Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


A Gentle Push

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The current backlash against President Barack Obama feels similar to the backlash against President Dwight D Eisenhower during the mid-1950s. The Supreme Court ordered the integration of schools and Eisenhower started with nine black kids at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. History calls those kids the Little Rock Nine.

Arkansas Governor, Orval Eugene Faubus, ordered his national guard to block those kids from entering the schools, and for that he was considered a hero because he stood up for “true American values.” He was even named Man of the Year in various US periodicals. Back then, it didn’t matter that you had a social security number or served in your country’s military—the only “true” Americans were white.

The majority of the white population of Little Rock came out to support Governor Faubus. When those nine kids showed up for school, the mob yelled slogans like “Integration is communism” and “Go back to Africa,” along with an assortment of colorfully mean-spirited racial slurs.

They decided to go into the school and lynch one of the nine to make the others fear for their lives and give up. (The lynching of colored people wasn’t legal, but it was tolerated by law enforcement personnel.) Fortunately local police opted to get the kids out of the situation. Later, President Eisenhower ordered the military to escort the kids back into the school—and the rest is history to be discovered.

Today we see similar mob-sanctioned intolerance in the Tea Party rallies. Tea Partiers claim that universal health care is socialism. They accuse Obama of being a Muslim—as if something’s wrong with that. They imply that Hawaii is not one of the fifty states anymore. (Well, we all saw what happened to Pluto for being too small and too far away.)

Meanwhile, gun sales and armed militias of “Christian” white supremacists are up drastically since the president took office.

When I sit here in Canada and look at the US, I understand why many people don’t like my country. It’s a bit restless down there!

Race and power always appear to supersede common sense and human decency. Far too many people are unwilling to think for themselves. Let’s change this script.

A festival is coming in June that’s dedicated to the celebration of what we all have in common. Jazz music is equal parts many cultures while simultaneously taking on the voice of the individual performer.

I urge you to make jazz festival week World Tolerance Week. Check out one music style that you normally don’t listen to. You may or may not care for the sounds but it’s a gentle way to push back against the plague of intolerance that history seems to have scripted into our lives. Instead of emphasizing white, black, red, or yellow, we can emphasize being humans together. I hope to see you there!

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