man001010. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1mw2cv4v
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MICKEY THE RAT BY ROOSEVELT FITZGERALD
A few days ago I read the most Interesting article in the newspapers. It had to do with Mickey Mouse inviting 4000 underprivileged children over to his place at Disney World tn central Florida. Big deal. I remember when Mickey was just a rat. That was back in the early days when rats like him did things the "old fashioned way"—they discriminated.
For those of you too young to remember or those of you who are so old that you've forgotten, let me inform you or jar your memories.
During television's "golden age" there were many programs aired which never showed a face like mine unless it was to poke fun at or to ridicule. Many of those programs have gone into syndication and can be viewed on the cable television channels on a daily basis, twenty-four hours per day. Shows like "The Show of Shows," "Car 54," "Bacheolor Father,! "I love Lucy," "Father Knows Best," "My Little Margie," "Leave It To Beaver," "My Three Sons" and, that all-time favorite of the kiddies— "The Mickey Mouse Club."
Television was. a brand new industry but it manifested the same old standards of prejudice and discrimination. At a time when many others, mostly unknowns, were both making names for themselves and making a lot of money, people, especially children, with faces like my own, were aced out. Yet, we were expected to and were part of the vast new television viewing audiences of America.
How many times did you rush home or to a friend's hours if you did not. have a television at home and if neither of you did, how many times did you rush up the street to the department store which kept a television on in the showcase window, sit on the sidewalk and watch Annette, Bobby, Mary Sally and all the rest of the members of the Mickey Mouse Club come out and do a bit of dancing, singing, running and playing and then off to some
wonderful adventure? Often I'd bet.
How many times that you followed that procedure did you see anyone with a face like mine on that show? I don't recall a single time. How many times did we sit in front of the set and watch others have a lot of fun doing things that we could not even dream of ever being allowed to do? How often were we made to feel like a bunch of outsiders who were not even thought of in the great new technological developments of the day. It was difficult enough watching the Beaver and his friends laughfng and living a life almost totally devoid of any real concerns. A plagued the heck out of me when I saw the fine homes, neighborhoods, schools and libraries that they had at their disposal. Even at that, I did not find myself being truly tormented because what such programs as those presented was merely a reflection of reality. What thay showed us on those small screens in black and white was that there was no room for any "coloreds" in this new technology just as there was no room for them in reality.
The Beaver nor any of the rest of them didn't wish to have anything to do with people with faces like my own in reality so there was no reason to expect or wish that they would be any different in the world created by television.
I didn't like it but I could live with it. I had to live with it. We all did. The constant devaluing and debasement we suffered by virtue of the presence of those absences and the absences of those presences took a toll on our young lives and our egos. We were made to feel bad about ourselves and there was absolutely nothing that anybody chose to do about it. Perhaps we got a bit stronger as a result of those days/years of tribulations but who needs the aggravation?
They didn't call it by its proper name but what was happening to us
was what is now commonly referred to as child abuse. We got abused and we
did the only things about it that we, as children, could do; we got used to it or we got over it.
There was absolutely no reason to expect that those good people in those good neighborhoods in those good towns would want to have anything to do with us under any circumstances. Actually, I remember wondering if Mr. Cleaver might be a member of the Klan. A;ter all, in the world of reality, upstanding men like him often participated in the activities of the Klan and did so with gusto. It wan not beyond belief to recognize that a man such as Mr. Cleaver could have a nice home, a nice family, a nice car, a nice neighborhood, and crack jokes, laugh, go to church, help his children with their homework, teach them the "right" values, and morals, be an ex-army hero and still be a mean, no-good, low-down, dirty, yellow- bellied sap-sucking member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Natchez, Mississippi was filled with such individuals and that town did not have any monopoly On having such people. They could be found throughout America.
Sixty years ago Mickey Mouse was born. Sixty years ago was 1928 and 1928 was the eve of the beginning of the era of the great depression which started in October of the following year and lasted for the next ten years according to some history books which we might read. According to some people we might talk to, however, the depression started for some of us long before 1928 and continued long after the war. As a matter of fact, it has not ended yet for a large number of black people in this country. For numbers that the statiticians would much rather forget, the depression has been an on-going phenomenon.
During those ten years of the "official" depression and the first ten years of the life of Mickey Mouse, most black people did not eat as well as uptown rats. By the time the depression ended, World War II had begun and
Mickey spent time heljing generate feelings of patriotism throughout the country. The country needed all of the patriotism it could find and Mickey did not let it down.
Mickey, however, did not seem to be sensitive to the racial climate which existed in the United States at the time. Actually, if he had been insensitive to that condition it would have been better than having had him aware of it and consciously deciding to shut his eyes to the sufferings of so many of . his "fellow Americans" with faces like my ownH
There seem to be something peverse in the animal kingdom as defined by Hollywood and that perversity is expanding itself even into the outer reaches of space with such characters as E.T. Hollywood does not seem to want to allow any of those creatures to care about us.
Sure, people don't like us. Well, a lot of people are stupid. In the animal kingdom, however, we get a golden opportunity to examine just how this business of racism operates and generates and regenerates itself. It is taught. Those who are that way teach it to their children because children are not born racist. Those same people, with their refined teaching techniques, have taught the animals to look down on us. Who ever heard of an animal that was color conscious. We see brown dogs and black dogs and white dogs and yellow dogs running around together, being together and they are not the worse for wear for it. People--now that's a horse of another color. Still we live with it and somehow manage to go on in spite of it.
Micky Mouse. My pal. I never knew that when they used to sing that song that had the lyrics; "See you real soon" that they were talking about all these many years.
Sure its Micky's birthday but I'm not wishing him a happy one. To me Micky Mouse has always been a rat who seem to have forgotten that he is black