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dominated by a comment made by one of our young people involved
with us, as he sat in my office, around the table, with about ten
of his peers, . I'm two-thirds through the completion of the study
and document, and we were talking. He looked at me and he said,
“This is hopeless. You're not going to make things better for us.
Nobody could make things better for us. Nobody gives a damn. I hate
my parents for bringing me into a world that hates me.”
You know, the whole time I was growing up in Harlem, up
until I was 16, I never saw or heard that kind of despair.
What was even worse was that I couldn't say anything that was
a realistic refutation of the horrible, terrible truth that that young
man was expressing so desperately, you know.
I think I cried. I think I cried right in front of him. I
think -- I may be over-dramatizing this now, but I think that the
only thing I did was to put my arms around him and say, “Look --
come on -- that's what we're here for.”
That was the Harlem I saw on that level. On the leve of
the board, I saw a Harlem of individuals competing, and in conflict
over what seemed to me to be just sheer crumbs. Just sheer crap.
I was low in my spirits, practically throughout the preparation
of this. This was a community version of the initial research
of Mamie and me with the dolls test, you see. Only, this was
spread over a longer period of time, and did not involve little
children running out of the room when I asked them to identify themselves
with a doll that they had previously rejected. This was a
totality of rejection that I was observing and trying to make sense
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