Let’s Get On With It

     How many times have you read, watched or listened to anything about U.S. race relations that left you feeling happy, joyous and free?
     There’s Mezz Mezzrow’s book, “Really the Blues,” which I suggest y’all order right now. I’d pick it up and read it again but I keep giving mine away.
     Aside from that … well, there’s this link to Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn jamming on the blues in F after Previn interviewed the jazz master for an hour. Aside from Andre’s astonishing jazz chops, and their obvious mutual respect, my favorite moment is at the end, when Andre and Oscar hug each other, then swing their hands at one another, obviously hating to part. Listening to that, and seeing it, will do your heart good.
     There are very few such moments in what goes by the name of serious art in America. And though jazz may not be a serious art, it is seriously art.
     Artworks that deal with racial relations seriously – and there have been many of them – may leave us moved, concerned, even uplifted, occasionally, but how many of them leave us joyous? Aside from the jazz bands that produce joy because they transcended the bar decades ago.
     I suppose ballet and modern dance may have done it as well, though I confess I know nothing about them.
     Transcending racial divisions is wonderful. I do not understand why Americans do not rejoice in it.
     I’m not talking about pretending not to see the divisions. I’m talking about rejoicing in the mix. I’m sure that thousands, perhaps millions of Americans feel, or have felt, the way I do about this. But you don’t hear much about them, or see much of it in our arts.
     Of course, this may be because we have so far to go that hollering and arm twisting and federal lawsuits are still needed, and I believe they are needed.
     Maybe not the hollering. The lawsuits and arm twisting, though, sure.
     Maybe I’m prejudiced about this. My grandfather Julius, who was born in Louisiana in the 1890s, told me that racial prejudice would never end in this country until people of every race had married people of other races and had children with them for so long that no one could tell who was what anymore.
     He’s probably right. I lived on an Indian reservation in Arizona for six years while Opa was retired in Tucson. After a while every time I’d drive in to visit he’d ask me, “Robert, when are you going to marry an Indian?” He wanted me to get on with it.
     I’m proud of the University of Missouri football team for what they did this week, how they got rid of their college president and chancellor, and why they did it. I’m sure there was happiness on campus when the top dogs resigned, though I wouldn’t call it joy. Certainly nothing like the joy you see on Oscar’s and Andre’s faces after their celebration of their common humanity.
     By the way, the link above, in the third paragraph, is the last of seven takes of their hour-long interview. The entire hour is well worth watching. It’s a great lesson about music, and about teaching, from two very talented and articulate gentlemen. Here are takes Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

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