Magazine article Newsweek

And Now What?

Magazine article Newsweek

And Now What?

Article excerpt

Ben White didn't come to celebrate Louis Farrakhan. Boarding a bus from Bridgeport, Conn., the 28-year-old nurse went to Washington last week to "experience the feeling of being with my brothers." Four hundred thousand strong, a million strong (did it really matter?), the black men who filled the Mall under a bright blue, welcoming sky came for each other: to meet, greet, pray, sing, hang out and share in a little piece of history. But they also came to show America that the black man is not such an "endangered species": that, just like everyone else, they have jobs, pay taxes, raise kids and want a better life for them. After it was all over, when Ben White got back on the bus to Bridgeport, he had found new friends and a fresh resolve - "to watch my mouth, treat my brothers and sisters with respect, get my fife together and carry the message back to the community."

Yet while the Mall teemed with black men, much of downtown Washington was eerily deserted. Thousands of white office workers stayed home, citing traffic worries but perhaps fearing something worse. When it turned out they had nothing to be afraid of - the day passed with no violence and only one arrest - many whites were left to ponder their own preconceptions. The pledge the marchers recited so movingly - "I . . . will strive to improve myself spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically and economically . . ." - sounded like something all races could agree on. Personal responsibility, family values - weren't they what eve one from Dan Quayle to Bill Clinton has been talking about? Then came the next question, expressed sometimes in anger, sometimes in bewilderment: so why weren't white folks invited?

In just two short weeks, the debate over race relations in America has shifted from the bitter aftermath of the O. …

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