Despite many attempts, the machines used to open and close the locks at the Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge are simply not photogenic. Despite that, they are interesting. These are pretty large locks, too as this canal was intended to deal with full-sized barges coming down the river.
In 1951, my father, Abram Kardiner, published a book with Lionel Ovesey, called “The Mark Of Oppression.” It tried to do what no one had ever done before using methodology that had never been used before. It examined the psycho-social effects of slavery and segregation on a sample group of 25 African-Americans living in Harlem, New York.
Dad and Ovesey used sophisticated psychological tools to get an accurate picture of the psyches of the subjects. They used therapy sessions, dream interpretation, Rorschach and TATs (Thematic Aptitude Tests). To analyze the family structure and child rearing practices, they used extensive professional interviews with trained professional observers spending extended periods in sample homes.
The book came up with psychological profiles and sociological analyses. It documented the damage that had been done to people who were treated by the rest of society as second-class citizens. The damage was deemed to be substantial. It was particularly critical in terms of the family structures and dynamics that evolved in the Black community. Namely, a predominance of poor, uneducated, single parent households, typically with mother as head-of-household. These less-than-optimal family and child rearing practices insured that the problems would be passed from generation to generation.
The book came out and was immediately politicized. It was a scholarly work, but because of the subject matter, it was picked up by lay people and by the press. The book was well received in the academic community but pilloried by both ends of the political spectrum – right and left.
The right was upset because the study seemed to prove that slavery and continued segregation did actual harm to actual individuals and communities. This was way before the civil rights act of 1965. So the segregationists still had serious political power. They did not want this sort of thing said out loud.
The more surprising attack came from the left. The liberals of the day were furious that African-Americans were being called ‘damaged’. They also hated that the blacks’ predominantly single parent, matriarchal households were being criticized. I think they were worried that if blacks were considered ‘different’ from whites in any way, that would get translated into ‘inferior’ and would justify politically inequality. The liberals wanted to propagate the myth that the black and white communities were identical in all ways.
My father was not a political animal. He did not do well with controversy, hostility or attacks on his work. He withdrew from the fray. The book didn’t go anywhere.
Jump ahead 65 years. The book just had a revival in, of all places, France. A French translation was just published in 2016 and is being read by French social scientists and psychologists. The book is relevant to the French today because there is a huge immigration problem in France. They are trying to assimilate many different cultures into the French mainstream and issues are arising. Immigrants are facing prejudice, hostility and discrimination from the native French population – very similar to what the blacks in America have experienced.
So Dad’s book finally has a chance to make a mark on the world. It will hopefully increase understanding about the negative effects our policies and social attitudes can have on a personal level. Maybe this will make at least some people more compassionate and accepting of others who are ‘different’. In today’s hate filled world, every little bit helps
The following anecdote is not rigged by the crooked — or straight — media.
I was exiting our local supermarket and noticed a young lad, maybe 10 or 11-years old staring at me. I know that look. Maybe you have to be a person of color to recognize that look.
Given my particular history, it means one of two things.
Someone thinks they recognize me and probably do, because I used to be someone. Or, they are wondering what this dark-skinned guy is doing here. In this particular case, I knew he couldn’t have seen me on TV because I retired before he was born. Living as he does in our fair (and very white) town, probably he had never seen a real, live not white person.
I seized the awkward moment. I smiled and said: “Hi, How are you doing? Isn’t this a beautiful day?” The lad beamed at me.
I am personally on the road to making America great again.