Latin American perspectives; A Change of Skin
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regions the annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and the human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker for this program is Dr. Wyatt T Walker a special assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller on Urban Affairs and pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem. Dr. Walker's topic is crime revolution and black power. I'd like to frame my remarks in three phrases or three paragraphs. One word keyword for me is crime. The second is revolution and the third phrase is black power.
And I'd like to take each of those in turn because I think the consequence of these three factors on the contemporary American scene produce the result the result and crisis in our cities. I should say in some worded preface that the primary problem of our cities is in X number of people living on a limited land area. That is the primary problem. And our technological advance has so far outstripped off sociological advance that the interpersonal conflict that has developed because of differences in lifestyles. Religion color of skin. What have you that has produced principly along with the primary reason. The severe crises which exist in our cities and all of this
specifics of the problems of the US of the city are only the specifics of our interpersonal problems at an individual and community level writ large. And they would not be if it had not been for the peculiar and unique history of the American republic. And it is that history that I should like to review for you in these three paragraphs which I refer to as crime. Revolution and black power. And the crime of which I speak is what I choose to call the crime of the Western historian. In some of the literature on the Institute on man and science I saw Brother Arnold Toynbee's name list. If I'm not mistaken Mr Todd Bay's basic posture about the members of my tribe. Both in his writings and in his public statements is that
we have yet to make any significant contribution to world civilization. I do not believe I'm in error. Now Hughes missed a tauren be perhaps as a scapegoat for the whole cadre of the Western historians because he is probably the best known. And I submit to you that if the world's foremost historian considered soul in many quarters if this is his basic posture toward the black community I think here in the shores or in the home country then his posture has an impact on all of the rest of the people of his profession and that in turn upon how history is recorded and interpreted for perhaps the next two or three generations. Let me illustrate in specific terms why I say that it is a crime and a crime to which I allude is the premeditated and calculated
omission of the black man's role in both the American experience and in world civilization generally. Two years ago I went to Africa to attend the First World Festival on Negro art and culture. One of the side trips that my wife and I shared was to a little island called Go rainy off the coast of Senegal. The guide there revealed to us that this had once been one of the chief gathering points of the slave trade in West Africa. And we were brought there and at the gathering place we was shuffled together to minimize any chance of rebelling because of the different dynamics that the Africans spoke. And once on the ships and stopping at the A's a loss of fresh food and water supplies we were shuffled a second time and then in the Lesser Antilles again a third time in the Caribbean Islands a fourth time and by the time we got to the plantations in the southern region of this country it was not unlikely to find as many as 40 different
dialects being spoken and all of this aimed at reducing to the lowest possible minimum any chance of rebellion. Now that took some planning in designing for and insulate people. And yet in spite of that they history accounts of the pre-Civil War period the antebellum days does not indicate that there were more than 2000 slave rebellions before 1850 and not once is the name that Turner mentioned or some of the other leaders of the uprising the insurrections on the slave plantations. Now I say that this is not mere chance that a carry over from the whole design of the slave system imposed upon black people was extended in the record keeping of the history of the American experience. And I remember my best recollections of what I studied
in fourth and fifth grade geography. I always felt the humiliation of having once been a slate. But that was not nearly so bad as the clear inference that black people didn't mind soley the treatment in most of our social studies text in our public and private schools. Yes it was slavery really wasn't so bad. There were a few bad slave masters but for the most part there was a genuine and warm relationship existing between the slave and masses. And besides they had shelter and clothing and food and no Social Security. That's the way it's left over in the text which upon which you were trained and upon which your children are trained and that is not an accurate presentation of the slave experience of the black man in America. If you would actually describe it would reveal that the slave experience of the black men in America is the worst and most brutal form of slavery in the history of Western civilization. And so the black community in America has always had a
punnet onus that Arjen point was slavery when that was really not true. But that's the impression that it gives And so what does it mean it means that black people and white people alike voluntarily and in voluntarily become racists. As an end result of the public and private school system in America it's more than chance let me give you a couple of illustrations and I'll have to leave this paragraph Mr. Thornby and others while they catalogued the history of civilization. There is one period which they describe as the Dark Ages. Those are his words their words not ours. During the period of the Dark Ages Mr toy and other historians completely ignore the sub-Sahara kingdoms that parallel the dark ages. For instance Ghana Mali song which were highly developed civilizations when you compare them with what was going on up in middle Europe during the Dark Ages. The smelting of iron in brass you would have to concede that advanced technology the weaving
of claw a system of currency h industry and commerce and trade which covered the whole continent of Africa. Universities in tact with instructors and teachers and at the same moment in middle Europe the angles and the Saxons were running around with stone axes in their hand trying to find something to eat. How is it did the Western historian has completely ignored this part of the world's history of civilizations history. It is not in the books. And so I submit to you that this is clear evidence that the omission of the black man's role in the in the American experience and world history has been a catch and has been with calculated and premeditated design and the slave experience in America for all intents and purposes suffered sever the historical umbilical cord of the black man in America. And it is a truth that if you destroy people's sense of history you destroy their sense of hope. And if they lose their sense of hope they lose their
sense of B. And that is a part of the burden that the black man has had to bear. Within the context of the American experience. I suppose the most marvelous thing about black people and that perhaps explains some of the new assertiveness that's on the scene today is that in spite of all of the camera rain you know the robbing of our heritage et cetera we have still still been able to contribute to the American experience in subsequent in some significant way. My little boy when Batman was at his zenith came to me one evening said Daddy why is Batman always white and my first impulse was to laugh. And then I realized that this was a Negro kid's psychological and emotional need to identify with some super hero who stood on the side of right injustice. And so I've been proposing around the country that what we have to do in the black community is invent us a tanned man who could run faster than a speeding locomotive and jump over a tall building in a single bound because little
black boys and girls need a superhero with whom they can emotionally and psychologically identify because doing the most formative years of their lives in the private or public school experience all of the materials that they use in the learning process are not in 1944 100 percent visually white which transmits to them immediately that white is right. And I say the end product of that for black people and white people alike is that the end product is a racist society. Another specific illustration and I believe my daughter is a teenager she 17 and she's beginning to notice boys I'm beginning to notice that she's beginning this boy. I heard on the telephone describing to some girlfriend some young man and she said you know tall fellow light brown skin with good hair. And that's a racist phrase. See the racist norm is that whatever kind of white people have been that's good.
City and heritage people in much of it is bad here when the fact of the matter is that people with straight hair and I have some of it I guess that we are closer to the primates biologically. I'm sure you're aware that C and the kinky hair of the Aboriginal black mane was so ordained by Providence to protect his brain cells from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun and any hair that protects the brain cells that must be good hair. Right. And that's the paradox of the race is known. To which all of the lifestyle of present America is. And I guess I made sufficiently clear my point that this has been an unpardonable crime that the Western historians inflicted upon the black man in America and not only to black men but also most of white America for there are many many white people I'm convinced who never wanted to be racist. But the lifestyle and experience educationally sociologically and otherwise has forced them
to be racist. That brings me to the second paragraph. And I have to shorten the second pack that is revolution in the Revolution which I speak is the nonviolent revolution that has been before us in the last 12 to 15 years. Chinese say one picture worth a thousand words so I'll save a thousand words. We are in a very pastoral setting up here and most of you had the experience or can visualize a child throwing a rock into a pond and then the circles. You know why one after the other. If you think of that that is perhaps a schematic representation of how the nonviolent revolution in America has developed. And I say that it has developed in successive con centric circles ever widening its arena of involvement. The initial point of origin is of course the Montgomery Bus protest.
When it took place it was in the most unlikely geographical locale among gummi Alabama the cradle of the Confederacy. You know it was had the most unlikely leadership black preacher leading a severe social movement and it hinged around bus transportation into city bus transportation. And. It exploded. So about black people one was one of the mists that have persisted about black because if we can stick together that's not the province of our own specially as to the people generally. You know I guess that's the thrust of the individual ego. The thrust of the EDA something like that. But in Montgomery Alabama in the instance of the bus protests the Negro people subjected subjected convenience to principle. And rather than in the words of Dr. King to ride in shame I decided to walk in dignity.
Now the significance of me is that it will launch the nonviolent. The use of the nonviolent technique in the American arena race relations on a mass scale. Non-violence had been used before but never on a mass scale. So that's the origin for the next concept of development was of course the sit in movement of the early 60s 1961 and Montgomery had been localized and it was aimed at a traditional form of segregation supported by law. But in the sit in movement this was more tradition there was no legal hook upon which to hang a case. And through the use of selective patronage and picketing and sympathetic protests in the north this regional protests. Represented the next concentrate cycle of development and widened its circle of involvement. The next concept and circle of development ever widening was the freedom are I now able to talk about interstate travel which involve the machinery of the Department of Justice the Interstate Commerce Commission and the
general national conscience because this was something that everybody could appreciate and it was resolved ultimately by a decree of the ICC. The fourth circle of development was Albany Georgia now some chroniclers of the nonviolent movement say that this was a defeat for Dr. King and his nonviolent forces. I raise a question about that because Albany was unique despite the fact that we did make a serious tactical error. In Montgomery had been busses in the sit in movement in lunch counters and libraries and spas instances in the Freedom Ride it was into state transportation and the use of facilities in Albany we were beginning to flex our muscles and we decided well we'll just take on anything that segregate. We took on the schools the bus terminals the recreational facilities the library. We honestly bit off more than we could chew. And since we had never been in a social revolution before I guess you allowed a mistake now and then but we did develop a the expertise and the skill in the
Albany situation which led to an even more significant stage of the movement and that was that we had been using sort of every revolution you know must have its slogans and one of our slogans was we'll fill up the jails in Albany we literally filled up the jails for the first time and did it around the year for 12 months we kept the jails feel not only in Albany but in several counties surrounding it. And we developed the skill of how to mobilize an entire community for a nonviolent campaign. And I submit to you that had we not had the Albany experience we could have never come to Birmingham. By the time we got to Birmingham we knew our lesson well and five months prior to the first demonstrations in Birmingham we laid the groundwork for what was to be as it has been described the most important WATERSHIP shared in the nonviolent movement. At Birmingham it was significant for several reasons but foremost of which was that it became the movement became a legitimate American Revolution. Up to that time Martin Luther King was considered a wild guy who was
a demagogue etc. you know but at Birmingham I think for the first time the national conscience of America was pricked through the medium of television and Light magazine and other journals we saw what it was like for a negro and his normal everyday experience from morning to night moving around it whatever his responsibilities were with his emotions at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next. The ferocity of police dogs the thrust of power holds of the fog department the indiscriminate jailing the brutality all of that and that led directly to the most sweeping civil rights legislation in the history of our nation the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And had it not been for Birmingham we probably never would have had Mr. the late Mr. John Kennedy who was then president said to Dr. King and other civil rights leaders that he honestly felt there was no need for any more civil rights legislation in January of 63 in June of 63. He went before the nation and pleaded with them to make a moral decision
on this on this terrible domestic ill. The difference was the Birmingham Alabama. Then following Birmingham came the affirmation in the March on Washington and beyond that the Selma to Montgomery march which gave to the black and by law more secure voting privileges than we had had in our history. We have gone to a new level now with the poor people's campaign and I wish I could spend some time giving analysis on that but that's another paper all by itself. Let me suffice to say that despite the apparent defeat of the Poor People's Campaign with the demise of Resurrection City I think everyone can honestly admit unless he has been touched by the pangs of poverty that no one ever realized that poverty reach so far and so deep into the American community until the Poor People's Campaign dramatized it. Can you really imagine that there are 30 million people one out of every six people in this room who go to
bed hungry at night and do not have any real idea of what breakfast is going to be like. That's what the poverty campaign was about. And that's what Resurrection City was all about. It is true that Resurrection City has been destroyed. The shacks and the ply and the mud. But the idea still remains and poverty is going to be on the agenda of the American conscience so that something is done. Now that brings me to the third paragraph which is black power and there's no way to give a historical analysis of the contemporary American scene in America without an honest and frank discussion about black power and how it came to be. There's a little more credibility to black power now and then there was say 12 months ago 12 months ago when
someone would ask me about black power they would say Dr. Walker what do you think about black power. You know it was whispered. It was not even considered polite conversation. But now you know any old body you see is black power now you know because it is a fact with which the American society has to grapple. And I think the first thing that I want to straighten out with you is that black power was not born in the black community. Black Power was born in the white community the white community produced black power not us. Let me document during the last 13 years we have seen the most frenetic activity the race relations arena than we ever have had in the history of the republic. Right. I do not know man how many thousands of us went to jail in the course of those 13 years. I do not know how many tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars
were spent in legal cases and whatever how many millions of ergs of energy were invested in whatever number of people died that was far too many. We have had two major civil rights bill the 1964 Civil Rights Act the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And after 13 years and I'm repeating myself on purpose of the most phonetic activity in the race relations arena in the history of the republic. When you come to the abyss you know when you add it all up. The black community in America is worse off now than it was 13 years ago. And that fact is what has produced black power. Secondly it is a misnomer. It's not really black power. It's Black Power lessness that's what this that's what the hue and cry is all about.
The fact that the black community has no say so whatsoever about its destiny. And when one considers this period that I've just described to you and the fact that the economic median income of the black family as compared with the white instead of that gap now owing it has widened and they are twice as many black on employed as there are white on employed and they are more segregated school districts now than there were 30 years ago. One has to give to the Black Power concept the degree of the did a mistake. If one cannot accept the concept of black power one at least has to be sympathetic and understand why we have had the advent of the black power spectrum. Now for me personally because I live in the arena of western society I do not subscribe to the traditional If there is a traditional black power spectrum. When I say that I mean I do not subscribe to radical rhetoric.
I do not by cursing white folks that because it produces nothing in Western society in the good old USA. The only thing that counts. The only thing that counts. The only thing that counts is what gets the job done. It's a brutal fact that not even God can can see in America is what gets the job done. And so I have to maintain an ambivalence not to get into the mainstream of American life but as a black man to some I. I use a. Homey illustration that when you play in football you can't steal second base right. You can't steal second place when you play football. And in America in this arena the only thing that counts is what gets the job done and standing on a corner on a soapbox shouting Black Power doesn't get the job done.
With all of the guilt ridden fears that many white people have what it does it does drive some people away who could help me you know not to pull myself up by my own bootstraps but to get me some boots. So from a tactical basis I don't subscribe to black power. I believe in substantive black. And I will maybe get the coffee I. Have a chance to illustrate. What I mean by that. But there are some negative aspects of black power which ought to be mentioned in one of two positive aspects negatively I can buy black power because it from a practical basis it just worked you know. I think what Stokely Carmichael nature Brown I make no apology to anybody but I think what they're doing is criminal because they are fooling the present teenage generation into believing that violence you know is an answer to the black man's condition.
And they say that if we don't take up arms then we will be the victims of genocide when in truth if we were to take up arms it would only accelerate genocide. You see one must not be fooled by the naivete of what the US news media describes as militant blacks and moderate blacks. I think militancy properly defined would have to be how closely what one says with what one does I think. And one must distinguish between militancy and insanity. You see if I have a crudely made Molotov cocktail throwing it at the General Sherman tank that's not militancy that's insanity. But the newspapers describe that kind of person as being more milk. If I have a brick in my hand I'm throwing it in a National Guardsman with
M-14 rifle. That's not militancy that's insanity. So from a practical basis. That won't work. That's the chief negative aspect of the so-called Black Power Spectrum. Maybe I have to deal with this late I've been given a sign but let me say something about the two positive aspects and I'll close. One is it has given to the black community a sense of new identity and new assertiveness which it sometimes is destructive. But at least it gives the black community a sense of awareness of itself and in the second place it question was the norm of the larger society and I love that about the good have bad business and I think that gives validity to it being something that has to be grappled with. Now it is this end result which is produce the illogical conflicts in our large cities. And until America makes concerted feverish
massive efforts at ridding ourselves of our racist tendencies and all racists criteria for life and humanity in the villages and cities in the towns and in our bodies of government then there is no hope for the cities. There is hope for the cities if we form a coalition. Of putting our two efforts together and recognizing the black community as an entity with resources with potential as basically human beings then we can save our cities because there is no way with X number of people living on a limited land area that we can ever live together in peace and harmony without having an appreciation of each other's cultures and each other's life experience. And I see it ultimately reduces itself to the kind of commitment that individuals make. You heard Dr. Wyatt T Walker special assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller on Urban Affairs and pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem as he spoke on the
- Latin American perspectives
- A Change of Skin
- Producing Organization
- WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
- Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on "A Change of Skin" by Carlos Fuentes.
- Other Description
- A series of comment and analysis about current affairs in Latin American countries.
- Global Affairs
- Media type
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-3-35 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Latin American perspectives; A Change of Skin,” 1968-05-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6379.
- MLA: “Latin American perspectives; A Change of Skin.” 1968-05-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6379>.
- APA: Latin American perspectives; A Change of Skin. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d6379