Louisville Magazine

JAN 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/1066550

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Page 50 of 92

48 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 1.19 It's hard for some people to understand, too, that the ACLU stands behind free speech from Neo- Nazis and KKK members. "Yeah, exactly. And that makes the Jews mad. I had family members who hated the ACLU because it supported the rights of Nazis and they had relatives who were killed and murdered by the Nazis. ey just don't get the concept. I mean, it's just hard to say, 'You've gotta let those people have their say,' unless you understand what happens when you don't. And this is supposed to be a democracy. It's the one organization that I will never leave because I think that, living in this country, it is really import- ant — really important — to allow us to say what we think, to write what we think, to distribute what we write. And that's not a given in a lot of places." What are some examples of racism you see today? "All you have to do is look at the figures for new sales in housing and the dispar- ity between white and black sales. Black sales of the same house that a white house sold for in a white community as opposed to a black community can vary as much as 15, 20 percent because one is a community at risk. And black people, when they're buying, there's a built-in disadvantage to their borrowing history just because they're black. It's sort of built into maintenance of the black sub- strata. Racism is — it's useful. It's useful for some things. For some economic things, you can cut the amount that you pay somebody because they're black. It's just a million things. It's a sickness that we're never gonna get over. Most people just glide along and that's perfectly understandable. But I was born at a time when it was all erupting in Europe. And I'm not a glider. I remember those camps and I remember that we had fam- ily killed in Germany — not immediate family but distant aunts and uncles that were killed just 'cause they were Jewish. We're all just animals and I can't forget that. I belong to a pack and my pack survived because some people went to the trouble of making sure that we did." You were the lead plaintiff in the school-desegregation lawsuit that was filed in 1972 and won in 1975. Tell me about that. "I feel very bad because I helped deseg- regate those schools. It was just hard and I don't know that there was a perfect way, but it needed to be done. School desegregation has caused me more grief than anything because when the judge ordered desegregation, I felt personally responsible to the degree that I thought I had to be everywhere to watch and to call out if I felt things weren't being done right. It was a killing. It was too much. No one person could do that." What kinds of things were you dealing with? "Well, if they sent kids to the wrong school or if they didn't desegregate the buses effectively or if the black kids in a previously white school got short- changed, the black parents would come to me and complain about how their son is now going to a school out there and they're not letting him take (a class) that they have because there's no blacks in that class. Just good-old racism. I didn't have any staff, you know, I had no status. All I had done was be the prime mover in the lawsuit. e ACLU filed the lawsuit. ey didn't have any staff. So it was very painful, exhausting. It was just really, really hard to live through that period and tell myself every night when I'd come home and collapse that I'll be OK tomorrow. I can do it again tomorrow. I just thought it was really unhealthy to segregate on the basis of something as superficial as color. I think the greater the mix, the stronger the community and the society. And I probably think it was both the stupidest and the bravest thing I ever did in my life. Now that I mention it, it was both the stupidest and the bravest." You once told a story about how Cen- tral High School, which had mostly or all black students at the time, was missing half its auditorium seats, had broken windows and a dusty, treeless outside area, and that before the start of the school year in '75, when deseg- regation went into effect, all of those things were fixed. "I think that the American public, including me, cannot really emotionally or intellectually understand the depth of the effect that slavery has on the people in this country. Here we had for all those years a population that we were allowed to keep entirely separate from us, the white people, with all kinds of myths and stereotypes and crap about them. Just abolition didn't do it. "If it happens it's gonna take more generations than we've already spent. It's like a curse if you're black. And I so admire the spiritual leaders and the African-American community who find their voices and their glory and can share it because they're beautiful. e black people I have known, because of the way they've been treated in this country, have developed something that I'll never have: a feeling about life and others that's just — it's very Christian. So part of it's that, but not all of it. I think we have not listened to them enough. And I'm not a religious person. at deep religiosity that you find in so many African-Americans is what has preserved their own sense of dignity in their own populations, and I just marvel at it. We've done everything horrible that we could do to a people. And they survive and they sing. I'm Jewish, so I have a little bit of the survival skill too, but they would put me to shame, the African-American community in this country. I didn't mean — I sound like a preacher, for god's sake." You mentioned some of the leaders and voices. I think of people from your era like civil rights leader the Rev. Louis Coleman. You once said that since he died, you haven't seen any more agitators in the Afri- can-American community. "Oh, I loved him. I miss him so much. Oh, he was a trip. He never came to a meeting on time. We always had to put Anne Braden or somebody on his trail to go get him if we were having a meet- ing. But he was a spiritual, you know the old — what is that spout that comes up? Geyser? He was like that. He just spouted love and well-being and belief in God. I'm a devout atheist, but it af- fected me. I mean, he was just beautiful and he had a beautiful soul." What was Anne Braden like? "Oh, honey, you'd have to come over one night and we'd get a bottle of wine. I've got nothing but Braden stories. She was a fascinating woman and she did fascinating things. Louis (Coleman) worked with her, hand in glove. He was

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