LeavingWest83rdStreet is important to me. I hope that you are enjoying my work. Our times lead me to say that there are much more important things to be written about and I hope that you will look at this effort as an opportunity to go beyond my story.
Thank you for sticking with me. It is an honor to have you along.
I have been witness to many historical events and to many efforts directed at change. I heard the words and laws of the sixties with the hopefulness of an adolescent. I saw the murders of President Kennedy, Dr. King, and Robert Kennedy, among others, on TV. I was afraid. Many times I thought change would come. I watched the anger and fear and resulting riots from afar.
All those things shaped the man I became. Raised in the relatively liberal community of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, raised in part by an African American housekeeper and having limited experience beyond that in my youth, my parents taught me well. Other groups except our WWII opponents were never spoken of badly. (In my late teens I strenuously though ineffectively argued with my father about German cars and Japanese cameras. Eventually, I owned both.
I was disturbed but distant in the early and mid-sixties but by 1970 my level of action had changed. Co-chairing a CCNY commission with a black woman was significant as was the takeover of part of the college’s campus by black students.
I have had many black friends and colleagues over the years. I hope I have not been part of the problem, although I must have been. I recognize that in addition to white privilege I have also had Jewish privilege because I lived in NY where there were so many of us. I see that we were segregated in elementary and junior high school, not because the neighborhood wasn’t home to many people with ancestors from many places, but because the board of education kept us separate or maybe it’s better said, “kept them separate”.
We won the right to vote at 18 in my lifetime. We helped bring an end to Nixon and to the war in Vietnam. But so little has staying power. I can’t help thinking of the teens from Parkland who filled me with hope and then they were gone.
My kids are steadfastly supportive of the rights of others, we did well in raising them. But, I hear and see so much that’s not working and I know that I didn’t do enough. Yes, I called out racist and sexist remarks; I walked away from ethnic jokes, but I didn’t do enough.
And that’s where we are today, we have to listen to people and hear the pain they are coming from. We must not allow ourselves to be diverted by the current administration or by those who are acting inappropriately. We have to listen.
To my friend who woke up last week at 2am to CNN reporting from the Barclay Center, whose heart stopped as she ran to check on her boys, I am sorry, I did not do enough.