While writing this series I have come to a place that we have somehow lost our ability to see the person in front of us without a label. The media’s love for labeling, grouping, and my dear doctor’s newsletter tirade tragically reflect our national and personal dilemma. What will it take to find a better way to communicate and connect with each other?
Nothing like two major devastating hurricanes and over a million acres burned to the ground this summer to mirror how fragile are our lives. It could have been anyone of us who lost our home or a loved one. It could have been your neighbor or that stranger down the street. How then would we treat each other? And how long will it last, I wonder. How many more wake ups do we need?
Many of us hope and pray the media will be willing let go of the mantra of nitpicking, distorting, exaggerating, omitting, and sometimes outright lying. Do you have that hope? Are you also ready to stop repeating the media mantras? Maybe we need just a little more “facts of history” to convince us.
Media Mantra vs. Facts of History
As our nation came out of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression, more came our way with World War 2 and recovery, setting us up for the American Dream 1950s generation, focused on getting that first house, rocking to rock-in and roll, and “Happy Days” view of life in America. We were being prepped for the next shift in the actors on America’s 1960s national stage. Yet, let us not forget its preamble, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, proposed by Republican President Eisenhower, 82 years after the 1875 Civil Rights Act.
All history merge together, built one on the other through time. The 1957 bill was to rectify what was stripped from the 1875 bill (History.House.gov), including racial discrimination in juries, schools, transportation, and public accommodations; yet was weakened by removing stringent voting protection clauses due to lack of support from future President Johnson and other congressional Democrats. A political and national shift again was coming around the corner.
The 1960s timeline included the Vietnam War, U2 planes shot down, and the first Presidential debate (Kennedy/Nixon) where political campaigning suddenly gave the media a new ball to play with where image often beat substance. From 1957 Martin Luther King grew to become center stage, particularly with his 1963 “I have a dream” speech. Then add Kennedy becoming President then assassinated, Russia testing the Hydrogen bomb, Cuban missile crisis, and racial tensions reaching its boiling point.
According to NPR, The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement (Feb 1, 2008) history chronicles the first of a movement on February 1, 1960 when “. . . four students from all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into a Woolworth five-and-dime with the intention of ordering lunch. But the manager of the Greensboro Woolworth had intentions of his own — to maintain the lunch counter’s strict whites-only policy. Franklin McCain was one of the four young men who shoved history forward by refusing to budge.”
I continue with the following lengthy quote to help us all grasp the importance of what was shared at that nation-changing moment in history.
“McCain remembers the anxiety he felt when he went to the store that Monday afternoon, the plan he and his friends had devised to launch their protest and how he felt when he sat down on that stool. ‘Fifteen seconds after … I had the most wonderful feeling. I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood. I had a natural high. And I truly felt almost invincible. Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet,’ McCain says. . . ‘It’s a feeling that I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to have again. It’s the kind of thing that people pray for … and wish for all their lives and never experience it. And I felt as though I wouldn’t have been cheated out of life had that been the end of my life at that second or that moment.’
McCain shares his recollection of the exchanges the four African-American men had with the lunch-counter staff, the store manager and a policeman who arrived on the scene — and also a lesson he learned that day. An older white woman sat at the lunch counter a few stools down from McCain and his friends. ‘And if you think Greensboro, N.C., 1960, a little old white lady who eyes you with that suspicious look . . . she’s not having very good thoughts about you nor what you’re doing,’ McCain says. Eventually, she finished her doughnut and coffee. And she walked behind McNeil and McCain — and put her hands on their shoulders. ‘She said in a very calm voice, “Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago.”’
McCain recalls. ‘What I learned from that little incident was . . . don’t you ever, ever stereotype anybody in this life until you at least experience them and have the opportunity to talk to them. I’m even more cognizant of that today — situations like that — and I’m always open to people who speak differently, who look differently, and who come from different places,’ he says.”
This one action caused a national campaign with seventy-thousand students, both white and black, over the next eight months, participating in civil rights sit-ins across the nation. The 1960s odyssey was only beginning. It seemed like everyone was saying, “It’s about time. Enough is Enough!”
Although it seemed like our nation was about to crumble during that decade, our nation was also facing the next turning point toward redemption of our past prejudices, fears, and violence against each other. The final chapter of this series next week will round out the 1960s turning points. In the meantime, are we ready to take Franklin McCain’s words to heart today?