In the New York and northern New Jersey suburbs 67,000 mortgages were insured by the G.I. Bill, but fewer than 100 were taken out by non-whites.According to oral tradition, my father was 1/16th Cherokee. Although only one generation removed from the "1/8th" cut off point that would have a lot of Americans view him as a dirty Injun, he managed to be very White-passing.
I think I got to grow up in a house in the 'burbs not simply because my father had been career Army but also because he downplayed his Native heritage. So I can't really imagine how hard it is to be a person of color in the U.S. The best I can do is feel like "There but for the grace of God go I."
It doesn't make me actually qualified to say anything about life as a Black person or a Native person in this country but it does rattle my bones and I would like to think it gives me a smidgen of compassion and sympathy.
In the course of looking up the above Wikipedia quote about the G.I. Bill, I happened to trip across an article titled New bill would provide GI Bill benefits to descendants of Black World War II vets. (Here is the bill itself.)
I'm for Reparations but this is the first thing I have seen that strikes me as a step in the right direction, something that might actually be helpful and might have some hope of being supported.
The news about that bill has both derailed the half-baked post rattling around in my mind about growing up in the 'burbs and has also welded it to another topic I thought I would write about here but separately: Prison and race in the U.S.
I met a Black guy in my twenties under awkward circumstances and some months later he was charged with insurance fraud. I didn't know him well but he was my husband's best friend, so I had the somewhat rare experience of seeing it both as an outsider and an insider to some degree.
What happened was that some friends of his pulled a prank which convinced him his car had been stolen. By the time they gave him his car back, he had already filed a police report and collected the insurance check.
He had filed both in good faith and after his friends returned his car to him, he didn't know what to do about it and so he didn't call the insurance company and go "Oh, oops. I need to return this check to you. Sorry!"
Either during the trial or after his conviction, his wife divorced him, which is where the insider and outsider point of view come into play here. To me, that looked very damning, like he was certainly guilty of something.
But my husband was able to tell me that she did it to protect their assets because now she had to raise the kids as a single mom.
I didn't know this family well but both the husband and wife were in the military. As far as I knew, these were good people with no criminal record, no history of drug abuse etc.
As far as I can tell, this was a Black family doing everything right to the best of their ability whose lives were torn apart because of the color of their skin. I can't help but feel like this would have gone differently if it were a stupid prank involving a White family.
This was not a tale of a Black guy from the 'hood stealing cars because he couldn't find a job. This was a decent guy with a good career and a family and he ended up yet another Black convict anyway.
When I was thinking about writing about prison and race in the U.S., I wasn't actually thinking about my husband's best friend and his tragic tale. Instead, I was thinking about the following two comments by me on Hacker News and about how we need to find a means to feed poor people better so they are less at risk of going to prison: Comment by me:
This in no way surprises me. I had this thought a year or so ago that we ought to provide better nutrition in prison as a primary means of rehabilitation. I think I tried to blog about it and it didn't go well. I eventually moved on.
But I am glad to see this article. I hope this idea gets acted upon, the sooner, the better. Comment by me:
But stories like this always make me wonder how society is ever going to find a path forward. The young idealist who saw a black man as a victim of the system ended up fleeing from him and living in hiding to protect herself and their child. But on the opposite end, some comments here feel this guy deserves no break at all.
How do we make a better world when it clearly doesn't work to say "You were just a victim and you deserve better!" but it also doesn't work to err on the side of "The beatings shall continue until morale improves."
I'm kind of glad to see he found some sort of path out, against very long odds. We seem to do such a poor job of that at the societal level.