February 24, 2023- The writer and artist responsible for “Dilbert”, a comic strip carried by several newspapers in the country, has announced he is no longer interested in contact with Black people. He says that, in his recent experience, Blacks hate him for being White. Not knowing his specific experiences, I can’t speak as to what he should or should not do. Scott Adams goes further, though, encouraging other White people to likewise shun contact with Blacks, even saying that the news commentator Don Lemon, who himself is Black, has reported problematic experiences, when he lived in predominately African-American neighbourhoods. I can’t speak to Mr. Lemon’s experiences either.
For me, though, I have faced no hatred whatsoever, when visiting predominately African-American “hoods”, or mostly Hispanic barrios, for that matter. The opposite has been true. In one of my first walks in the Southeast area of Washington, D.C., I was a bit hesitant, when walking past a family of three, who were watering and weeding their front lawn. The father was pleasant, and told me not to worry; nobody was going to hurt me. A neighbour girl told her wary little brother, a few minutes later, “He’s a good white man”-while knowing nothing specifically about me.
This experience has repeated itself, many times over, in Black neighbourhoods of Boston, New York, Newburgh (NY), Newark, Philadelphia, Erie, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. People have either been friendly or indifferent, but not hostile. The same has been true in barrios, both in the U.S. and, years ago, in Sonora and Baja California del Norte. These experiences tell me that separation is not the answer. Open mindedness and understanding of different styles of communication, however, are of the essence.
The same holds true for the idea, recently floated in the halls of Congress, and elsewhere, for a “national divorce”-letting regions or groups of states go their ways-even to the point, advanced by a local resident here, of a total dissolution of the nation-with fifty independent countries as the result-so “each state can follow its own destiny”. To this, I say “rubbish”! Any family, community, county, state (or province, for that matter) can attest to the difficulties resulting from differences of opinion, perspective, world view-what have you. The choices are either work through it all and focus on common ground, or give up and walk away.
We have seen five nations split apart, in my lifetime: Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Sudan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The first four were hybrid states, pieced together by colonial powers (Pakistan and Sudan) or by the participants in the Treaty of Versailles (Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia). The last one fell apart of its own weight. In none of these cases has the separation been complete and total. The nations arising from Yugoslavia have fought one another and still deal with cross-border tensions. Czechia and Slovakia have managed a more amicable separation and find themselves working together, both being part of the European Union. Pakistan and Bangladesh are both part of the union of South Asian states, their main bone of contention having been their being separated geographically, by India. Sudan and South Sudan are slowly learning the need for economic cooperation, despite their divisions, which are primarily tribal and religious in nature. As for the USSR, central planning and a sclerotic economy still hobble several of its former members-especially Russia. The Commonwealth of Independent States, floated by Boris Yeltsin, was a good idea on the surface, but because it mainly sought to maintain Russia’s dominance, it exists today only in name.
I have gone on too long, but the point is, we are a global family-and not talking, or talking trash, with each other, is going to “make the whole world blind”-as Gandhi said, referring to adherence to the Old Testament, back before World War II. There are people who see a better path, such as activists on both ends of the political spectrum, from South Central Los Angeles and rural West Virginia, who have chosen to work together for the common good. One group’s strength is collective effort. The other’s is individual initiative. There are uses for both.
There is, however, no use for throwing up hands and walking out on the very people who need a person’s individual strength and a group’s unified power. There is no strength in division.
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And I like the Dilbert comic strip. Still it does diminish my regard for the author. Segregation isn’t right even when it is self segregation!
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In my humble opinion, it is his loss-and that of all who think like him.