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Reflections on Racial Justice: Part III – Anger Revisited

Many years ago, and in a very small way, I briefly experienced anger that sprang from racial conflict.  The Monopoly video brought those long-lost feelings back to mind.  Although my experience is in no way comparable, the feelings I remember may help me empathize with the feelings of anger expressed by the speaker in the Monopoly video.

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Reflections on Racial Justice: Parts I & 2 – Introduction & Anger

In the summer of 1964, the Republican party held its annual convention in San Francisco.  They nominated Barry Goldwater to run for President against Lyndon Johnson.  In the spring of that year, I was a junior in high school in a suburb of Oakland, California.  When I was a toddler, my parents purchased a home in one of the first post-World War II housing tracts that emerged from the walnut orchards in the Diablo Valley, east of Oakland.  In 1961, that tract and the schools, churches, and businesses that grew to support it, incorporated as the town of Pleasant Hill.

Race relations in that community were seen as progressive, although no African Americans and few Latinos lived there.  The closest concentrations of non-whites were in the industrial towns of Pittsburg and Antioch along the Sacramento River Delta and in Oakland’s inner-city.

By the 1960s our entertainment had progressed from Disney’s Song of the South and Amos ‘n Andy to Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.  The San Francisco professional football, baseball, and basketball teams featured African American and Latin American stars that we cheered.  Popular music had progressed from what my grandfather called the “jungle music” of Harry James (!) to Sara Vaughn, Nat “King” Cole, and the many jazz greats of the time.  The folk music revival of the 1960s shone spotlights on artists like Hudie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Odetta, and Joan Baez as well as social justice advocates like Pete Seeger and the Weavers.

Segregation was a Southern problem.  It was about voting rights.  It was about integration.

You had to go to the South to protest.  Southern governors and senators were intransigent, clinging to the discredited doctrine of Separate but Equal, the post-reconstruction Jim Crow laws, and voter suppression practices.  We were unaware of conditions closer to home in Oakland, Pittsburg, and Antioch that were less overt but equally worthy of protest.  That would soon change.

However, as the summer of 1964 approached, my high school social studies teachers came up with an outstanding educational project:  a mock Republican convention.  It would be held in our gym.  Students would be assigned roles to play.  We would get to know the inner workings of the American political system:  how candidates for President and Vice President were chosen, how party platforms were developed, and the roles played by state conventions, primaries, and caucuses.

The role I was assigned was chairman of the Mississippi delegation.  Unbeknownst to us students, our teachers had arranged another element of verisimilitude to our mock convention.  They invited African American students from an inner-city Oakland high school to send delegations and challenge the Southern states’ credentials, especially Mississippi’s.  What a surprise!  Why couldn’t I have been assigned a state like Oregon?  All my friends who was that state’s chair had to do was put into nomination its governor, “Mark, O for Outstanding, Hatfield.”

The role-play quickly became a competition for me that had to be won.  The interlopers from Oakland wanted something that I had, that was legitimately mine.  They must be beaten back.  It did not matter that they were Black.  They were faceless to me.  My job was to organize and articulate a defense to repel them.  I no longer recall the strategies and tactics I employed to mobilize the Mississippi delegation and to enlist others in our cause.  I no longer recall the argument I made when I stood up as the rightful Mississippi chairman and addressed the convention.  The plans and words were successful.  The challenge was defeated.  All I remember is the outrage.

This was a role play that took place over fifty years ago.  It is nothing like the reality and depth of the pain that African Americans feel through systematic prejudice and “everyday racism.”  However, I do still remember the feeling of “take no prisoners” outrage that propelled me to defend what I thought was rightfully mine.  So while I am not privy to African Americans’ pain, I can understand that it is real.  I must remember the feeling that was once inside me.  There it waits till I feel threatened again.  My challenge is to access that feeling and channel it, not to reciprocate, but to empathize.

Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd
Dr. Frank Lloyd is the former Associate Dean of Executive Education at Southern Methodist University's (SMU) Edwin L. Cox School of Business, where he led development and delivery of award-winning executive leadership programs that transformed careers and organizations. He was the driving force in the creation of a national center of excellence on Latino leadership, and he was instrumental in the launch of the James M. Collins Executive Education Center. Dr. Lloyd joined SMU’s Cox School from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he was Vice President of Executive Education. Prior to joining Thunderbird, Dr. Lloyd was a human resources executive with General Motors. Among the highlights of his career, he was responsible for organization development and leadership training for GM Europe during its transition from mass to lean production, and he was the first GM Human Resources manager at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), the historic joint venture between GM and Toyota noted for its innovative labor-management relations and the introduction of the Toyota production system. Dr. Lloyd is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of UNICON, the Global Consortium for University-based Executive Education. He served on the national board of Inroads, an organization with the mission to develop and place talented underserved youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. He is the former board chair of Daystar US which mobilizes resources to support Daystar, a non-denominational Christian university in Nairobi, Kenya whose mission is to prepare servant leaders for Africa. He currently is a board member for Literacy Achieves, a Dallas, Texas-based non-profit that teaches English as a second language to adult immigrants to facilitate their employment, parenting, and other life skills. Dr. Lloyd was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Isfahan in Iran. He also served as a U.S. Information Agency curriculum consultant for Germany. He earned a master’s degree at Purdue University and a Ph. D. at the University of Iowa. His undergraduate degree is from Occidental College.

6 COMMENTS

  1. A powerful memory, Frank.
    I wonder if your teachers did any debriefing after such acrimonious confrontations? Unfortunately, I think I know the answer, as even the prison experiment run later in Palo Alto caused pain for many of the students involved and debriefing and reconciliation only took place years after.

    This is not just a 1960s phenomenon – my children had mock civil war enactments in the aughts here in CA. While I am in favor of teaching what lead to this time in history and how it fractured the nation, history teachers may not have the skill set to deal with how students feel about putting heart and soul into “winning” for a cause that runs counter to everything they should stand for. In our family it made me take out “Dead Poets’ Society”. The scene of how fast a group will get into marching order is very illuminating.

    • Thank you, Charlotte. I don’t recall any debriefing. What I do recall is the feeling of competition. We know the real power of these experiences is in the debrief. So 50+ years later I am debriefing this memory in this forum.

  2. A bit of what you are saying seems to deny the racial issue, and talk to the issue of competition that sees “win”, not color. The power trip that we venerate is frightening but real. What is more frightening are the systemic platforms that keep competition alive and well. Per the book Caste, those in the ruling caste must keep those in the lower caste in their place or they lose their standing.

    • Carol, thank you. Your comment is so true. The feeling of competition drives out the racial issue in the interest of winning. It keeps us from realizing that social justice doesn’t need to be zero-sum. It can be additive. Caste is rapidly rising to the top of my reading.

  3. What a thought-provoking piece, Frank. I think that “take no prisoners” and “do whatever it takes to win” human instinct is also what is fueling the alt Right movement we’re seeing in the US. A population that believes that they have the right to win and will fight at whatever cost is something that shows itself in many forms. This also speaks to the power of giving students visceral learning experience as it stays with you. The ripple effect of that is immeasurable.

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