A Personal Reflection
By Dr. Harold A. Black
Note: My 50th year was marked by many countries breaking apart along ethnic lines, many violently. One of the worse was Bosnia which was a part of Yugoslavia. Bosnia was divided into three tribes: the Serbs which wanted to remain in Yugoslavia, and the Bosniaks and Croats who wanted to split. The result was a bloody, brutal conflict.
To celebrate my 50th and 60th birthdays (but not my 70th) I did a 4 Corners ride on my Honda ST 1100 – a marvelous sport touring motorcycle. I left Knoxville and rode to the southernmost city in Florida (Key West) to the southernmost city in California (San Ysidro) to the northernmost city in Washington (Blaine) to the northernmost city in Maine (Madawaska) and back to Knoxville. I kept a daily diary. Throughout the South and Southwest, at virtually every stop, someone asked “Are you really from Tennessee?” “Where are you going?” That ended when I got to California except in Crescent City where a local rider said with a tear in his eye that he was also from Tennessee and missed it. After that, hardly anyone was friendly and only once did someone come up and speak to me until I reached Maine.
At the first Montana rest stop, I stopped to use the bathroom. No one spoke to me. I walked past two guys and said “good morning” without a response from either. A guy had pulled up next to my bike and was leaning against his pickup smoking. I said “Good morning”. He didn’t say a word, just leaning against his truck smoking, looking me and the bike over.
I got gas in Beulah, SD right on the Wyoming state line. I paid at the pump. Went in to buy some Gatorade and while waiting to pay, one of the girls behind the counter helped the woman behind me first. I didn’t say anything although I was tempted. In Sheridan, Wyoming, I was finally talked to. A couple stopped by. He was a pilot and was thinking about buying a sport touring bike. He was trying to decide between a Concours and a ST 1100. We had a nice long conversation about bikes and my ride. They were from Boone, NC. I went into a restaurant and was seated. No one came to wait on me. I went back to the greeter and was told “We don’t like motorcyclists here.” I went across the street to McDonalds and had two perfectly awful biscuits. Again no one asked me any questions showing any interest in my presence although I bet they don’t see many black people, especially ones riding a laden motorcycle with Tennessee plates.
Motorcyclists wave at each other. Well after Arizona hardly no one returned my wave although I waved at all bikers. I stopped waving in South Dakota. In Minnesota only the few bikers with helmets waved and only if they were not riding a Harley.
After riding through Canada, I turned south into Maine where at long last people were friendly except for a couple riding Harleys. I guess it was a motorcycle thing. But from Maine to Maryland and back to Knoxville it felt that I had re-entered the world that I was accustomed to.
I was often asked what did I learn from these trips. My answer was “why are we not Bosnia?” Why haven’t we splintered as a nation? I could find little commonality in the people who lived in the south, the southwest, the west, the northern tier and New England. We liked different foods, had different tastes, and spoke different dialects. My only answer was that at our core we were bound by the Constitution and the rule of law. My most cited example was that the first blacks at the University of Georgia were expelled “for their own safety” when there were riots on campus. The very next day, the judge ordered them re-admitted and the governor called out the national guard. It was reported that some of the rioters of the previous night were national guardsmen who the next day prevented their buddies from entering campus.
Now we have a climate in which the Democratic leadership in Congress wanted the National Guard, who were ordered to Washington in response to the incident at the Capitol, vetted to make sure there were no white supremacists amongst them. I felt insulted but sadly was not surprised. It also seems that many of our politicians, teachers, universities, public school systems and the media are doing their best to turn us into Bosnia and in so doing are threatening the very core of our democracy. As the great Thomas Sowell has said “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.” Hopefully they will fail but I do find it worrisome that the left seems to be trying to re-segregate ourselves by categories. I pray they won’t succeed.