man001023. 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/d1z60gg4m
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REDS BY ROOSEVELT FITZGERALD
Back in the old days, when I was just a youngster and youngsters scared up whatever jobs they could in order to make a few bucks, I had a most unusual experience. By today's standards or the standards of the 1930s, it might not be considered unusual. See what you think about it.
The following conversation was overheard in a barber shop on a Saturday morning while I was shining shoes.
"Say mister, can you spare a quarter? I'll pay you back when I'm on my feet again."
"How long you been down and out?"
"About a month and a half. Got laid off over at the sawmill."
"Got anything lined up?"
"Not yet but I'm looking every day but I need to take a little something home for the children."
"How many you got?"
"Three that's with me."
"Where are the others?"
"When my wife left, she took the two little ones."
"I'll pay you back mister."
"Don't worry about it. Just pass it along."
"What do you mean?"
"When you're on your feet and you run across somebody who's on hard times, just remember somebody helped you and you can help them."
"I'll do that. Thanks."
I was fascinated by the exchange. I was pleased to see that one good turn does indeed deserve another. Most reasonable people will agree with that. However,
it would also seem reasonable to me that one bad turn deserves another. Those
were the days when a lot of Americans hated blacks and most Americans, including blacks, hated "reds." And, to top it off, that hatred was acted upon.
I didn't really know what a "red" was but I do know that I hated all of them. Afterall, they were my country's enemy and I was ^ptriotic even though, in those days, I didn't really have a reason to be. You see, I was told that the "reds" hated us and that we were supposed to hate them. I never met a "red" and a "red" never did anything to me but I hated them anyway. I had met many Americans who hated me and who did not keep it a secret but we were not supposed to hate them because they were Americans even though they were white. I didn't understand any of that but I went along with it anyway.
Things do change and sometimes the changes are abrupt and other times they are much more subtle. You remember how in the 1950s, during the "McCarthy Era" and all those Congressional Hearings and charges that there were people in high places in our government and other industries who were "reds?" You remember how the mere act of being accused of being a "red" could cost one a job, position, prestigg?- You remember the "Hollywood Six" and how they were drummed out of the business and how J. Edgar Hoover maintained files on anyone suspected of being a "red"? Suspects included any black person in the U.S. who did not like how he was treated and spoke out about it. There was nothing worse than being a black "red" whether one was indeed a "red" or not. You remember? Well I do.
Now, all of a sudden, there are "reds" all over the place. Their athletic teams come to the U.S. and play against U.S. teams especially in sports that they have not historically been any good at. The Runnin' Rebels will kick-off their basketball season again this year with a game against the touring team from the U.S.S.R. They might not all be Russians but they are "reds." Last year, and I remember it well, when they arrived for the opening game of the basketball season, they were given the "red carpet" treatment. They were in the papers and on television. Seems some wanted to make certain that they
would have a good time and take back a good impression of our city to the U.S.S.R. Great. We're not at each other's throats anymore and maybe the world is a better place for it.
Not too long afterwards, some Soviet scientists came here to observe something or other at the Test Site. NotWthis is a little heavier than basketball. Still, they dribbled into town, stayed at some hotel and had a few days to live it up in the city before they were whisked away to the Test Site and down to business. They were taken everywhere. They saw some shows, visited some discos and niteclubs, restaurants, casinoes, the dam and a few other sights. Well, wonderful. While they were getting the "red carpet" treatment, some of my students at UNLV, who just happen to be black, were being blackballed at one of the very places where all was well for the "reds."
Now the Soviets have sent over a whole mess of them to participate in some actual detonations at several sites around the country. I like that. The one thing that I've fretted over all of my life was the possibility of being disintegrated by an atomic explosion. I supose the reason that this has bothered me is because I believe in integration and not disintegration. In any case, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are now working toward arms control but they have to get used to trusting each other. In the meantime, some of their people are here and verifying and measuring and some of our's are over there doing the same.
I'll never forget when their's arrived here. I think it was back in midJune up in Seattle or maybe it was Denver. No—it was at Travis Air Force Base. At any rate, a huge airplane was there and there were the "reds" who were white being greeted by a group of Americans who were also white. I couldn't tell who were Americans and who were "reds" because they were all white and in civilian dress. There was one black man in a military uniform and he seemed to be the official escort. He made a few remarks and off they went to the several places— in Texas, Idaho, Nevada and a few others.
In the ensuing days and weeks there were reports from those places. You know how it goes. Some reporter asks the man/woman on the street a question.
"How do you feel about having these representatives of the Soviet Union living in your neighborhood?"
"Just fine. They seem like real nice people. Friendly and all--you know."
I thought I would puke. How could they say those thing about "reds"?
"Have the people around here done anything special to make them feel welcome?" "Well, we took over a home made cake and we've had them over for dinner."
Can you believe that?
"What about the neighborhood. Any plans?"
"Why yes. We're going to have an all-American festival with the high school band, the glee club and some of the civic groups are going to put on a real welcoming program."
Gosh darn!! How could they do that to us? Do what, you might ask, and to whom? Well, I'll tell you. Seems its one thing when some "reds" want to move in. Everybody gets happy, trots out the band, sets off fireworks and make speeches. At the same time, in some of those places, when a black moves in it causes some people to get mad, trot out the Klan, set off dynamites and tell us to get our black out before the property values bottoms outs—no pun intended. That happens to some of us in some of those places even though we're Americans and this is America and we've shed our red blood killing "reds" protecting those places that do not want us to set foot in them.
Those "reds" come over to our country and are treated better than us. I don't like that. Sometimes I think I would rather have a nuclear war—those bombs wouldn't discriminate. Other times, I think about sneaking out of this country, going to the U.S.S.R. and then coming here as one of those "reds" but then I remember that f'm black and those "reds'" idea of a black russian is a drink.
Wouldn't it be nice to just go anywhere in this country as a black person and be assurred of being treated as well as a "red"?