A few months ago I read a book review in the Sunday Times about America's first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Reading the review I realized though Marshall was appointed in my lifetime--and within a couple years of LBJ's historic Civil Rights legislation, I knew nothing at all about the man.
That said, the review I read was not entirely favorable, so I went Amazoning for another book on the man and found one called "Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America" by Gilbert King. This book seemed to fit the bill for me, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and, at 453 pages was, for me, mercifully short.
The book follows the trumped up case of four young men in Groveland, Florida who were accused of raping a white woman. One was lynched, one was murdered for "trying to escape" while handcuffed to another man, one was electrocuted and one--well, that's where I am now in the book.
This man was beaten, shot, threatened, denied a trial by his peers, convicted in the press, beaten, had his family threatened and so on.
All this happened just 60 years ago.
I wonder those of us who grew up in the 1960s when peace and love and kindness and brotherhood were supposed to take over the world, if we had, if we have any idea of the depth of racial prejudice, ignorance and hatred.
I wonder if the racism we had hoped was disappearing just went in to hiding for a couple years, or decades, but never really changed.
I wonder, though we have an African-American President, how much has changed in the last 60 or last 100 or last 200 years.
There is a meme that runs through our business that "this will change everything." That some transformative tic will upset the order of things and people's behaviors will fundamentally change.
I wonder if anything ever really changes.
I wonder if hatred of the "other" is still the motivating force behind American life as it was in decades and centuries past.
I wonder, how many of us know my favorite line from Faulkner: "The past isn't dead; it's not even past."