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September 2015 & thereafter  

Responses to Mark Satin's SNCC 1965 Short Story

… and comments on its relevance for today


The story can be found HERE.

If you would like to add to this dialogue (or "multilogue") on Satin's story,  please do!  Just send your comments to msatin (at) mindspring (dot) com.  Please include your name, city, and vocation or avocation.  Your comments will appear within five days. They may be edited for clarity and length.


Eye on Chandler

Thanks for sharing your short story.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I think your “Chandler” character is the kind of segregationist I was referring to in State of Siege, a program on American Public Radio two years ago: a white supremacist who in many ways is more dangerous than your “C. J.” character because he’s intelligent and analytical.

Men like Chandler are the fathers of right-wing, Tea Party conservatism that has dominated southern politics since the early 1970s.

Robert Luckett
Associate Professor, Department of History and Philosophy
Director, Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African-American Experience
Jackson State University
Jackson, Mississippi

Robert: I suspect Chandler speaks for more people than that. – M.


Human, All Too Human

Thanks for the story. You reveal the humanity in all the players without excusing or avoiding the devils stoking in their hearts and minds.

Jeremy Berg
Publisher, Lorian Press
Spiritual teacher, Lorian Association
Camano Island, Washington


The Way It Might Have Been

This is a moving and insightful memoir that deserves publication in a major national magazine, like The Atlantic.

It brings to the fore the difficult question: what exactly could idealistic Northern whites have done to advance racial justice in the deep South in the 1960s?

I grew up in a Southern Illinois small town, talked with a recognizable Mid-South accent, hitchhiked through the South in the Fifties, and knew something of the white Southerner’s cultural attitudes, ranging from paternalistic Christian concern for blacks to murderous attacks. I was certainly aware of the white Southerner’s dedication to the “Lost Cause”, and their resentment at “the damn Yankees coming down here telling us how to live.”

Even then, I could have said that sending scrufty, long haired Marxist kids down to the South to mobilize Negroes against their white masters would not lead to good results.

A (possibly) better plan would have been be to send clean, well groomed, short haired Bible-bearing Baptists down to dialogue with white Protestant ministers and editors. But that is purely speculative, and it certainly wouldn’t have satisfied the pot smoking long haired Marxist SNCC types trying to persuade ever more people to revolt against capitalist oppression.

Back then, I recall saying “the crucial moment for racial progress will be when a 6’6” 280 pound 18 year old walks into Bear Bryant’s office at Tuscaloosa and says, ‘Mr. Bryant, suh, I love Alabammy and I hope y’all will give me a chance to help y’all’s team give a good whuppin’ to them mizuble dawgs from Georgia.’”  

Happily racism – never fully eradicable – has significantly receded, and that is one of the great stories of the past 50 years.

Thanks, Mark, for this moving insight, and for much more.

John McClaughry
Former Senior White House Policy Advisor to President Reagan
Former member, Vermont Legislature

Kirby, Vermont


You’ll Get Yours

Thanks for this.  Very courageous and thought-provoking.  Bet some of your lefty readers aren’t too happy with it!

John A. Graham
Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer
Co-founder, Giraffe Heroes Project
Langley, Washington


A Lesson for Israelis – and for Everyone

I found your story riveting.

I don't think that we in Israel can learn all that much from it, as the American South you depict so much reflects that time and place. There are points of resemblance, but more that show the difference.

I guess the only lesson for us (indeed for anybody) is that issues of integration are more complicated than we like to admit.

There can be no doubt that the "liberals" (many of them Jews in South Africa as well as the American South) knew the black population less intimately than the Boers and the rednecks. Possibly this will turn out to be true of the Israeli settlers, as well.

We shouldn't be too hard on the do-gooders though. Many of them have genuine good will.

Daniel Gavron
Former journalist, Ha’aretz and other periodicals
Author, Holy Land Mosaic: Stories of Cooperation and Coexistence Between Israelis and Palestinians (2007)
Motza (near Jerusalem), Israel


There from the Start

I met Mark Satin 30 years ago, while he was editing New Options newsletter in Washington D.C.  I think the best work he’s done is on the “Radical Middle” website, and I thank you for carrying his short story there.

It brings back so many memories of sitting with him in his semi-dark offices, talking with him about what he was finding in D.C. and in his activist past and within himself, how clueless he had been for many years, how blind, as he failed to see where the strength was and what was really worth defending and keeping.  He’s a rare soul, a light where little of it shines.  He is totally honest and totally committed.  He is a treasure.

PMH Atwater
Former freelance journalist
Author, Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story (2011)
Charlottesville, Virginia


The “S,” “Y,” and “R” Words

Sophisticated, yuppie racism.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

Big Bill Haywood
Brooklyn, New York


So Often, We Reach for Images Rather Than Each Other

I just finished your short story and loved it.  It’s always refreshing to read the truth of a situation.

What I most appreciated is that all the characters come across as real people, with all the complexity of motives that entails, and not as stand-ins for stereotyped ideas and images.  I might not like them, but I could appreciate them as individuals.

My experiences are nothing like yours, but traveling about the New Age circuit in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, I encountered similar disconnects between the ideals (or the projected images) and the way people actually are.

Too often people would reach for or proclaim a level of spiritual perfection while denying or even preventing any effective work at the level of the personality.  In the name of oneness and love, people could be very disrespectful and even antagonistic towards the uniqueness and value of the individual person.

Ideals are wonderful, but not so much when they prevent us from seeing and respecting who we actually are.

The sad thing for me was that all too often the real person was more interesting and valuable than the image of the ideal person with which they struggled and which they sought to embody at a cost to their own authenticity.

David Spangler
Spiritual teacher and author
Former co-director, Findhorn Foundation community
Seattle, Washington


Now … and Then

This is a wonderful piece, with a wonderful conclusion.  Reading it makes me wonder whether the modern roots of today’s horrendous racial stuff can’t be traced right back to 1965. 

Quick story:  last week I was driving on a main thoroughfare here in Santa Fe.  Stopped at a light and glanced briefly to my left.  A young black fellow was in the car next to me and gave me “the finger.”  I innocently rolled my window down (a mistake), shrugged my shoulders and said out loud, “Why?”  And his response was, “Because you were looking at me.”

We drove off.  But what a sign of the times.

David Langer
The Langers & Company: Creative Services
Santa Fe, New Mexico

David: Black scholar John McWhorter does trace it back to the mid- and late Sixties, to a phenomenon he calls “therapeutic alienation.”  See our review of his book Winning the Race HERE.


We Had It Coming

Your short story has the absolute ring of truth to it.  Enough of my friends did what you did for me to recognize the “buried history” there.

I very much enjoyed the parallels between you and your father and Shep and his father (the “deputy”).  Did you even know you were doing that?

I remember a civil rights march in which we were all singing the song “Oh Freedom” [“No more shooting,” “No more George Wallace,” etc.] and then a young black woman started singing the phrase, "No more white liberals."  We had it coming!

Harvey T. Lyon
Octogenerian, retired
Father of a prominent female civil rights attorney
Chicago, Illinois, and Santa Rosa, California


The truth-telling we need

I have just read your short story about the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.  It is terrific.  I will refer to it in a book I'm now writing.

I have always been impressed by your truth telling.  Here you've done it again in a very important way.

This spring a Boston Globe reporter won a Pulitzer Prize because of her truth telling regarding the Boston forced-busing crisis of the 1970s.  To me her articles showed that busing did a lot of damage to many blacks and whites, while helping some blacks

It was good to see her story.  I was nearly ostracized as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) circa 1968 when I tried – once and only once – to argue that forced busing was highly likely to do a lot of damage in big cities, starting with whites moving to the suburbs and eroding the big-city taxpayer base.
Around the same time that the Globe was publishing its articles, the HGSE bulletin focused on the issue. Unlike the Globe, the bulletin was almost entirely devoted to pieces claiming the continuing racism of the USA and condemning the Supreme Court for not backing forced busing to the suburbs.  It is very sad that to this day, some of the racial-justice advocates cannot see what a complicated mixed bag the forced-busing movement was in its thought, implementation, and long-term impact.

Part of why it is taking me so long to write my book is that I'm addressing lots of complexities – as well as making proposals for improvements.

This nation needs much more of the truth telling that you've done in your story, and that I'm trying to do in my book.

Allen Parker,  Ed.D.
Former CFO, high-tech education R&D firm
Founder and former director of a center integrating technology, society, and spirituality
Cambridge, Massachusetts



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