Out of a century of heartbreak and hate, bigotry and meanness, rose some of the finest art, music and literature that the world has ever known. The sadness of a Stephen Foster melody perfectly frames the American attitude towards the descendants of the slaves brought to this continent. Oh, I don't single out Foster as a racist any more than I do Mark Twain. They reflect their own time and their own history. In fact, I think it's vital to have reminders of a terrible cultural flaw. What if there were no history books to remind us of Auschwitz.
Somehow we are left with the gifts of W.E.B. Dubois, Duke Ellington, Spencer Williams, Ernie Barnes and so many without names now. We have rock'n'roll and we have jazz, sometimes referred to as the only American art form.
It's a shameful smear on our society that we allowed open bigotry in this country for such a long time. The fact that we gained so much from these victims is ironic and sweet. Peace and love is hard work.
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