When I was in private school, braver fellow students than I traveled to the South to march with, as they were called then, Negroes, to fight for equal rights. I recall reading at that time about Medgar Evers being killed and the memory sticks in my mind. I was aware of broad brush strokes in the media about what was happening, but was to comfortable and complacent to learn more or to become involved. (I am not a joiner or protester.) I witnessed segregation in action during visits to relatives in Virginia, but was unaware of any in New England (although it must have existed before my unseeing eyes). The first black student in the school system of the town in which I grew up was a mere curiosity, but was surely grumbled about in some homes and taunted on the streets. Black students were a normal feature of private school and college, and they became a regular feature of my life in the military. I treated them the same as I treated any race: I judged them by their actions and not their skin color. I recall being accused of having “prejudice” (the term for a racist in those days) by a young Black soldier, who I dressed down with words to the effect that I was not prejudice against him because he was black, but because he was a stupid jerk. (That was not prejudice, but sound judgement.) I did not let anyone use racial overtones as a crutch to excuse poor performance of duty.
After the Iron Curtain fell and I started dealing frequently with Russians, I would hear their opinions about the United States during long conversations. I learned that, during the Cold War, Soviet news programs carried regular features about the Civil Rights movement. This was not propaganda; they merely reported facts, which rarely made there way into US news media, if at all. Russians were better informed than I was about what happened in my country. (Despite growing up under different systems, we agreed that all people are deceived by their governments.)
Much of what they knew for fact I discovered by reading, such as a recent article in the New Yorker.
If you, like me, missed or ignored significant aspects of US history, this piece should help you to understand the underlying anger of Black citizens of a country that has cheated them, despite mouth service and laws protecting their rights. I have often said that man is a bad animal. Well, a certain type of white man in the South is one of the worst and a bred still on the loose...