Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Stephen King says that our souls are light years ahead of our minds. I think this is what I was trying to say about Glesnal, my parents, and racism yesterday. They knew down deep what was right and what was wrong, but our brains operate on software that lags behind.

Recently I am struck by the dichotomy of “tolerance/intolerance”. What is the world to do about these words? We have the whole right/left thing; we got Muslims and Christians and Jews; Pro life and Pro Choice; AFC vs. NFC and Sprint vs,. AT&T. Everybody seems lined up for the game of the Millennium; I have my son, 16, that wants to do everything that I did in my youth. Where do I draw the line and what should I tolerate?

Sidney Portier stars in three of my favorite movies from the Sixties. There is "To Sir with Love" and "Lillies of the Field" which has a great gospel song that my friends and I used to sing as we came home from school and I would love to see again. I had the recent pleasure of seeing 'A Patch of Blue " again.
In the Movie, Portier befriends a blind white girl in the park. They become fast friends, and he is the only soul in the Movie that shows her any kindness. Portier talks to her and teaches her and helps her to string her beads that she sells, and generally becomes the best, and possibly only friend she has ever had. Her mother, played by Shelley Winters, is abusive. Of course, being blind, she does not know Portier is black.
As she and Portier walk through the park one day, two older white women give them the "hairy eyeball", muttering to themselves with an air of disdain.
The girl is saying that she thinks “friend” must be the best word in the world and asks Portier what his favorite word is.
He glances back to the two old ladies and says “Tolerance”.
The girl asks what it means and he tells her that it means you don’t think badly of those who think differently from yourself.
The girl says “Oh, you must be very tolerant”.
Portier is such a great actor and his next line almost gets lost.
He says “ME? No, I am not tolerant at all” as he glances to the ladies again.

This has been on my mind. Griz, do you remeber this ?
This is better software than what Glesnal had available.
Lets take a closer look at todays software,shall we?

My humorous anecdote for the day;
I was born in Texas and moved to Detroit when I was 6 years old. after my first week in the first Grade, the school Principal called my mother on the phone and asked if there was "Anything that could be done to keep Steve from talking like a little black boy".


Anonymous said...

You always manage to amaze me......this was as beautiful as yesterday's post..........I can't wait to read what else you've been hiding in that brain of yours!!

Barbara said...

Today's school principal might likely be black himself. In any event, he wouldn't dare ask such a question! What did your mother say?

Mother of Invention said...

Holy Moley! can you imagine any teacher saying that today?

Thanks for the tip...I have never seen that movie but I think I'll have to go rent that one. Makes you think the whole world would get along better were we all blind.

Sidney Poitier is the best..way ahead of his time. Great voice.

steve said...

At the time, my parents took no offence, they just thought it was funny...there was no outrage like there would be today... the joke was more on the principal, who seemed oblivious to the fact you could take a 6 year old of any ethnicity or gender in the south and not be able to tell from their speech, the white from the black from the yellow, red, green, or blue one!!!
I still think it is funny... and that makes me wonder about my 'software". Should I feel some outrage? Has this made me less sensitive than I should be? Anyone?

soubriquet said...

I remember a friend from college, he was from Barbados, and he spoke a sometimes unintelligible, but always musical patois. During the vacation, he was passing through my hometown, so I gave him the phone number.
One evening then, the phone rang, i saw my mother's brow furrow in puzzlement as she tried to understand the caller. she passed it to my father, who after a while passed it to me. "It's some negro person who says he's a friend of yours." luckily, he had a finger on the mute button. I glared at him.
But the N word was once just descriptive, and not seen as offensive by those who used it.
Anyway, they confirmed they were happy to offer a bed to my friend.
The best part of it is....... He's white. Their faces when he turned up.....
It was an interesting lesson in the assumptions we make when we hear a person speak.
My friend teaches; in her class, a mother from Trinidad came to her to complain she didn't want her son sitting next to a 'dirty Jamaican'.
What, I wonder, is wrong with you speaking like a little black boy?
Glesnal. That interests me, I've never heard of a Glesnal. Do you know any others? is it a family name, where is it from? I really really do want to know.
I can't remember Patch of Blue, but To Sir With Love is a great movie.

Annelisa said...

Yeah, I remember To Sir With Love - found it really moving and thought-provoking when I watched it. Even today, when I hear a teacher say something like ' oh, there's no point in teaching them this... they won't remember it' or suchlike, I get really annoyed (I'm not very tolerant of intolerance either... )

I've never seen Lillies of the Field, nor A patch of Blue... but it sounds like I might have missed something. I shall have to see if I can get it on rental.

Great post, Steve!

Btw - sounds like you're a thoughful person, and you will, no doubt, have enough savvy to know what each situation's limits are. If you make too many boundaries, it seems kids will always push them that bit further. Better to be the one they'd like to eminate, I think (even if it's only 'eventually'...)

Old Lady said...

All these ladies reflect my thoughts. I love your stories.

Mother of Invention said...

I don't think it makes you any less sensitive at all...if anything it'd make you more accepting as this was just a given...natural for you to speak like that so you wouldn't think it was unusual at all.
I'd imagine it wouldn't matter to you what a person looked like or what class they were.

GrizzBabe said...

Steve, I remember you telling me about the movie "A Patch of Blue" but I have never seen it. I must put it on my Netflix list.

That is a very funny story about your principal.

That reminds me of the time I just so happen to be listening to Dr. James Dobson on the radio. He was going to replay a "sermon" of a female minister speaking to a group of women. He prefaced the sermon by warning the listeners that the woman they are about to hear is black and speaks with an urban accent (although she spoke perfect English) but don't let that turn them off from what she had to say. It was sad that he felt the need to say that.

Mother of Invention said...

HEy, Steve..over at RDG's, I was just thinking that picture of the road to the horizon looked like Bruce Cockburn's old album cover of the train going off in the distance...then I read your comment ....freaky in synch!

steve said...

Yes, and the poem made me think of "Silver Wheels"....must have 2 stanzas, shall we?

High speed drift on a prairie road
Hot tires sing like a string being bowed
Sudden town rears up then explodes
Fragments resolve into white line code
Whirl on silver wheels

Black earth energy receptor fields
Undulate under a grey cloud shield
We outrun a river colour brick red mud
That cleaves apart hills soil rich as blood
Whirl on, silver wheels...

steve said...

And souby:

You were absolutely correct about Glesnal, my aunt, and the obscurity of her name. I had no idea just how obscure it is... lets just say if you google it, you get 7 hits- 1 being me, 3 being the cemetery she is buried in and the other two are PDF files that I have no idea what the hell they are about, unlessd I can figure out what a Great Glesnal Seal of Utah is.
so I am on a great mission, and will follow it up with a future post... Good Job Souby!!!

Oh, cool story,on your post, i'd comment further but I would not know where to start...i can see why you liked my 'crazy Church lady " story, but you are light years ahead of me, and that story, my friend, happened exactly as I described... no one believes me but I have no talent for fiction.

19 January 2007 19:18