My personal path


It’s in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge my own racism. For though I was raised by white liberal parents who early on supported Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement during the Sixties, I grew up in America, in fact, in the South, and thus I unconsciously took on common beliefs and attitudes prevalent in the dominant cultural paradigm about people whose skin was darker than mine. “White people are smarter.” “Black people are better athletes.” Etcetera. And though I’ve become conscious of those beliefs, I have not rooted them all out and doubt that I ever will. At the very least, however, I can notice when my mind makes snap judgments (young black man driving a late model SUV = drug dealer) and recognize them for the falsehoods they are.white-and-black-preschool-girls11

It’s in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge how I’ve benefited and continue to benefit from white privilege. From attending high school in my youth in a new building with relatively current textbooks while black kids on the other side of town were all segregated into one old building with hand-me-down books from the white schools to currently walking down the streets of Asheville at any time of day or night without fear of being harassed by the police, I have benefited from white privilege. (more…)

In 1958, during my sophomore year at Tullahoma (TN) High School, all the boys in every class were ordered to the gymnasium bleachers with the male teachers for a sex education talk by a local physician, Dr. Ralph Brickell. The girls were sequestered in the auditorium with the female teachers for a similar talk by a nurse.

We rolled our eyes and poked each other in the ribs as Dr. Brickell relentlessly circumvented the subject at hand and rambled on about the importance of abstinence until marriage, along with the dangers of VD and syphilis, and the perils of getting your girlfriend pregnant, or knocked up in common parlance.condom

After saying almost nothing of substance, Dr. Brickell unwisely opened the session up for questions. There were a few innocuous queries such as, “What are the symptoms of syphilis?” by the usual ass kissers. But finally Gene Branch, a country boy in our city school, asked, “Dr. Brickell, what happens when a man mates with a sheep?” Convulsive laughter mushroomed throughout the audience, and Dr. Brickell’s face turned a deep crimson. (more…)

Well, they didn’t pry it out of my cold, dead hands. But my only remaining firearm has just left the premises.

Having grown up and lived in the South I’ve owned shotguns, .22 rifles, and an assortment of handguns. But over the years, my collection had dwindled to one old revolver that I kept in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer, a place where it would be handy if danger arose. My ability to actually use the pistol in an emergency was doubtful, however, since my wife, Shonnie, had only agreed to keep it in the house if it was unloaded.six-gun

What, you might ask, motivated me to hand over the gun to local law enforcement authorities? I got rid of it in response to a well-timed question about my possession of it by Shonnie after we saw Michael Moore’s movie Bowling for Columbine. The question: “What are you afraid of, Bruce?” (more…)

My great-grandmother, Mae McCarthy (better known as Ma), who enjoyed dipping snuff and preferred another layer of body powder to regular bathing, had a Victorian attitude when it came to disciplining children. On a warm afternoon in June when I was four, I watched with dismay as Ma instructed Mom in how to choose a good switch from the limbs of a flowering bush in the backyard. “You want to get a stout branch that won’t break when you swat him on his legs and little heinie,” Ma said. “Always remember the old saying, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.'”spanking

I wasn’t spanked frequently, but when physical punishment occurred, it was usually because Mom had grown so frustrated and angry with my recalcitrance or noncompliance that she merely did to me what had been done to her when she was a child. I don’t recall that Dad ever resorted to spanking me. Mom’s belief was that spankings would teach me to toe the line, obey her directives, and teach me right from wrong. In retrospect, what I think Mom unconsciously desired was not discipline, but domination and control, so that, to make her life easier, I’d do exactly what she wanted when she wanted me to do it. (more…)

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