Good Friday afternoon from the Golden Isles of Georgia. The writing of The Bridge Between (TBB) has been going well the past two weeks, with the usual breaks for life’s little unplanned and planned interruptions, and breaks to rest the mind mentally and the legs cramped from sitting on the beach. Chapter 3 is in draft form, and I’ve started sorting your contributions into chapters 4, 5 and 6. That will help me discover the themes in them.
I’m closing off phone conversations next week so that I can concentrate on writing those “meaty” chapters. While it will still be possible to shoe-horn later conversations into the chapters later, trying to do that while staying focused on the road map for the chapter is a fools’ exercise. If you graduated from one of the five Waterloo, IA, [TRIVIA ALERT: There are 30 places in the U.S. named Waterloo and I’ve heard from people in a number of them] high schools from 1963-1973 and would like to be one of the contributors. contact me at email@example.com or Nicholas DeBonis on Facebook or @DrNick48 on Twitter. Let me know three days next week and the time for each that would be optimal for you and I’ll call. If there’s a conflict with all three, I’ll call and we’ll make an appointment that does work. And pass this information along to anyone you know who graduated during those 10 years and I’ll schedule them as well.
I’m including the opening paragraphs for Chapter Two There are Blacks in Iowa? and Chapter 3 Guess Who’s Coming to School to provide a look at where the chapters are heading. Chapter Two is still historical background, but with your comments added where relevant. Chapter 3, without counting words, is probably 90% what people contributed.
Feedback about spelling and grammar are appreciated. I’m an experienced and competent editor, but it’s tougher when you’re editing your own work — you can read things the way you know they should be and miss the way they’re actually written.
Chapter 2 There are Blacks in Iowa?
Iowa. That’s where the potatoes come from, right? – Typical response received by a number Waterloo high school graduates when meeting people not familiar with the state.
My wife was from Southern California and when I started going out there with her, people didn’t know what to say to me. They imagined I lived on a farm. That there was a lot of corn. And nobody from her family would ever visit us until we had kids. They were surprised by what they saw when they did. [WHS 69 white male]
There are blacks in Iowa? – Response to a black Waterloo high school graduate introducing herself to people in another state
When I tell people where I’m from, they imagine a white environment. They shake their heads. “Are there whites in Waterloo?” If you only knew. Come to my town and see it ain’t all white. [EHS 73 black male]
The East-West crosstown rivalry began when the town was settled on both sides of the Cedar River. That natural divide became an artificial political and social demarcation which has reverberated in the town through the decades.
There was East-West competition for government buildings, schools and a library. Business also contributed to crosstown competitiveness.
The West Side became affluent, more sophisticated socially, which fostered a sense of arrogance among its residents that was noted by Eastsiders. The East Side was the blue-collar, middle class section of Waterloo, a distinction which engendered its own pride.
Race, racial tension and racial issues with which we high school students in Waterloo 1963-1973 experienced were fated before, during and after that decade. They were foreordained by the influx of black strikebreakers primarily from the South into Waterloo as a result of the 1910 railroad strike. The social and civil rights restrictions imposed on the black strikebreakers was a catalyst for later local unrest like the strike at the Rath Packing plant in the 1940s. Housing covenants and redlining in the 1950s and 60s continued to add to the permanent, scarring dimension of racial separation between the East and West sides.
Guess Who’s Coming to School?
African Americans in the North lived in a strange state of semi-freedom. The North may had emancipated its slaves, but it was not ready to treat the blacks as citizens. . . or sometimes even as human beings.[i] — Africans in America (PBS)
Put 10 healthy babies with the same birthdate from 10 different ethnicities and cultures in a bassinette row, and the only differences between them would be physical appearance. What are the odds that any of us could correctly identify the race or ethnicity and culture of any of them? They all make the same noises, the same kinetic movements, their eyes track bright objects in the same way, they respond to tactile and aural stimuli the same way. “. . . babies the world over, each exposed to thousands of disparate languages from birth, reward their mothers with roughly the same first word starting with the letter ‘m’. . . .”[ii] “. . . the genetic difference between individual humans today is minuscule – about 0.1%, on average. . . .”[iii] “Ultimately, there is so much ambiguity between the races, and so much variation within them, that two people of European descent may be more genetically similar to an Asian person than they are to each other.”[iv]
Babies are race and ethnic and culture and skin-color-blind.
That’s an extremely simplistic explanation, but it sets up an understanding that babies begin to recognize familiar faces and different ones as early as three months old. And by four months, their “brains already process faces at nearly adult levels. . . .”[v]
Awareness of differences between self and others is inevitable; humans are different in myriad ways. Many of us remember our first experiences of recognizing these differences and even pointing them out. For example, recognition of skin-color differences happens at a younger age for some than for others.
Our individual attitudes, opinions and beliefs (behavioral dispositions)[vi] about differences become more or less important or unimportant to us because of learning and reinforcement, positive, neutral or negative.
This learning process includes both enculturation – how the values and norms of a society are passed on to or acquired by its members without direct, deliberate teaching — and socialization – deliberate learning promoted by family; social groups like peers and churches; schools, including our elementary and junior high pathways to high school; and the mass media.[vii] While enculturation and socialization are somewhat vicarious, our behavioral dispositions are also affected by our first-hand experiences.
By the time we entered high school, our behavioral dispositions about race and ethnicity were already formed.
[i] Race-based legislation in the North 1807 – 1850. People & Events. PBS: Africans in America. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2957.html. Africans in America Narrative Writers. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/credits.html.
[ii] Why every baby around the world’s first word starts with the letter M. (September 16, 2016). Quartz: Tongue Ties. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/y9shreo8.
[iii] Genetic Evidence: DNA. What does it mean to be Human? Human Evolution Research. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Retrieved from http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics.
[iv] How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century. (April 17, 2017). Chou, V. Science in the News. Harvard University: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved from http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/science-genetics-reshaping-race-debate-21st-century/.
[v] Infants process faces long before they recognize other objects, Stanford vision researchers find. (December 11, 2012). McClure, M. Stanford University: The Stanford Report. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/december/infants-process-faces-121112.html.
[vi] ”Behavioral dispositions” refer to tendencies, acquired in socialization, toward particular acts, such as evaluating or acting toward a particular object, e.g., person, or a particular process. They’re forces that channel consequences like human perception, categorization, organization or choice, for example. A Theoretical Note on the Differences between Attitudes, Opinions, and Values. (1998). Bergman, M.M. Swiss Political Science Review, 4(2), pp. 81-93. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1662-6370.1998.tb00239.x/pdf.
[vii] Enculturation. Sociology Index. Retrieved from http://sociologyindex.com/enculturation.htm. Enculturation and Socialization: Expert Answer. (13/6/10). Rawat, P. Ask & Answer: meritnation. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/ycuavsqm.
I hope that the rest of the summer exceeds all of your needs and expectations. Remember, “life’s what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” (John Lennon)
nick, East 66 [100th graduating class of Troy]