“Go Set A Watchman” was a better book in my opinion than “To Kill A Mockingbird”
“Go Set A Watchman” was the un-cropped picture, with all the flaws, with racism intact.
“To Kill A Mockingbird” was the cropped version of the same story, told from the viewpoint of a young tom-boy and brave adventurer, who idolized her father. It was the image Hollywood felt America was ready for at the time – the father as White Savior who tried to save the Black man but ultimately did not succeed, but still is honored in some way by the Black community.
“Go Set A Watchman” is the story told by an adult, the soft filter and rose coloring lifted from her eyes – the story, complicated by another woman’s sexual desires, her father’s duty to defend in spite of his own racism, and her racist tendencies as well.
This is what Reagan’s daughter is seeing now.
Her father was not the leader that much of America romanticized him to be. There were parts of him that were admirable – he had integrity and once set to a course of action, he followed it through and was there to accept the consequences if his course of action failed.
On the other side of the scales, he ignored AIDS, and privately mocked it and laughed at it as a disease of low-people, “Africans,” drug-users, Gays, and the promiscuous, in large part influenced by the advice of Roy Cohn, one of the most opportunist and morally flawed human beings ever to cross through American History.
It was not until he found out that young White people were infected by receiving blood transfusions from a tainted blood supply, and that Roy Cohn was himself dying from it, did he even mention the disease, and mobilize the US Health and Science systems to do anything about it.
…and privately, as with lots of people of his generation, he didn’t consider it to be racist if you were racist in private – if you told nigger jokes when no visible Black people were present.
He could not see, as many Americans cannot see, that willingness to wink and smile at racism while nobody is looking carries forward.
It carries into unconscious bias in hiring decisions.
It carries into higher levels of scrutiny of your Black and Brown employees, and a willingness to make excuses for and accept behavior from White people that you look to punish in people of color: lateness, poor grammar, policing of language and of emotions (angry black woman, angry black man, “YOU HAVE AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM”), when EVERYONE is late, and EVERYONE occasionally gets angry, and sometimes uses profane language.
Its shocking to begin to understand that your parents are racist.
…and the rest of us wonder when you will realize that YOU, TOO are RACIST.
…and when we say that, it does not mean you are guilty of any moral failings or that we think of you as a bad person.
It means, at a minimum, sometimes when you say or do things, we have to pause, and decide if we want to confront you in the moment and lose a friendship, or if we have to just bite our tongues, smile and laugh along with the jokes, while on the inside, we sadly have to move you into a box that contains all of the other people we cannot rely upon, since we know, when the shit hits the fan, there’s a chance you won’t have our backs, and you’ll take the word of the White person over ours, every. single. time.
…and you should know that when you hear us pause before we laugh along with you, that was the sound of you being moved into that box.
This brief essay is in response to an article in Time magazine, regarding the release of the Nixon tapes in which President Ronald Reagan is heard making racist statements, unaware that he was being taped at the time.