The Segregated Media Says It’s All Roseanne’s Fault

Beginning in 1968 and until 2005, I held classes in Literature and writing at the University of California at Berkeley. Once in a while, I ran into a student who tried to get a rise out of me by writing a racist story or making a racist comment. I’d instruct the class that they could write all of the racist stories that they desired as long as they were fresh and original. That would usually end these clumsy efforts.

One day, I came to class and found written on the blackboard: “Dinner with Professor Reed, bring your own watermelon.” I told the class that the creator of this comment should come to my office or I’d turn him over to the Dean. I knew the identity of the person. He finally showed up. I told him that if he worked as an apprentice to the playwright Ed Bullins, who was preparing a play for production at Berkeley’s Black Repertory Group Theater, I wouldn’t report him. I thought that he’d get a position as a member of the crew. About ten weeks later, I saw the play. Ed Bullins had given him a role.

I never saw the student after he graduated. I don’t know whether his experience in Black theater and working with a Black playwright changed his mind about race. But I suspect that he, like many White students, who were raised in California towns, some of which were former Sun Down Towns, and like-minded people whom I have encountered Europe, Asia, and Africa, received all of his ideas about race from American film and television. Though ideologues…

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