While I'm on the subject of race ...
Here is an interesting article in the local paper. You have to register to read it, but it's free. It's about a photographer who took pictures during the famous sanitation workers' strike the week before MLK was assassinated, and who recently ran across his negatives and developed and printed them. I'm going to take out the full names from my post. They're on the newspaper website.
Here's one of the pics.
And here's the photographer's commentary.
One of [X]'s favorites shows a white woman carrying a sign with stenciled lettering: THE NAACP SUPPORTS THE FIGHT FOR DECENCY. You can see the back of an older man, wearing a fedora, looking at the marcher.
In the many hours he considered the photo, repairing it pixel by pixel, [X] constructed his own interpretation of the moment, as he explains to the class.
"To me," he says, his voice Southern and nasal, "(she) has become the symbol of the, you know, Yankees coming down to the South and joining in on the march. And this white guy is the symbol of the South looking down in disdain at the marchers.
"Now, you can interpret it however you want, but in my photographic eye, this is how I took it."
How you can see disdain in the back of someone's head is beyond me. But what's funny is this subsequent letter to the editor:
Subject of civil rights photo recalls 'strange, urgent' era
I am the white woman in [X]'s photo of the 1968 civil rights march (April 3 article, "Emerging views, 1968 / For nearly 40 years, photographer's negatives lay, unprinted, in storage").
I was born in Memphis; I am not a Yankee or an outside agitator. My grandfather, Malcolm Patterson, was governor of Tennessee and my seven-times-great-uncle, John Sevier, was the first governor of Tennessee.
In other words, the man in the fedora who is shown in the photograph is casting a disdainful look at a native.
I worked in the movement for 10 years, during which time I was on the board of directors of the Memphis branch of the NAACP. I chose the streets instead of luncheons where ladies discussed "sensitivity" issues around the subject of race relations.
It was a strange and urgent time. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.
So it's funny, the assumptions we make.