Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Article's Response

Professor Strasburger,

I read your "Can Diversity Be Diversified?" article with interest. I found that you attempted to be "fair and balanced." However, I got the impression this was more a smoke screen than an honest appraisal of the racist, sexist and, especially, classist system in America. You never mentioned why diversity was initiated here in the first place. This was a very striking omission. We have a modicum of diversity in our political, economic and social fabric today because our blood-soaked history demanded it along with the millions of Americans who fought, bled and died for this handful of opportunities.

I've been saying for decades people only become conservative when they have something of value to conserve. But, what about those who never get the chance through no fault of their own? It's nice to look at the brighter side of American life. There's much to admire about it. But, we have structural problems based on race, sex and class which are still entrenched. They're difficult to eradicate primarily due to the denial of our historic record and the fact this history is rarely taught completely and truthfully to every student.

Our stalwart president, Barack Obama, has been pilloried daily, ever since he had the courage to consider running to be our chief executive. He's been called every evil name in the book of insults. Yet, he perseveres despite this assault because he believes his principles and commitment are more valuable than his own life. How else can you explain his valiant struggle to cure what ails America? And why are so many Americans outraged at the president for simply trying to do the job he was legitimately elected to do?

My grandfathers were Cherokee Indian and my grandmothers were African. So, I have two reasons to want to pick a bone with America over the stunting of my personal heritage. I grew up very poor in Harlem. I went to a segregated Catholic grammar school which was donated to us. The Irish and Italian working class families, who gave us this rat-infested building, sent their kids next door to newly built St. Joseph's. My school was 98% black and Hispanic. St. Joseph's was 98% Irish and Italian. Although at the time I had no idea what segregation was, these schools were more segregated than Birmingham. Our books were old, dog-eared and outdated. Lunch was deplorable but half the time it was the only meal I got that day. Our classrooms were overcrowded and stank when it rained. Despite these difficulties, other kids who were poorer threw rocks at me for carrying a book bag with the school's name on the side. I don't raise these points to elicit sympathy. I bring them to your attention to say unless you've walked in my holey shoes you don't know what it's like to grow up poor in the richest nation on Earth.

Although I was smart enough to go to a prep high school, I was one of only two students in my class who didn't go directly to college. My mother had a third grade education and my father none. My family had no history of higher education. My ancestors were all slaves and sharecroppers. I could've walked to City College nearby, but this choice was never brought to my attention because I was a Catholic kid. My family was poor, ignorant and therefore irrelevant. Despite these disadvantages and having to play catch-up my entire life, I want you to know I retired happily and early. I live in a beautiful log home on several acres of land in upstate New York. Most of all, I own them outright. Many well-established people can't say this. I took a different and difficult path to success because it was the only one available to me. I became an entrepreneur and worked tirelessly to advance my interests. I did so despite the structural impediments placed before me. I must say only in America could my dreams have come true because, at the very least, I did have a chance, albeit a very small one.

Professor, I'm certain you didn't mean to write this article to rain on my unique life story or the struggles of millions of American children who simply want a chance to be the best they can be. The question shouldn't be a matter of selection between those who get in and those who are left out. We must ask why we don't have suitable resources available for every child who wants to fulfil his or her dreams? Even elite families are uneasy fighting an endless, fruitless and finance-draining war to stay ahead of their neighbors. Unfortunately, America has become the very antithesis of the nation our Founding Fathers went through so much trouble to establish.

Self-destructive competition is destroying our reeling nation from within. Our thriving middle class has been decimated and the rich have sucked the life blood out of the American Dream. It's time to stop the infantile blame game. America is still the greatest nation, but it won't be for much longer if we don't seriously address our problems. The answer is quite simple: We must eradicate our Over Class and elevate the Under Class. You do this, of course, through prudent legislation OR another civil war. We know what's wrong with our country and we know what the solutions are. It's time for America to grow up and, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, "...to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed."

It's time to stop the penny ante sloganeering and word wars. America won't survive as a nation unless we finally begin a fundamental maturation process. Around the world, we've become a laughing stock. We constantly treat China like an enemy when it has shown no external belligerent behavior in almost eight centuries and we owe them a trillion dollars. This is insanity of the highest order. Our ship of state is reeling and we need every productive hand on deck to deal with our eminent sinking from the tsunami of our own futility. We must realize no nation will come to save us from ourselves. Why? Because they don't have to anymore! After we're gone, humanity will prosper and finally declare war and elitism obsolete. We can either join the other nations in constructive brotherhood or it's the ash heap of history. The facts are written in stone on the wall of destiny. I think it's well past time we got busy doing our nation's critical work. Don't you?

Franklin L. Johnson


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