June 17, 2010
My childhood was one of the most unique on Earth. As a Japanese-American, I was going to be in the minority almost anywhere, but I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the midst of the worst sociological pogrom ever perpetrated in the US – the anti-Jewish block-busting/panic-peddling conspiracy between the University of Chicago and realtors who did business in and around the heavily Jewish neighborhoods of South Shore. As a consequence, my friends cycled from almost all Jewish to almost all black … 3 times, 6 different stages of cultural immersion by the time I was 18.When my father was in his late 70s, by way of explaining why we moved so often (before my parents finally landed in predominantly Jewish Lincolnwood, a literal stone’s throw from Skokie), he told me that my mother, growing up in a culturally diverse community in Seattle, always wanted to live in mostly Jewish enclaves which, in the South Side of 1950s thru late 1960s Chicago, was possible. In other words (he said without saying), we didn’t move to get away from the very rapid changes (3 times) to nearly all black. He didn’t have to make excuses; my father was always a liberal who never called himself a liberal (his employees were Eastern European, Latino & black, and did work for Jewish car dealers) and raised me to despise racists. Thus, I have fond memories of the Saturday afternoon boys club the grammar school members of which were Michael, Ronnie, Craig, Leonard, Jeffrey – 5 Jews – and me, and of the 3 different bands of which I was a member in high school, 16 in all, of which 14 were black, with 1 Jew … and me. When I was 3, the Sunday school class at the Baptist congregation to which my parents belonged was someplace I refused to be; I kept escaping to my brother’s group (there weren’t walls, just curtains drawn across wires in the church basement). To prevent that sort of insubordination, a Holocaust survivor and Messianic Jewess, Eva, volunteered to be my Sunday morning nanny. She took me to the local diner every Sunday for breakfast for over a year. Treated me like her own grandchild. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what that tattoo on her left wrist was. My grammar and high schools were deserted during Jewish holidays, when all the Reformed guys suddenly became Orthodox. The 1st black student enrolled at the high school was Harvay; we buddied up immediately. He was one of Jesse Jackson’s 1st protest organizers in the then-Operation Breadbasket (now the pretentiously named Rainbow Coalition); he was also one of the 1st to see thru Jesse’s phony facade & quit despite Jackson’s offer of the good life (a walk-in closet of $300 suits – circa 1964; Chicago Police guarding the front door of his fancy digs in Pill Hill – where the lawyers and doctors lived). Or, maybe it was because of the offer. A very rich upbringing, indeed. In 1988, after ghost-writing 2 books about the unlawfulness of the US income tax system (The Law That Never Was, Vols. I & II), I partnered w/local legendary court gadfly Sherman Skolnick, who taught me much about the utter dishonesty of the judiciary, and lawyers generally. Sherman was never biased about his targets; crooked Jews got no quarter, not even a nickel. The Mossad agents that fed him information were the source of the inflammatory stories about how the old-time Israel Bond drives (“Bond” being a misnomer, according to Sherman, since they weren’t meant to be paid back) were kickstarted, when funds were low, by agents starting harmless fires at the back doors of local synagogues, with the press (and the local Jewish patrons) being regaled with tales of anti-Semitic terrorists having tried to burn down the synagogue. Of course, those agents never thought Sherman would ever reveal their secrets to a Gentile. I’m telling you this to let you know why I’m highly offended at the way a relatively small gang of Jews in Israel is putting all Jews in disrepute. I don’t consider the gangsters to be Jews, which may be inappropriate for a non-Jew, but, like I said, I have a very unique perspective molded out of the warmth and friendship given without hesitation to me (I was never a stranger), along with the wealth of instruction that Sherman shared with someone he once considered to be like a son he could never have. And, by coming to insights about black America, informed by the liberalism of the Jewish side of my youth, both experiences merging into each other, mixed in the Japanese-American mind that was heavily-influenced by the internment camp episode, unloaded on me by my father, unlike most other Nisei who were ashamed, or at least, close-mouthed, by that oppression.