February 8, 2014
For many years, I have admired the talents of Leonard Pitts, the journalist whose columns appear regularly on the pages of the Miami Herald. I happen to be a white man with a limited number of black friends even though my experiences date back to the 40's when I was given a rare privilege to assist in the integration of blacks into the United States Air Force. Growing up on a farm in Michigan there had been none in our communities and the only things I had ever heard of them were not kind. I would soon learn that those remarks were not based on reason, but prejudice.
So it was when I first encountered Leonard, I was eager to learn even more about the thoughts and intention of blacks and I would soon discover, more often than not, he and I were brothers when it came to assessing the worth of others. In fact, typically, I was the student sitting at the feet of a master.
Perhaps you can understand my confusion when I read one of Leonard's latest columns.
Appearing in the Cookeville Herald-Citizen on February 5, under the title: "Sincerest sympathy to the filthy rich", it was Pitts' response to a letter written by Tom Perkins, co-founder of a extremely successful enterprise known as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, appearing recently in the Wall Street Journal. I haven't read the Journal in years because I have been offended by the changes that followed the sale of what used to be - in my opinion, one of the nation's great newspaper, so I don't know all that Perkins had to say, but I can read Pitts' remarks and I am offended.
Perhaps he had nothing to say about the headline in one of my favorite newspapers, but using the words - filthy rich, suggests to me that it will only be read by those among us who do not seem to realize that among the wealthy in our nation, you will find many who are dedicated to the lives of fellow citizens, folks like you and me and others.
I have had the distinct privilege to meet people like Tom Perkins in my years and I have reached the conclusion, many are a lot like the people I have met working as a Supervisor in Rescue Missions.
Given an opportunity to read the pages of the Wall Street Journal and reading Perkins' article, I have to imagine that most would laugh and let others know, ..."if he thinks he has it bad, he ought to walk in my shoes for a few weeks."
Money makes a difference in the lives of people who have inherited or have earned lots of it and since they can afford the cost, you can believe that many will invest heavily in the resources offered by the legal profession to protect their assets and actually, diminish their liabilities.
I have also known many who have little to offer in the way of available resources who will purchase an expensive gun to protect what they do have. I don't see much difference in the two.
What I do know is the fact that as we store up prejudices concerning others, a little here and a little there along the way, it doesn't take long before we reach the inevitable level that allows us to express attitudes towards others that affirms the title of being a bigot. And since we live in a democracy based on the premise that we are all created as equals, it ill behooves us to belittle others, regardless of our opinions.
I believe I understand Leonard's feelings. He devotes many of his articles and I have to believe, much of his time, calling our attention to the plight of the poor and dis-enfranchised. I salute such efforts, but I would hope that the next time he feels that way about the "Perkins" in our nation, he will direct an appeal to any of the thousands of the "rich" among us, encouraging them to talk to their peers who have missed out on the opportunities to actually share what they have.