Racism in America – for a time you would have thought we rose above it – that we had become imbued with empathy and compassion – that the seemingly endless struggle of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s was something, maybe not completely behind us, but far enough in our past so that we knew better and could look with a pained expression that this was who we were in another time, another life. Not us – not now.
Seems that’s just not the case. For all that some people would like to cling to the myth that our race relations were healed and brotherhood was achieved by way of a single sweeping moment by Dr. Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day in 1963, have been jarred into reality by the fact that, it never went away. Parts of it went into hiding – our shame at treating other human beings was magically eradicated as if doused with magic and brotherhood was just not the case. Americas racism was deeply imbedded in our culture – our seething hate and distrust of “the other” has extended beyond the realm of race – it now extends to nationalities – ideologies and simple differences in life style.
For all the laws and all the claims, one thing has become abundantly clear – you cannot, nor will you ever be able to, legislate morality. Racism is an inside job – as the narrator of this radio series, Image Minorities, points out; we don’t start out as racist or bigoted or mistrustful -it is all learned, picked up as we get older, given by example from those who have been here before us -hate, it would seem, is passed down from generation to generation like so many genetic quirks that conspire against us.
So in 1959, during a decade which gave us the beginnings of School desegregation, the civil rights movement and desegregation in the Armed Forces, NBC Radio ran a series called Image Minorities, which covered many minority groups. The opening episode deals with racial discrimination, hate speech and segregated neighborhoods. Narrated by Bob Considine, it can do without the dramatic music cues which pepper the half-hour program – but it’s used to drive home a point to 1959 America – so cut it a little slack.
Otherwise, be informed about our race relations in the 1950s.