No question, Mr. Bruce was my favorite teacher in junior high.
I went to this Loser-ville school in the San Fernando Valley. It was all Chicano kids and working class white losers like me. Everyone had to take "metal shop" so we could work the bottom-end jobs in the Chevy plant.
My brain was dying -- until Mr. Bruce showed up, the new science teacher. Doctor Bruce, actually -- the only PhD. teacher in the place.
At lunch hour, instead of hanging out in the teachers' lunchroom, Mr. Bruce would invite me and my friends into his classroom. Over coffee made on a Bunsen burner, he would talk about topics from Einstein to Buddha while munching on this strange stuff called "organic" food.
He was simply like no adult I'd ever met -- an exceptional guy who could make us dull-brained students sizzle.
My parents had him over for Sunday brunch and he talked about his work as a "honey-dipper" in the Deep South where he grew up. The honey-dipper was the guy who hunted for lost glasses and whatever else was dropped in outhouse cesspools. Dr. Bruce said he enjoyed the work because it taught him pleasures of quiet grace, of dignified acceptance.
The kids were crazy about him, but not all the parents. Some called to complain about the school hiring him.
So he left. Months later, Mr. Bruce mailed me a letter from Japan where he'd taken a university post.
It's odd, but it was only this year that I put it all together: his exclusion by the other teachers, his job as a honey-dipper, his need to escape America.
Dr. Bruce, of course, is Black.
So, I'm going to do something that Dr. Bruce would think little of. I'm going to vote for the Black man.
Because he's Black.
The truth is, I'm wary of Barack Obama. His cozy relations with the sub-prime loan sharks who funded his early campaign; his vote, at the behest of his big donor ADM corporation, for the horrific Bush energy bill.
But there's one thing that overshadows policy positions, one thing he cannot change once in office: the color of his skin. The same as Mr. Bruce's.
I'm going to say something that I know the Obama campaign will just hate; but that many others are feeling but won't say out loud. We must vote for Barack Obama because he's Black.
For four centuries, our nation has poisoned itself with the corrosive venom of racism. From the slave trade, to our still-segregated schools, to the Bush family stealing the White House by cynically, and sinfully, calling Florida Black voters felons; to the exile of a brilliant science teacher four decades ago.
The time has come to cleanse the wound that will not heal.
Greg Palast's investigative reports appear on BBC Television and in Rolling Stone Magazine. Palast is the co-author, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of Steal Back Your Vote, the investigative comic book available for no charge at StealBackYourVote.org and www.GregPalast.com
Palast is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation Fellow for investigative reporting.
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