Monday, July 24, 2006

More On Lebanon

Professor Zero has written a great post offering more action options and sources of information about what's happening in Lebanon. Very empowering to dribble down the blog court, passing the ball back and forth on our way to the basket. I'm lovin' it. :^)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Four Things We Can Do

I've been moping around because I felt I couldn't do anything about the situation in Lebanon. But thanks to Mccs1977, I found two things we can do and then added a couple more things to the list. We can:

1) read and support our blogger sister, Mana, blogging from Beirut here ;

2) contact and send financial help to a group that can be found here and is coordinating efforts to cover the needs of the refugees who are pouring into Beirut;

3) start reading the press from other countries, such as this article and not just U.S. news media. This will create unity of understanding with our sisters and brothers worldwide rather than seeing ourselves as separate; and

4) get on The Peace Train here. All aboooard!

It is something. It is solidarity. It is peace-making.

Thank you, Mccs1977.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

For Lebanon

Glenda has inspired me again to post something outside my usual perimeters. I've been so sad about what's happening in Lebanon. Too sad to post about it really. And not wanting to take on more issues than I already do.

Then Glenda reminded me that sometimes what one wants to say has already been said. And so it becomes more a matter of just giving the voice a space than anything else. So, I'm posting one of Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnets, published in 1939: "Czecho-Slovakia." It's the way I often feel these days about Iraq and Afghanistan and Lebanon and Gaza and Darfur and the rainforests and the inner cities in the U.S. and...

"If there were balm in Gilead, I would go
To Gilead for your wounds, unhappy land,
Gather you balsam there, and with this hand,
Made deft by pity, cleanse and bind and sew
And drench with healing, that your strength might grow,
(Though love be outlawed, kindness contraband)
And you, O proud and felled, again might stand;
But where to look for balm, I do not know.
The oils and herbs of mercy are so few;
Honour's for sale; allegiance has its price;
The barking of a fox has bought us all;
We save our skins a craven hour or two--
While Peter warms him in the servants' hall
The thorns are platted and the cock crows twice."

I cry for Lebanon and for us all, as we watch and shake our heads and only sigh...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Erase Racism Blog Carnival 3 Is Up

If you've never visited one of the Erase Racism Blog Carnivals, now's your chance to catch one hot off the press. IrrationalPoint's hosting this one here. Now get on over there and enjoy yourself! And don't forget to take a friend.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fighting For Our Lives

Sometimes, I feel as if we're all headed for hell in a handbasket. Sometimes, I don't see the point of trying anymore. I look around at the pain and the confusion and the alienation and I start to wonder if life on earth is just going to become impossible at some point, given those who seem to have the power to define and the fact that the rest of us don't act as if we have the foggiest clue what to do about it.

I read the news and I feel like crawling under the bed. I look at the lives of the people I know and I wonder if any of them are ever--really--happy. I watch a woman hitting a child across the car seat from her, not once, or in one flurry of slaps, but over and over and over and over--sequence after sequence--as she steers her car around the corner in heavy traffic, oblivious that her violence is being observed by a total stranger in the car creeping along behind her. And I wonder what will become of that child and how it will someday use what it is learning. I think about my mother struggling with Alzheimer's. And all the folks who used to make good money, but now can't find a job. And I think about the old folks and mentally ill who can't afford the medication they need to live a decent life--or even live at all.

Even when I teach--and maybe especially when I teach--I'm increasingly, incredibly aware of the human condition. I walk into a classroom and look at thirty or fifty or one hundred and fifty expressionless faces, at the ready, and wonder if one of them is the one who will shoot me (as an anonymous student once threatened to do on the telephone in the middle of the night) or try to cause me some kind of trouble because they don't like what I say or they don't want to know it. I wonder if one of them will kill themselves on my watch--without ever telling me that they're considering it. I wonder how many are struggling with drugs or just found out they're pregnant or will learn tomorrow that they've acquired a disease for which there is no known cure. I wonder which of the women got beaten up by her "boyfriend" last night, which of the men is working two jobs on top of going to school in an attempt to keep his father and mother from hitting the wall now that they're both ill. I wonder which of them will lose their scholarship this semester and be relegated back to the ranks of those who will not earn enough to survive. I wonder which of them live their every moment in gut-gripping anxiety because if they don't get all A's (no matter what), they'll incur the rage of a father who holds not only the purse-strings, but their sense of self-worth, in his authoritarian hands. I've long since learned that every one of them has a story. Every one of them, no matter what they look like, have things going on in their lives--or have had or will shortly--that will mark them as humans in a difficult world.

Sometimes, they wait to see me one after the other outside my office. Sometimes, they approach me after class (starting on the first day of the semester), saying, "You seem like someone I can talk to." Sometimes they call me so I can't see their face. Sometimes, they don't even want to admit what the problem is, so they'll approach me with another problem or situation or concern.

"I'm not sure I can pass your class," he might say, looking worried. "I'm used to teachers going through the book page by page, talking about it. I don't know if I'm taking the right notes." But in truth, it may be that he doesn't read well. Or write well. And he has to pass the class to play his sport at the school to which he wants to go. Which is--to his mind--the only way he's going to get out of the abject poverty in which he was raised. And he's six foot four and a man and he can't just admit how weak his skills are off the court or how frightened he is that he's going to be stuck in the ghetto. And I can't ask because it might not be true or he might not tell me, but if it is true and he won't tell me (for fear I'll rat him out), then the game is over before it's begun. And he'll disappear mid-semester and I'll have lost him. Forever.

I look at the woman who's come back to school, who's shaking in her boots because she's twenty or even thirty years older than the others, embarrassed at her fear, embarrassed at not having done it already, unsure she can do it, caught in a new employment market that is going to push her out if she doesn't have the credential. I look at the kid with the dream and no food money. I look at the one who's taken the class three times already in an attempt to make the A that's necessary to get him into the course of study he's longed to enter since he was fifteen. I look at the one who's translating everything I say into some other language in her head, determined to make it because her degree from somewhere else isn't meaningful here, even with years of experience.

I listen to a woman tell me off because she isn't doing well in the course and it's months before she admits that her emotions are really about her fear on a new and more professional job and her attempts to be a good mommy while her husband does his year in jail. I look at the couple who's breaking up because she's already successfully made the shift to the university and he's still struggling with D's at the community college, not wanting to face that both his college career and his relationship are probably hopeless. And I watch the bright, but odd ones, collecting the giggles of their classmates, pretending not to notice and not able, in any case, to be any different than they are.

Needless to say, with my rather focused interest in and understanding of racial issues, I'm especially sensitive to the struggles of my students of color. The other day, for example, I looked out over my classroom at a group I had only seen four times so far, and I was suddenly hyper-conscious that fully six or so out of the 28 students were African-American males taking a summer sociology course and on their way to another school in the fall to play a sport. At the college level, at least at community colleges and state schools (the only ones with which I'm familiar), there are always a few athletes--male or female--in the class. At one point, I spent four years teaching at FSU where you knew the male athletes because, no matter what their sport, they filled the doorway. But to have half dozen in more or less the same circumstance suddenly reminded me (once more) of why I do what I do in the way that I do it.

Almost instantly, in spite of the fact that my lecture of the day was on research methods (not one of my spicier offerings), I started finding ways to reach out to them. You can't be sure you'll ever see a student again (regardless of where you are in the semester). In fact, I often operate when I speak, in school or otherwise, out of the idea that, if I never see these people again, what would I have wanted to say to them? And I started fighting for their very lives.

The fact is that I don't even remember now what all I managed to work into the lecture. And it was appropo to all of the students anyway--more or less. And I worked hard not to look overly at the young men in question when pouring out my heart, telling what I know about life, using how sociological research captures causal chains to offer them tools for better understanding that many of their problems are not so much personal as social. Encouraging and empowering them to go another step, to hang in there, to recognize that the strength that brought them this far can take them all the way, I was terribly aware of what I was doing. But you rarely get a signal from them--not when it's going on.

Then, on the way out of the class, one of the young men to whom I'd been particularly speaking walked past me casually, handing me a folded piece of paper and proceeding out the door. I knew what it was. I've gotten many such notes through the years.

"I really enjoy this course," it read, "and I wanted you to know that the way you teach highly encourages me to be here. You kinda got me thinking of switching my major to becoming a sociologist. Thanks for being a great instructor. You are very appreciated. Real talk, you're the best I ever had."

And then I knew I had been heard. Again.

See, it's not about me. It's about them. All the ones who need to know it's possible, who need to believe there's hope. They can take that little speech, those words of truth, and parlay them into a leap to the sun. I've seen it happen over and over. It amazes me every time. That I get to participate in their process. That I get to show them how to stretch their bow. That I get to give them sustenance, sometimes before they even know they're hungry.

European-American youth who may have always known they're going to do this and be that and have those things that make them what they've always known they'd be--they have problems, too. And I work with them one on one endlessly, when they need me, but they often have other support mechanisms, as well. Not always, but often. And they have the social benefits of their racial privilege. Still, even they have the capacity to surprise me.

Yesterday, as I mulled over the note I had received the day before, I got an email from a former student, a young European-American man who was raised in a fine home in a particularly beautiful and wealthy setting, the son of a powerful father, with basically nowhere to go but up. Very bright, he spoke almost not at all, but he came within three points of earning all the possible points in the course, and then asked me politely at the end if he might contact me by email sometime. I assured him that he could. And here it finally was.

"I just wanted you to know," he wrote,"that what I learned from you touched me deeply, and you may have taken me one step closer to finding out what I want to do with my life. I'm not sure, but I think I may want to write or somehow communicate on as large a scale as possible--always on my subject of choice: institutional injustice, that of our country in particular...After one of your classes when you were lecturing about the state of affairs in this country...I went down to my car, started processing that information with my life experiences and cried. I wasn't even really sure why...I have always had to do what I have to do and have rarely done what I wanted to do. I have just put my philosophies and creativity on hold...[Y]our class brought a piece of me out and I thank you..."

So, there it is--Black or White. I am socially reproducing myself as a conscious European-American. I am--to the extent I am capable--being a bridge of hope across which people of color can walk to their next destination. And when the world is too much with me, I am, always, saved by the students I'm trying to save. And that's the way it works, I guess, because, in the end, maybe we're all just fighting for our lives.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Well...Nazi's Love Uniforms (gulp)

Just when I thought the news couldn't get any weirder or more depressing, the New York Times (here) with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center (which you'll find on my links list), has just left me stupified. Apparently, according to a military investigator's report, the military (and most especially the Army) now has what may be thousands of rabid racists roaming the streets of Iraq on our nickel, learning how to use sophisticated weapons on our nickel, and practicing house-to-house missions on our nickel so they can learn how to do the same thing in the future right here in the good old U.S. of A. when they finally "cleanse" our nation of the "undesirables"!!

What!? my brain screamed (as I contemplated the $7000 bill I just got from the I.R.S. because of a mortgage deal that went south). I wanted to believe that the Times was mistaken. After all, they've had their problems in the past. But there it is, in the paper and on the SPLC website, with names and everything.

"The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, 'Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members.'"

Now, what is this telling us? First of all, it's telling us that the U.S. population isn't supporting the war on Iraq enough to sign up to fight. Well, we knew this, right? Otherwise, why would recruiters be routinely staging humongous dog-and-pony shows on college campuses and fighting in court for the right to continue? And why would we see them charging across Walmart parking lots in poor neighborhoods to tempt young men of color like so many uniformed dope boyz with quotas to meet? And why would ads in Jet magazine--every week--encourage parents to talk their children into signing up? Okay. So that's old news, I guess.

And I've always known that neo-Nazis and other kooks get their training in the military. Where else are they gonna get it? It's not like you can sign up for "How To Blow Stuff Up 101" or "Advanced Killing" at your local community college. (And I know the directions are available on line, but not with hands-on, state of the art instruction and unlimited opportunities to practice--while you're getting paid.)

But this stuff about the recruiters and the officers knowing and letting it slide? Oh, oh, oh, please tell me this is new! And how is it explained? According to Mr. Barfield:

"They don't want to make a big deal...about neo-Nazis in the military because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they'll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."

Uh huh! We'd certainly hate to think those parents who are so carefully being enlisted to enlist their young would be uncomfortable. Not better to get rid of the psychos. Oh, no! Better to just keep 'em a secret from the parents!

It's a cinch they're not a secret from the Iraqi's for very long. According to Barfield, "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad. That's a problem."

No. Kidding.

I mean, I can see where it would be difficult to keep the locals convinced that you're there to "bring them democracy" when you have spray-painted messages popping up in public places--in English--calling them and other people of color pejorative names. But hey! An Army's gotta do what an Army's gotta do! If the Commander-in-Chief says throw some more logs on the fire, who's gonna tell him no?

Actually, this little issue caused some excitement a decade or so ago, too. Timothy McVeigh, it turned out, who was executed for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, first espoused his right-wing philosophy while serving in the Army and found his sidekicks among the ranks of fellow soldiers, as well. Then, while we were still smarting under this revelation, another incident came along involving the dishonorable discharge of nineteen neo-Nazis in 1996, after three European-American paratroopers were convicted of randomly murdering a Black couple--to win tattoos, no less! The result was a crack-down on racist and extremist activities in the military. It's a little scary that there even had to be one. I mean, did none of these guys have tattoos going in? But at least, the Army was moving in the right direction--at the specific instruction of Washington, I might add.

But you know how it is. Time goes by and quotas must be met. Then, as other countries (who never did really ante up a whole lot of troops, especially not for long term warfare) started bringing their troops home (what a concept!) and we ran out of the 50,000 green card holders we talked into becoming soldiers, some things just had to be done. Winking at crazies as they sign on the dotted line appears to have been one of them.

In an article in Resistance, the hyper-racist National Alliance's magazine, Stephen Berry, a former Special Forces officer who now serves as the organization's "military unit coordinator," urged skinheads to join the army and insist on serving in light infantry units.

"Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war. It will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and 'cleansed'...As a professional soldier, my goal is to fill the ranks of the United States Army with skinheads. As street brawlers, you will be useless in the coming race war. As trained infantrymen, you will join the ranks of the Aryan warrior brotherhood."

Good to know...I guess...


And I would assume that we can expect the military to take some kind of immediate radical action concerning this most serious matter. Especially in the face of all the torturings and murders and gang rapes and all that keep implicating U.S. soldiers in general in Iraq and making them infinitely less safe than they would be otherwise. Surely, the Army would want to strongly and instantly distance itself from any practice of allowing Nazi's and their ilk into the U.S. military or ignoring their activities once identified, right?


Friday, July 07, 2006

When Yo' Right, Ya Know Yo' Right!

Well, I'm irritated as hell, having tried repeatedly--and I mean repeatedly--to publish the following links all pretty and neatly hidden behind the word "here," but blogger has refused to allow me to do it that way. It's taken me hours to remember, of course, that I can just publish it looking all crazy. Guess that's my OCD kicking in. Anyway, here are some links I recommend checking out. The post may not be tidy, but it'll get the job done.

Jay has an excellent rant on what African-American workers and undocumented Latino workers have in common here.

The Piscean Princess gets off writing about how she is not her hair here.

Skyscraper electrified me with her poem about how she is a walking mini-revolution here.

And Glenda very creatively reminds us to get real, stay real, and celebrate the truth regardless and maybe especially because of what's going on around us here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Posting For Peace

Glenda has called on her readers to post for peace today. It's the 4th of July--Independence Day--after all, and there are more of us than you might think who don't instantaneously connect the making of war with the making of greatness. I am regularly made heartsick by what I see going on in our nation and in our world, as you know. Some of you seem to get a little bummed out from time to time about my critical concerns related to race. But I am not critical because I got out of bed on the wrong side on a given day. I am not critical because I am afraid of power. I am not critical because I have issues or I want to be on top. I am critical because I love life--in all its forms. I love babies (even when they smell funny). I love birds and trees and butterflies. I love fresh-faced, eager students. I love drill teams with drums. I love stand up comics and spoken word artists. I love big city web designers and folks growing watermelons in patches of rural Florida. I love people willing to memorize lines and get up on a stage, risking possible humiliation, to entertain or to teach or just to connect with the rest of the human race. I love life. Even when it doesn't look like me. Even when it doesn't speak my language. Even when it has a different way of talking to God/dess.

See, the fact is that I'm alive. And the life in me calls out to the rest of life on the planet. Despite the way I may be seen from time to time, I do not think it's all about me. I think it's all about Me. That is to say, I think, you and I and the butterflies and the drill team members and the babies and the people in Iraq and Iran and Darfur and Palestine are me. I'm not somehow "up here" while you or him or her or it is somehow "down there." And once that idea gets up in your head, you can't say "ho-hum, they're bombing (again)." You feel the bomb hit and you scream in your soul and agonize over the Grand Ignorance of it all.

A couple of days ago, I came across a reference to "the hundredth monkey effect," a phenomenon first observed by Lyall Walson in the 1950's on an island where he and some other scientists were studying macaques (a type of monkey) and later popularized by Ken Keyes, Jr., in a book on the topic. Apparently, the scientists were dropping sweet potatoes on the beach for the macaques to eat. The macaques liked the sweet potatoes, but didn't like the taste of the sand. So, over time, a few of them learned and taught each other to wash the potatoes in a stream before eating. Eventually, however, (the process took over a decade) when the hundredth monkey learned the technique, the entire macaque population took to using it and almost immediately macaques on other islands--even distant islands--took to using it, as well, with no way to imagine how the information had been communicated. Thus, the term "critical mass" was coined.

So, I'm posting for peace today. Maybe I'm not the 100th monkey. Maybe only the forty-second or the eighty-sixth or the third, comparatively speaking. But I doubt that the macaques were counting. I doubt that they were shooting for an ultimate result. The ones who carried their potatoes to the stream were probably not blogging about it at the time or even trying to drag their friends down to the water. They were probably just washing their food and enjoying how much tastier it was without the sand.

And all those macaques grinding their teeth on that gritty sand--not realizing that it could be otherwise--just thought that's what they had to do to survive. Until critical mass was achieved and then they made the shift as if they couldn't have done it before.

Glenda called for posting for peace. In the interest of peace (world and otherwise), I'm calling for:

* an end to the war in Iraq, bringing the troops home now;

* immediate release of all political prisoners currently held anywhere in the world (including Guantanamo Bay and the U.S.) as a result of the decision-making of any branch of the U.S. government;

* an end to U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and any other lands that have not requested it (which, to my knowledge, includes everywhere we have perched a military base); and

* immediate economic and philosophical commitment to: fair trade practices world-wide; cessation of all violence against women and children; safety, opportunity, and respect for all people of color; and a massive re-organization of the U.S. "justice" system (including all prisons and jails) with the expected result of mass immediate releases of non-violent prisoners and the placing of drug addicts into appropriate facilities.

That oughta get us started. We don't need to eat sand. There's a better, more excellent way to live. Come on down. The water's fine.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Divided We Fall

The other day, I picked up a weekly newspaper expressly because one of the headlines on the cover was the question: "Is it racism?" You know me, there's no way I could walk past that one. So I took it upstairs, read the little article and decided to write this post.

The article was really just a short page dedicated to describing a young European-American man's struggles primarily with his own perception of things. He doesn't like to stop at a late night convenience store near his apartment any more, he said, because, after dark, it's full of scary-looking Black guys with gold teeth and saggy pants. But on this particular evening, he goes on, he wound up stopping there anyway and was invited more than once (by one of the scary-looking Black guys) to buy drugs. He asks his readers if he's "racist" for wanting to avoid the guys at the store and if the dope man is "racist" for assuming he was looking for drugs. I hardly know where to begin.

First of all, if you'll recall from this post, I don't believe anybody without the power to define their own and other's lives can be racist. So, I wouldn't see the guys with the grills as racist, in any case. Intimidating, possibly. Maybe even irritating, depending on how you feel about drugs and how much coming and going it brings to that section of the neighborhood. But not racist.

Still, in this case (hang onto your hats here, kids), I don't see the article writer as necessarily racist either, at least not for wanting to avoid the party. See, he may be a racist (I think all "White" people are, even the ones who struggle daily to renounce their racial privilege, as I do), but the reason he doesn't want to go to this particular store any more is because he's afraid. Duh!

Now, what's interesting about this is that, were the parking lot (and inside) of the store in question being haunted by other European-American males, looking tough, even a little psycho maybe, and accosting customers trying to sell stolen property (or drugs--what the heck?), would the writer have wondered why he was uncomfortable? I doubt that he would have written the piece. And if he had, I suspect it would have taken an entirely different tack. He might have ranted about what's happening to his neighborhood. Or to the city in general. Or he might have berated local law enforcement. Or he even might have talked about how lack of jobs has more and more young men looking for alternate ways to support themselves. But he would either not have been afraid (and if not, why not?) or he would have known and admitted he was afraid. He wouldn't have written an article asking whether or not he was being "classist" to look askance at these youth for being up in his world making him uncomfortable.

My point is this: White folks are scared to death of Black folks. Not just after dark, either. And not just the ones with gold teeth. White folks know the history and they know that the history goes on. And they know that they benefit from it and they know that African-Americans are hurt by it. And they know that if they were Black, they would be pissed off. You know what I'm sayin'? And that makes White folks scared of Black folks.

They don't admit it. Even to themselves. But Black folks know. That's why some angry young Black males will push. Because they know White folks are scared. And there's a certain base level of gratification for powerless people of color watching a White guy ready to pee his pants busily trying to pretend otherwise out of concern that the smell of fear will be the deciding factor on whether or not he pays some awful price. The scene is really the pay-off and good for days of chuckling afterwards. As offensive as this might seem to some European-Americans, if it keeps the rage from boiling all over us, we should probably count ourselves lucky and leave it at that.

But White supremacists are always talking about how dangerous African-Americans are to the "good (White) citizens" of U.S. communities. And, God knows, if I looked Black, I'd be dangerous because I'd be one of those who are pissed off--and for what I maintain are perfectly good reasons. But the fact is that, as reasonable as rage against the White power structure and its oppressive practices is, the majority of Black folks, by and large, are not threatening anybody--not even each other. It's really quite remarkable when you think about it, after all African-Americans have been through and continue to face on a daily basis. And White people know. They know. They know. They know. (Hel-lo! Do we not all live in the same nation, even if we don't live in the same culture?)

Last night, I watched a beautifully done Czech movie entitled "Divided We Fall." It was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film of the year 2000 and I could certainly see why. It's a story about a couple in Eastern Europe who hide a Jew during the Nazi occupation and the horrified extents to which they have to go in the attempt to pull it off successfully. The story line, script, and direction were excellent, but the actors were phenomenal, not just because they made me believe them, but because they took me there--to the time, the place, and the incredibly complicated circumstances.

There are few people in the U.S. over the age of fifteen who haven't been exposed in some way or other to information related to the heinous crimes committed against the Jews in Nazi-held countries during World War II. Even the knowledge that Jews were not the only ones to suffer (at least seven million others died, as well--gypsies, homosexuals, members of the resistance, among others) in no way mitigates that particular nightmare of Jewish existence for more than a decade, while much of the world just watched--including the bulk of their neighbors and the communities around them. Which is what the drama of "Divided We Fall" is all about. It's about how some of the community collaborates with the Nazis, even though they are not themselves "bad" people. And how some are so terrified that they'll scream "Jew! Jew!" at the sight of one rather than risk being thought to be sympathetic. And how some just hide behind shutters and try to stay out of the way in the attempt to survive personally, regardless. But, as I already mentioned, the main couple in this film decide to do the unthinkable, putting their lives in mortal danger to save one man, the son of their former boss, the only local Jew to escape and return after the rest of his family is already dead.

The couple has wildly mixed feelings about the process in which they find themselves and emotions run high at one point or another for various reasons (I don't want to spoil it for you--it's a really decent flick, if you don't mind subtitles). Still, the most disturbing thought that wiggled its way into my mind as I watched it had really nothing to do with the Jews or World War II or even Europeans. It had to do with one man who had already suffered unspeakably unexpectedly finding the staunchest kind of allies in two people with everything to lose by reaching out to him.

In more than one unnervingly intense scene, the look on that young Jew's face went straight through me. He wasn't asking for anything. He knew the position he was in. He knew the couple was infinitely better off without him in their lives. And they knew it, too. And it kept occurring to me that this scenario, this precise excruciating horror was played out thousands of times in Nazi-occupied Europe. Many times in this same way, even when all lost their lives because of it.

And then (could you see this coming?) I began to think about other, heart-breakingly similar expressions on the faces of young Black men standing in handcuffs beside a patrol car; young Black mothers trying to figure out how to support their children when the safety net of social assistance has ripped apart without warning; elderly people of color, pushed aside all their lives and praying--still--for grace to keep believing.

Oh, I know that in the U.S. in 2006, there are no concentration camps per se (though if you've never walked down a tier in a maximum security penitentiary and looked into the eyes of the men and women there, how would you know?). I know there are no mass gas chambers and no creamatoria. But there were two and one-half centuries of slavery. And then the better part of another century of Jim Crow. And the continuing trap of the projects and the ghettos. And the on-going reality of always being portrayed by the society as being less than--being "Black"--even when the African-American is a surgeon or a saint.

The fact is that Jews suffered the Nazis for less than two decades, horrendous as the situation was. But African-Americans have suffered White supremacy (different from the Nazis in what way again?) for more than three centuries. And while there have been allies, they are like those in "Divided We Fall," often riddled with their own fears and conflicts and compromises about their stance, and far fewer than have been so desperately needed to support the multiple millions left, sometimes literally, hanging in the wind.

When it's over, and White supremacy will someday be over, one way or the other, who will be ashamed to face their neighbors, I wonder? Who will remember their own humanity and weep? And who will smile across the great divide, knowing they did nothing more than what was right; that the cost, however great, was worth it; and that all they did was only what they would have hoped for from another had they been the one in hiding, had they been the one called "Black"?

One doesn't have to fear one's allies.