I recieved an A+ on this final paper too. I don’t think I would have posted them if I got anything less. Let me know what you think.
I moved with my mother and two sisters to O’Neill, Nebraska in 1965 from South Dakota. This is where I spent the next 14 years. These were important years because beginning as a child and eventually reaching adulthood many of my views of the outside world were being formulated. Later, after I left O’Neill those views would drastically change. These views began the transition to being more liberal when I left for Mount Marty College, a private Roman Catholic institution in Yankton, South Dakota. A few years before I went to Mount Marty College, they began allowing boys to attend. From college I ended up in Omaha, Nebraska, later moving to Phoenix, Arizona. Nebraska is a very conservative state and O’Neill was no different. I have now come to the conclusion that O’Neill, Omaha and Nebraska overall are bigoted, racist, and intolerant towards anyone who is not Caucasian. Phoenix is more accepting though it too has problems towards Afro-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos. Culturally America is changing, but the communities I came from are many years behind.
O’Neill, Nebraska when I lived there had a population around 3,500 hundred people. O’Neill is a farm and ranching community. This small town never tolerated other races. I remember a local church bringing a black family to town only to have them leave two weeks later because of prejudices and ongoing harassment within a day of arriving. The racial makeup of the city is “98.5% white and all other races combined is 1.5%.” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000) The Latino population has grown but is under counted because of the high number of illegal immigrants. Hispanics have come to this area to work in the local ethanol plant and potato plant.
O’Neill was considered the Irish Capital of Nebraska and has an annual celebration proclaiming it so. During one of these festivals I experienced the racism that was prevalent in my community. I brought some black friends home from college with me for a weekend of celebrating St. Pat’s Day. We were immediately confronted by racisim by my own family and throughout the rest of the very short time we were there. I still remember how excited these friends were when they saw a “brother” as they referred to him in O’Neill. I saw the camaraderie of this group just because of their race.
The O’Neill community will now tolerate legal and illegal Hispanics and Latinos because there is a need for cheap labor. White O’Neill residents appear to not be concerned with how many different groups make up the Hispanic community. In the United States,
“1.2 million of 2.5 million wage earning farm workers live here illegally, according to a
study by Philip L. Martin, a professor at the University of California at Davis who studies
immigration and farm labor. That is a whole lot of cheap labor.”(Schaefer, 2006)
Many of the small communities that surrounded O’Neill hold the same conservative, exploitive views. The Hispanic community sticks to there on community and does try to maintain some semblance of their culture.
O’Neill was relatively close to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Holt County could have cared less about sovereignty. There were often stories of trouble between Native Americans and Nebraska ranchers. I learned to appreciate the spirituality of the Native American, especially the Lakota. My radicalization and my contempt for the close-mindedness and intolerance began to grow for my community in the spring of 1973 as I witnessed firsthand farmers and ranchers openly carrying their guns in hope of having a meeting with the “Redman.” This was brought about by the confrontation at Wounded Knee where hundreds of people gathered to end the murders and beating s of local Native Americans by the authorities. This was a very exciting time in American history fueled by Vietnam anti-war sentiment and the Black movement in America.
“In the first instance since the Civil War that the U.S. Army had been dispatched in a
domestic operation, the Pentagon invaded Wounded Knee with 17 armored personnel carriers,
130,000 rounds of M-16 ammunition, 41,000 rounds of M-1 ammunition, 24,000 flares, 12
M-79 grenade launchers, 600 cases of C-S gas, 100 rounds of M-40 explosives, helicopters,
phantom jets, and personnel, all under the direction of [top Nixon aide] General Alexander
Haig.”(Revolutionary Worker, 1998)
Seeing this happening around me set in motion me leaving O’Neill and moving to Omaha, Nebraska.
I found in Omaha the same contempt and prejudices I experienced in O’Neill. I accepted I was a gay man back in O’Neill which strongly influenced me leaving and completely “coming out of the closet” in Omaha. Black and Hispanics were regimented to living in poorer sections of the Omaha and subjected to obvious prejudices. Bilingual education is not unheard of but limited. The Black community always was fighting back but never has realized total assimilation. On July 24, 1969 the last major race riot occurred though much has not changed. The second longest serving and only black Nebraskan serving the state legislature is Ernie Chambers. He just ended his service by an obvious move to replace this powerful Black man with a vote by the citizens for term limits. “Some called Chambers the “second house” of Nebraska’s unique one-house Legislature. He often served as a one-man check-and-balance system to stop, slow or modify legislation supported by others in the 49-member body.”(Reed, 2008) He was too powerful and unwilling to accept racism for white Nebraska to appreciate.
Being gay in Omaha is subjecting oneself to dangerous intolerance by a very bigoted community. I left Omaha for Phoenix, Arizona where I currently live.
Phoenix is much more tolerant than any community I have been a part of. I am open about myself and the relationship I have been in for 26 years. Phoenix is also a much more diverse city. The U.S. census figures contain huge margins of error but do show the majority of residence as white, the next largest group is Hispanic or Latino with Blacks being the third largest group. I do not see the racism against Blacks in Phoenix as I did in Nebraska. The Hispanic community is considered to be the reason for violent crimes in Arizona. I believe that to be nothing more than a stereotype. The sheriff of Maricopa County which Phoenix is a part of is often shown as a racist officer targeting Hispanics. His recent attempts to curb illegal immigration by arresting anyone with brown skin prove this out.
Phoenix is more of a melting pot of race than the surrounding communities. The media reflects the community I see every day but Black culture appears to be nonexistent. I wanted to find out if what I saw as race in Phoenix matches that of someone from a different race. I interviewed Tarvis H., a black man who has lived in Phoenix many years. Tarvis is active in his community, especially his church, married to a Caucasian, and has one small boy with a little girl on the way. He was very willing to sit down with me to discuss race relations in Phoenix.
The first question I asked of Tarvis was does he look like others in his community; I was told that was a racist question. I mentioned my mother once saying Muhammad Ali was handsome for a Black man, Tarvis told me that was even more racist. I was curious if Tarvis had a problem with the gay community comparing their desire for acceptance to the black man. He did not see why it would not be similar but did say, “One thing gay people do not have to deal with is being treated differently just because of the color of their skin.”(L. Buzeyn, Personal communication, June 19, 2008)
Tarvis thought the Phoenix community itself was accepting of different races. When I asked if he thought blacks were treated better then the larger Hispanic community, he felt it was about the same. This surprised me because I have heard and seen more derogatory things about the Hispanics than Afro-Americans while living in Phoenix. Tarvis said the local community has been very good at having diversity. Any local news channel has a fair representation of all races in Phoenix.
I wanted to know from Tarvis what he thought were stereotypes the white community gave to Black people and if any were had any truth in them. He thought whites felt Black people always are, “Involved in drugs and crime, are lazy and on welfare, and most Black women are prostitutes. (L. Buzeyn, Personal correspondence, June19, 2008) I told Tarvis that was rather harsh and racist; he agreed but felt it was a stereotype that still lingers. I seemed to be more upset with those that use the “N” word than Tarvis is.
Tarvis did mention there is very little representation in all levels of government for the Afro-American in Phoenix or Arizona. He feels the Hispanic is doing better as a minority representation and thought gays were doing good too. I agreed with Tarvis about gays. I asked Tarvis what could be done differently for his community. Tarvis said, “If the Black man is being the respectable, there is no reason to treat him different, just don’t treat me unequally.”(L. Buzeyn, Personal correspondence, June 19, 2008) Tarvis ended the interview smiling, saying he wished there were more jazz clubs.
I have concluded from being born in the 50s, growing up in the 60s and 70s, and as an adult I think America is a good country but still could be better. I have high hopes of seeing a president of the United States other than white and younger than me. There are too many small communities like O’Neill left and cities like Omaha that have a long way to go to reach equality, for everyone. I find it refreshing to see cities like Phoenix recognizing the need for tolerance and diversity. Arizona, itself still has those communities like O’Neill, Nebraska. America knows what it needs to done to reach equality for all races and people but still has those that continue to fight diligently against it.
Reed, 2008, April 20 Ernie chambers: fiery loner leaves imprint on nebraska. Retrieved June 22,
2008, from Omaha World-Herald Web site:
Revolutionary Worker, (1998, April). The armed occupation of wounded knee 1973. Retrieved
June 23, 2008, from Revolutionary Worker Online Web site: http://rwor.org
Schaefer, R. (Ed.). Dean Murphy. (2006). Imagining Life Without Illegal Immigrants. In
Immigration and the United States (Racial and Ethnic Groups, 10th ed., Ch. 4 pg. 106).
U.S. Census bureau, (2006). American fact finder. Retrieved June 29, 2008, from U.S. Census
Bureau Web site: http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en