I have been on the outskirts of DC and in the capital itself for a few days. I have been impressed with the kindliness, friendliness, and efficiency of the American blacks I have had occasion to deal with. The surliness of former decades has gone. “How y’all doin’ today?” has replaced it.
So here is a little interaction I had yesterday with the African American taxi driver, who was about sixty years old.
Him: First day of summer
Me: Yeah, longest day too.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: It’s the 21st of June , the longest day in the northern hemisphere. From now on the days shorten until September 22nd sometime, when night and day are equally long.
Him: You must be some kind of meteorologist. I never heard that before. Hemi-whatsis?, his curiosity aroused.
Me: Hemisphere. The world is a ball. The northern half is having its longest day while the southern half its shortest. The world is tilted at 23 degrees, so the sun doesn’t shine equally on all parts at the same time. Right now it is the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere.
Him: My God I gotta tell my wife that. You must be a meteorologist.
Me:I just read. You know when the earth goes around the sun at a tilt, half the year we get more sun than the southern hemisphere, and half the year we get less. That’s why it’s dark and cold around Christmas, which is near the shortest day in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice.
Him: I never heard that explained so clear. You must have studied your science in high school.
He was genuinely intrigued by this new knowledge. As I trust you understand, I am not mocking, deriding, or condescending. This was just a guy who had never in his life heard anyone describe the linkage between the earth’s motion around the sun and length of days in the year.
Is he exceptional? I have no idea. But that was the conversation yesterday. It is a sad commentary on the level of public school education in Virginia. Nor was he conning me.
At the end of the drive he said the trip normally would have cost $8 but the traffic conditions made it $9, so I did not have to tip him. Naturally I tipped him and we parted as friends.
It is always good to have a specific incident like this under your belt before you agree too much with Fred Reed’s doomist outlook on US race relations. Yes, the discourse between black blamers and white accepters of blame is profoundly corrupt and dishonest. The United States lives with a large group of African-origin people, many of whom are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, and this is apparent to everyone. Yet there are reserves of kindness and decent behaviour between the races that are reenacted and renewed every day. It is vital not to lose sight of actual people in all the abstractions.