Libby Zinman Schwartz shares her reaction to the Stand Against Racism event at the YWCA Princeton — the screening of the documentary The Princeton Plan, about school desegregation in 1948, followed by discussion from Shirley Satterfield and Henry Pannell.
I enjoyed the presentation. It just amazes me to learn how sheltered many people have been here for so many years and how unfamiliar they are with people that don’t look like them. They are honest and appreciate this kind of opportunity to learn, which is good, but where have they been? The first thing I noticed shortly after coming here was how few African Americans could be seen on the streets of the Boro. It shocked me.
I spoke with the Henry Pannell, one of the speakers. I liked his honesty. So many at the program praised the progress but he remembered the pain. I told him that he and other African Americans have much company now because we will all soon have to confront the amassed power of wealth in the country that has so much control over policies and is changing the values of the country. It is not just about prejudice against them, it is now segregation of the very rich and the rest, the 99 percent (all hues) who are being abandoned or fashioned into a low cost, undereducated labor force. It will require immense effort to push back the terrible decisions they are making re health care (together with Big Pharma), school tuitions and so many more bad policies multinationals, banking, etc., are creating, often clandestinely, to maintain and preserve them and their children as a dangerous and uncertain future in a global economy unfolds.
So many new programs have to be initiated in education (training, curricula change, materials). in affordable health care maintenance, in decent housing, in opportunity to develop for everyone, regardless of differences. But before that can be done, somehow, those in power will have to examine their own conscience and get in touch with a lost morality and tolerance of the other that once made this country great. They will also have to give up some of their wealth (via taxes and salary caps) to instill a more even-handed equity for all Americans. This country could certainly learn from Asian philosophies, particularly Buddhism and Confucianism, which respect and regard others as much as the self. We have lost our way in a “philosophy of unrestrained capitalism/free markets” which has no ethical basis whatsoever; in fact, its basis is selfishness.
I truly believe groups that are being poorly treated and served in America today, which is a very large number, need to get in touch and join efforts to create a real voice and eventual change of attitude. Occupy Wall Street, while visual, is not doing it.
I also know people are fearful of the power they sense around them and the build-up of security anxiety; some of this comes from news descriptions of underground centers in the Middle West where domestic phone calls are being monitored, and accounts of drone surveillance that might soon be a reality, if not already. But it is also a general feeling among the populace that can’t be easily defined, probably because people are sensing it from leaders with very hard-nosed ideas about the “just desserts” of the have-nots (a hold-over from Calvinism).
Living with opportunity for a life of developed potential and happiness is indeed what the founding fathers promised every American. It is not a fantasy that the contemporary powers-that-be in this country can cavalierly dismiss. If Princeton, a small town, could begin, many years ago, an enlightened program to fight segregated schools in its borders, then it certainly has the wealth and intellectual heft today to counter the current direction of the country and stop it before it grows much worse. The key is to engage some of those who have the wealth and position–and still possess the compassion–to join with others to turn the country around. It starts with a small movement but can grow with understanding and a commitment to the constitution’s original intentions for all Americans.
— Libby Zinman Schwartz