Finding my Place in Rainbow America – Part 2

allinthefamily1-movi.caIf the 60’s was a decade of hippies, peace, love, and rock & roll, the 70’s became a decade of disillusionment. On May 4th 1970, Rainbow America turned red, as the Kent State protestors were gunned down. The Age of Peace, Love, and Rock & Roll ended. For two years, between 1971 and 1972, the workers’ rebellion in Lordstown, Ohio crippled GM and the State of Ohio. With World War II veterans retiring in large numbers from union leadership, the ability to negotiate with a more angry generation of workers made my job as Labor Relations Manager in a 1,000 employee union plant nearly impossible.

Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace August 9th, 1974. American soldiers came back from Vietnam to jeers and spittle. And the decade ended with one of the worst blemishes on the United States’ image, as on November 7, 1979 Iran took Americans as hostages.

On the bright side, not everything was bad. The legislature ended segregation as we knew it. Minority and White relations improved, and Blacks felt that good jobs, a college education, and a better life awaited them, especially in northern cities. For a few years, race relations improved, until dreams faded. “The Jefferson’s” exemplified hope. Running from January 18, 1975 well in to the 80’s.

The counterpart to the Jefferson spinoff, “All in the Family” ran from 1971 through 1979. Archie Bunker could have been one of my uncles. Yet, both Blacks and Whites watched both shows and laughed themselves silly.

In my plant, strikes occurred but not like elsewhere in Ohio. We had threats but no real violence. Still I feared the future. The Blacks in my plant would circumvent the Union and come to me directly when a question of fairness occurred. There were no Black department stewards. Many times I sweated trying to say the right and fair thing to every group I faced so I could be true to myself. Sometimes I was believed, sometimes not.

In late 1977, I moved my family to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a job in professional level staffing. In 1977 Oklahomans didn’t lock their cars, their homes, or their desk drawers. There were more churches than bars. Everybody drove a pickup. I never heard of the race riots of 1921  I would soon learn.

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