man001017. 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/d1qn62r97
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ANTI-SEMITISM/RACISM: IS EITHER ACCEPTABLE?
BY ROOSEVELT FITZGERALD
We have seen and read quite a lot concerning the "Nazi War Room" at the Imperial Palace. Almost to the point of exclusivity, its presence has been discussed in relationship to the Nazi impact on Jews in the course of World War IT.
One thing we do not wish to overlook is the fact that Hitler believed in a "master race." His Aryan supremacy notion placed everyone on this planet, who did not measure up to his idea of what a human being ought to be, at risk. We remember the importance of the Berlin Olympics of 1936 and the impact and importance of Jesse Owens feats in those Olympics. There, in Berlin, in what Hitler considered the capital city of a superior race of people, Jesse Owens trampled Hitler's fallacy into the dust.
Many dynamics must come into play when we examine all elements of this scenario. There is the collection itself which is at the heart of the matter, the owner of the collection, the perception of the collection by others including Jews and gentiles both pro and con, the impact of the presence of the collection on the public's perception of the Imperial Palace and the larger effects on a national and international public's perception of Las Vegas.
Why are we surprised, if indeed we are, by the revelations of the cache at the Imperial Palace? The climate for such was put into place in this community a long time ago. The climate is simply one of intolerance— intolerance which was condoned by the masses because it had no direct negative effects of them. I am speaking specifically of the introduction of discriminatory hiring practices by the Six Companies at the very beginning of the construction of the Hoover Dam in the early 1930s. The Contract itself prohibited anyone of the "Mongolian race" from being hired on the project and blacks and Indians were not hired until mid-way through 1932—two and a
half years after the project was underway—and even then there were only a handful of each.
The following decade brought even more discrimination. There were housing restrictions which helped create an all-black community and by 1947 blacks were denied entry into the hotels and casinoes of downtown, the developing Strip and elsewhere. Additionally, they were not hired to any of the "front-of-the-house" jobs in that developing industry. Few civic and or social organization other than black groups protested those developments because they did not enfringe upon others' rights nor did they diminish others' quality of life. It was in that environment and during those circumstances that a segregated community developed here in Las Vegas, Nevada and the business community not only let it happen, they played a part in causing it to happen.
The 1950s brought the great growth period of the hotel industry. For the entirety of that decade, blacks found themselves living in the entertainment capital of the world and not being entertained. They could windowshop but they could not enter any of those bastions of bigotry and there was no apparent community concern about negative images being transmitted to the remainder of the nation or the world. After all, I suppose one might have said, it only hurts blacks and who cares about black people anyway? Apparently very few.
When blacks were finally allowed to enter those establishments in March of 1960, it did not really have as great an impact as one might imagine. Many local black people could not really afford to frequent those places. It was a matter of simple economics. They were still restricted to "back-of-the-house" jobs and those jobs paid the least amount of any job categories in the hotel industry. It would take another eleven years before a Concent Decree would be issued compelling the hotels to hire black employees in the many other job
-3- categories that paid liveable wages.
This is important, I believe, in regards to the present bruhaha at the Imperial Palace. No one but the owner of the collection knows for sure what his intent was/is in having the collection of Nazi memorabilia. Many are upset and there have even been some protestors marching in front of the hotel during the past week. The owner has apologized for the collection, the parties and the bumper stickers which read; "Hitler Was Right." He has gone on to say that he despises Hitler and all that he stood for and that his having those parties was not only insensitive but stupid. His intent, he said, was at humor and that he regrets having offended anyone.
A group from the University of North Dakato visited the Imperial Palace and gave their stamp of approval following a few hours of walking through the place and looking at the artifacts. We don't know if their analysis was influenced by their university having received a $5 million contribution from the owner or not. We do know that there are yet many who are not satisfied with explanations given and have vowed never to "set foot in the Imperial Palace again." We also know that the national news have picked up the item and at least one reporter on CNN's Headline News, when reporting on the matter, had something of a smirk on his face. Whether we like it or not or whether we admit it or not, something terrible has happened to our city s image and we all must do something about it because we all stand to lose as a result of it. Do no delude yourself, this is not just a "white guy's" problem. Can you imagine what would happen if even five percent of the tourist who ordinarily visits here suddenly stopped coming? I can. Industry taxes would fall. With that decline, there would be layoffs. With those layoffs there would be less taxes from other sources along with a decrease in the flow of the amount of cash money this economy is accustomed to. Who would feel the first pinch? You guessed it—us. We always feel the first pinch whenever there are pinches
to be had.
What we have here is the unthinking actions of an insensitive person that we do not even know, causing dark clouds to form over our already shakey economic condition.
So he says he didn't mean any harm. That it was intended only as a joke. That he planned to open a museum. Who knows? There's one way that he could possibly get the heat off his back but, somehow, I don't think he has done what he needed or should have done to be able to do so. Can you imagine the difference it would make to the perception of both he and his Imperial Palace Hotel if he were able to show, from that long list of loyal and supportive employees, a substantial number of jewish and black employees? How could a man who has on his payrool, in key positions, employees of those two groups especially, be considered to be anti-Semitic or racist? He couldn't. If he has abided by the terms of the Concent Decree of 1971 not only to the letter of the Decree but also the spirit of the Decree, he could walk away from this almost smelling like a rose. The big question is; "Has he followed the dictates of the Decree?" Ask him that.
While you're asking, ask the other hotels if they have and see how they measure up. This is important. Surprises of surprises—there are many people all over the world who insist on believing that the "mob" controls this town but yet they come here. There are some people, like the governor of Colorado, who believes that two out of every three women in Las Vegas are hookers but yet they come here. There are some people back in New York, like the Mayor of the Big Apple, who believe that all the criminals in the country ought to be sent to this barren wasteland and yet they come here. There are people who believe that this town gets as hot as hell in the summer and we know it to be true and still they come here. There are people who have never won anything on any trip to any casino in all the years that they've come here but still they come here. Now this. One
can only conclude that there has been some bit of a change in the racial attitudes or the level or racial consciousness or the degree of intolerance of intolerance among Americans or that the media is making more out of this than there really is. I don't know. I do know this, however, that the time to strike is while the iron is hot. It seems to me that there's no better time for us to ask the question; "How about us?" than now.
Some will call it jumping on the bandwagon. What do we care what they call it? When I looked at those two pages of names of loyal, supportive employees at the Imperial Palace, I didn't recognize a single name. I'm sure there had to have been some black people listed there. Perhaps you recognized some. How many? How many of the total number? What's the percentage? If the hotel and its owner hasn't been discriminating against us neither will be offended at this little exercise. If they have been discriminating, I don't care if they
are offended and if you do, there's something wrong with you.