistic laziness has extended itself to too lazy, then to inability to think in the desert wilderness.
They say I think too much, I think they think too little. Know even less. Unwilling ain’t necessarily, but soon enough becomes unable; when thinking isn’t the issue. The desert wilderness is the reddest of the red states because of their metareligious beliefs. They’re taught from their mother’s milk to believe race justifies, and infect the world with their racism, as America has infected the rest of the world with the doctrine of One-drop.
The Old-South Ethos
As America is the beacon of ‘created equal’ inclusiveness of the world, the old-South’s emanations from their roles as souls is the righteousness of their proclivity for xenophobia. An infectious disease with few immune if exposure is long enough.
As people go into prison with ‘all kinds of friends’ to end up on a racially segregated gang, the culture of the old-South situation is racist. As anything, by my arbitrary one fifth standard, there are exceptions. To ‘fit in’ to the old-South, everyone expects a joining of ‘sides.’
Knowing your place. Where you ‘fit.’ Your role.
As the old-South has been integrated by people from miscegenation cultures, there are pockets, like islands of firm ground in a quicksand swamp, that aren’t the same. In general terms, they’ll deny, but with logical consistency and accuracy of facts, routinely, the old-South operates in a duty to judge. Race being one of many, primal. Animalistic souls still in a pack on all fours.
And here, at long last, is the point. They are ‘good people,’ doing their idea of right. As infants turn to the face of their mother, these people want to do what’s right, be pleasing in His sight.
One might think that because they’re a beacon of xenophobia, it’s what it is and ever will be from their born souls. That they’re fixed to the end of time as; Better to vote for a man senile enough to select a pretty but fatuous air-head as his running mate than an uppity mulatto that doesn’t know his place to wait for good white folk to finish their business first.
Ethiopians in Israel ought to be thankful for the injustice of having to serve them at all.
Preaching to the Choir
Republican racial code-words work with them because of preaching to the choir. They’ll cite cheering the good ‘kids’ playing for their team on Saturday to go to their segregated Southern Baptist church on Sunday for their wafers and wine absolution of ‘at will’ discrimination while in baited breath vote against Sharia in the xenophobia du Jour of Islamophobia.
As if international laws that threaten freedoms of genocide are Islamist, Oklahoma about to be invaded by the Saracens, in France.
Incapable of Compassion
Some incapable of compassion or mercy are required by honor to uphold the marketing talking points they’ve been trained to as providential truths. The hater in me claims haters can’t change, Born the soul they are, and fixed Congenitally by the age of seven in an extension of birth through realization of personal self.
I fix people in the desert wilderness as incapable of any substantive change when I know better, understand the passionate harsh words of the Rabbi Ovadia Yosef toward Arabs. As may he be, I’m still passionate about injustices at their hands. I find their hate repugnant, while struggling to stop my own.
Still Have to Do the Right Thing
Looking at the history, there’s a long list of people from Oklahoma that have lived in do the right thing, passionate about it. The issue becomes what the right thing is.
Change Is From Within
Just as this reddest-state desert wilderness infected the world with racism, so has the Us within Them been infected with an appetite for egalitarian Justice. With an appetite for logical consistency and accuracy of facts, grammar and syntax. Education. Thought.
From the Birmingham policemen of before, the Tulsa police force is better educated, not necessarily cousin dumb-as-a-post nepotistic cronies. I grew up more afraid of the police than thugs. As long as you didn’t get involved with thugs, you were good. Police were feared, for just cause. Today, they go about their business with professionalism, despite the turnabout by a deluge old-South Negro racist lawsuits attacking their honor.
As Long as There Is Life
I could fix settlers or Arabs as Jerrold Lawless stealing futures by tearing down trees and ambassadors as Gary Davis placing the Turkish nigger on the hump to be backhanded with thin plausible deniability as I recall my humiliation at Arab rebukes of my hand of friendship.
And my failures to accept hands of friendship, still stuck in the desert wilderness in my mind, only imagining that I’d escaped.
One in Five
There are three strata in Oklahoma: Identity under a thin crust. Ordinary, regular people who make business with ‘them’ and see their mutual humanity. And the professional intelligentsia urban layer that can insulate their children from bumpkins by sending them to private school.
A third of them voted for the uppity educated college-professor mulatto, consistent with the four of five majority of white Evangelicals with a fifth out of line.
Collectivization of Arabs in the Canaan of Joshua, or all white evangelicals as fixed evil, deserving of whatever fate, holding that the religious intolerance of a man-as deity of must-believe-in a man if as the pepper to go with ethnic racism cum Xenophobia salt-of-the-earth denies reality. That among the collective there is a Katrina sea of innocents, a sea of a ‘them’ that are an ‘us’ for justice within that ‘them’ that Idolizes hate, have faith in things.
If the desert wilderness or Iran was wiped off the map tomorrow, the scars inflicted by the Tyranny of Majority would not justify the injustices to the minority. I left the desert wilderness at seventeen with stings of a jellyfish that keep burning after you’re out of the water; stings that have resulted in self-inflicted injuries as well as thoughtless injuries of others in a confusion of desert wilderness remembrances on my mind.
Escaped talent only visits. Carrying their scars with them as a permanent reminder.
We All Live with Our Scars
Some are repelled, live to prevent beat for no reason injustices as others assimilate to live to hand out or return scars, to take their turn with the whip. My stings aren’t just Cause to deny compassion and mercy to the innocent under those men-as deific Tyrannies. We all live with our scars.
Begging the pardon of those whose hand of friendship I rejected, I return to object to beating of the slave with the misfortune of being born in their desert wilderness. That teaches ‘fitting in’ as mother’s milk, holding to a Role of antipathy as virtue.
I made it up from Nothing that He and our angels are interested, invested in what we do in the Canaan of Joshua, with kavanah.
We will stop the hate in our own souls of Desert Wilderness.