The Real Gift of the 60s was Justice

Richard Parsons will become the chief of AOL Time Warner;

The story about Richard Parsons is emblematic of the 60s. While most commentary about that decade still swirls around the Viet Nam War and its consequences, the real gift of the 60s was justice. Equality, that hallowed American value, became at least partially manifest in the 60s. Mr. Parsons is able, educated, experienced and seems just the man for the job. Mr. Parsons is an African-American, or rather I think he is an Afro-American. No news story I have read mentions his race.

We hear the phrase “American Values” from every politician these days. The values are often couched more like a list of Puritan ethics, a worthy personal goal, but difficult to live up to. Things like long marriages in a country where half the population is divorced–a mother in the home, when most women have to work just to help pay the bills.

To me these things have nothing to do with American values. American values are clearly and decisively set out in the Constitution of the United States and its attendant Bill of Rights. We either believe in, adhere to and act on these principles or we don’t. We either believe in our freedoms and that they are worth safeguarding at all costs or we don’t. We either believe that all people are created free and equal or we don’t.

While the Supreme Court and its writings may be the most obvious intellectual expression of our beliefs, African-Americans carry the conscience of this nation in their bones. How we treat the human soul not housed in an absolutely similar body and culture is the measure of our commitment to American values.

In thinking about the writing I have done over the past twelve years, I realized one day that in the two novels I have completed, the raisoner, the spokesperson for ethical behavior, was in each case an African American.

To me, that is as fitting as Mr. Parson’s new position.

©2001, Janet Taliaferro