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Sigma -- my friend, you know, and Otto knew Mamie and me,
and came up and visited us when the children were born. We visited
him. And I turned in my dissertation, and Otto said: “Kenneth,
you are the best black student I've ever seen.”
What the hell? And I knew -- I came to Columbia largely
because of Otto and the work he was doing in racial differences, and
the fact that he was turning American social science around on this
very important issue. And even he was not immune to this kind of
irrelevant classification of another human being. “The best black
student I've ever seen...” oh, hell!
God damn it, I thought I was the best student that was
around there. I felt that, without, you know, any kind of
qualification. They had a guy there who did his work at Oxford, and
he was given all sorts of assistantships, fellowships, etc., largely
because he was from Oxford, and white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
My conversations with that poor fellow led me early to the
conclusion that he was a very limited guy. But I think, when he
finally got his PhD, which he did, he was picked up by Princeton, or
one of the Ivy League places, you know.
Obviously, I knew that was going to happen.
It seems to me very hard for even a cultivated white
person to understand and accept the fact that there might be some
blacks who are either not grateful, or who, for some reason or other,
do not desire to be the recipient of any special kind of beneficence,
or -- you know, I find it much easier to deal with out and out
bigotry or prejudice or what not. I find that I can deal with those
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