1 Comment


One of my fraternity brothers had been a member of the Junior KKK in Southern Maryland. He was also for one semester my room-mate. I took him along to gatherings where there were both white and black attendees. We double-dated when my girlfriend-of-the-moment was black. Eventually I took him to a black church service. His senior year, he sponsored our fraternity's first black member.

We were a professional fraternity, meaning everyone had an interest in pursuing a career in the same discipline (music, in this case). We were ignored by the college administration, which mistakenly assumed we were an honorary frat. We had freedoms the other frats could never attain. We had a blind member, even a gay member (this was the late 1960s in Appalachia). Adding a black brother was a non-event, except for my roommate-fraternity brother. He had come of age, his horizons broadened. We were the first fraternity to add a Jewish member. Most people alive today didn't live through that period. Most cannot comprehend separate waiting rooms, separate seating in theaters, venues with signs saying "No Colored," separate bathrooms, police batons and dogs and fire hoses. They see discrimination today and this is their baseline.

You changed one person, made him look inside himself to discover racism, and to discover that skin color has little to do with humanity. You didn't coerce and you didn't shame. The problem with coercion and shame is the same as the problem with bribery: somebody else can always offer a bigger bribe. The benefit of reasoning is that in the face of racism, its proponents cannot offer a better reason. And the person you changed is usually changed forever.

Expand full comment