As I was reading the last section of the book I was struck by the extremely sad situation that Tim’s friend, Herman who was half black and half white had to endure while growing up. Herman’s dad was black and his mother was white during a time when racism seemed to be widely accepted in the U.S. Herman’s parents met in Germany while his father was a sergeant in the army. The pair fell in love, started a family, and in the 1960s and moved back to the United States. Herman’s parents knew they would not be able to move back to Herman’s father’s town of Wedesboro because of the fact they were an inter-racial couple. Therefore, the couple chose to move North to Milwaukee, however things were just as bad in the North. When back in America the couple was scrutinized and could neither fit into the white community nor the black community.
One day, while they were living in Milwaukee someone threw a firebomb into their home. Herman was six and ran away from the explosion, however his infant sister was unable to escape the attack and was sadly killed. The family was devastated and Herman’s parents realized his family would never live peacefully in the United States and they moved back to Germany, the country of post Nazism.
The United States was unfortunately not holding up the motto of the “land of the free.” Ironically, the U.S. which citizens took pride in the country on being a free democracy which over through Nazism in Europe was unable to overthrow racism in its own country. Tyson said, “The land that produced Hitler seemed safer for a mixed-race American family than the nation that had lifted up Martin Luther King Jr. Herman grew up there on the army base, an American but not an American…” (Tyson, 306).
It is so terrible (or ironic?) that Herman’s parents were more accepted in a country which slaughtered six million Jews and six million other so called “degenerates” than in America! This unfortunate truth reminds me of the experience Paul Robeson had with America.
Paul Robeson, a black multi talented man and civil rights activist, and Soviet Union advocate frequently went to the Soviet union and Western Europe and was extremely impressed by the more equal conditions of race in Europe. Robeson was highly supportive of the Soviet Union because he felt that America was much more racist than the Soviet Union. Robeson was quoted saying, “that the country [Soviet Union] was entirely free of racial prejudice and that Afro-American spiritual music resonated to Russian folk traditions. “Here, for the first time in my life ... I walk in full human dignity”. Furthermore, Robeson felt that this was the first time he felt like a man “with a capital M” because it was the first time that he felt respected in a country and not a subordinate citizen (Lecture 1/24/08, Hirsch).
I think America may be less accepting of different races than other Western countries and many Americans either do not know or choose to ignore this about our history and our present life. Through Herman’s experience as a child in an interracial family we can see how backwards and horrifying our United States history really is and still continues to be today. For example, while interracial couples may be more accepted today (through celebrity couples, media, etc – Heidi Klum and Seal, and Kimora Lee Simmons and Russell Simmons) we still have a long way to go regarding equalities in the United States (regarding, immigrants, undocumented immigrants, religion, race, gender, etc).