Comedian Louis C.K. does a routine about growing up in the 1970s, a decade he describes as “very racist.” C.K. claims that anyone who grew up during that period is by definition racist to some extent, and the best that one can hope for is to have only “mild racism.”
I’m not sure which 1970s Mr. C.K. is talking about. He and I are separated in age by only one year. I too grew up in the ’70s, and my memories are of a time that, at least to a child, seemed truly “post-racial.” The evils and excesses of the days of segregation and lynchings had been countered by the social movements of the late ’60s and early ’70s—the “black power” and “black is beautiful” years, the “Chicano movement” years—and now we were “even,” and we could just hug it out and get on with life in the beautiful rainbow pudding pop that is this great nation.
During my elementary school years in the L.A. Unified School District, textbooks were riddled with gentle “anti-prejudice” messages…stuff about how Cindy made friends with Latrelle and Ernesto, and the three of them put their fears and biases aside and had a great day at play. Cindy might come from a home with manicured lawns, Latrelle might come from “the wrong side of the tracks,” and Ernesto might hail from the land of beans and burros, but deep down, we’re all the same! The L.A. school board learned a hard lesson in 1979 about just how far you could, or couldn’t, push white parents, when its lunatic mandatory school busing and “racial reassignment” plan was shut down at the ballot box after voters passed a state constitutional amendment that ended such idiotic schemes for good (in Cali, at least).