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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Roger Ebert on the Prescott, Arizona mural 
Saturday, June 12th, 2010 | 11:43 pm [commentary, politics]
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Film critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Roger Ebert has been writing the best blog there is for the last several years.  If you do not read it regularly already, here is yet another reason why you should.

Ebert posted this six days ago, a piece inspired by the racially-charged controversy over a mural painted at an elementary school in Prescott, Arizona, that opens up into a personal reflection on his own experiences with people of other colors, and on bigotry in general:

This is not a record of my reading but of my understanding. I don't know if you can understand what it was like in those days. Racism was ingrained in daily life. It wasn't the overt racism of the South, but more like the pervading background against which which we lived. We were here and they were there and, well, we wished them well, but that was how it was. At this time it was becoming clear to me that I was not merely a Democrat, as I had been raised, but a liberal. When Eisenhower sent the National Guard to Arkansas, I defended him against some who said the federal government had no right interfering. So that was my political position. But where were my feelings centered? Theory will only take you so far.

In college, my understanding shifted. I attended the National Student Congress every summer, and during the one held at Ohio State, two things happened. I gave a dollar to Tom Hayden and he handed me my membership card in Students for a Democratic Society. And one night during a party at Rosa Luxembourg House, I met a Negro girl and we went outside and sat in the back seat of a car and we talked and kissed and she was sweet and gentle and she smelled of Ivory Soap. We feel asleep in each other's arms. We met again in maybe 10 years later in New York City, recognizing each other on the street, and had a drink and talked about how young we had been. In my inner development, I had been younger than she knew.

Those were the days of the Civil Rights Movement. We linked hands and sang "We Shall Overcome." We protested. We demonstrated. Among the students I met at those Student Congresses were Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond--and, for that matter, Barney Frank. They were born to be who they became. I was still in a process of change. My emotional life was catching up to my intellectual or political life.

[. . .]

That brings me back around to the story of the school mural. I began up above by imagining I was a student in Prescott, Arizona, with my face being painted over. That was easy for me. What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? Yes, there was racism involved as my mother let the driver wait outside in the car, but my mother had not evolved past that point at that time. The hard-won social struggles of the 1960s and before have fundamentally altered the feelings most of us breathe, and we have evolved, and that is how America will survive. We are all in this together.

But what about the people in those cars? They don't breathe that air. They don't think of the feelings of the kids on the mural. They don't like those kids in the school. It's not as if they have reasons. They simply hate. Why would they do that? What have they shut down inside? Why do they resent the rights of others? Our rights must come first before our fears. And our rights are their rights, whoever "they" are.

Read the entire article here.
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