The social and moral bankruptcy suggested by this fact is of the bitterest, most terrifying kind.The people, however, who believe that this democratic anguish has some consoling value are always pointing out that So-and-So, white, and So-and-So, black, rose from the slums into the big time.There are further retreats, of course, than the TV screen or the bar.
Neither the speaker nor his hearers can possibly do this, of course, since Negroes do not own General Motors or RCA or the A&P, nor, indeed, do they own more than a wholly insufficient fraction of anything else in Harlem (those who do own anything are more interested in their profits than in their fellows).
But these meetings nevertheless keep alive in the participators a certain pride of bitterness without which, however futile this bitterness may be, they could scarcely remain alive at all. They stay home and watch the TV screen, living on the earnings of their parents, cousins, brothers, or uncles, and only leave the house to go to the movies or to the nearest bar. " one may ask, running into them along the block, or in the bar.
We never lived beyond these boundaries; this is where we grew up.
Walking along 145th Street -- for example -- familiar as it is, and similar, does not have the same impact because I do not know any of the people on the block.
In trying to make their hovels habitable, they are perpetually throwing good money after bad.
Such frustration, so long endured, is driving many strong, admirable men and women whose only crime is color to the very gates of paranoia.
And the others, who have avoided all of these deaths, get up in the morning and go downtown to meet "the man." They work in the white man's world all day and come home in the evening to this fetid block.
They struggle to instill in their children some private sense of honor or dignity which will help the child to survive.
These gaps are not created merely by those who have moved away, inevitably into some other ghetto; or by those who have risen, almost always into a greater capacity for self-loathing and self-delusion; or yet by those who, by whatever means -- War II, the Korean War, a policeman's gun or billy, a gang war, a brawl, madness, an overdose of heroin, or, simply, unnatural exhaustion -- are dead.
I am talking about those who are left, and I am talking principally about the young. Well, some, a minority, are fanatical churchgoers, members of the more extreme of the Holy Roller sects.