My dad was a good guy. He never set out to hurt anything. I never heard him speak ill of anyone. He was also a Jewish man and I always just assumed that he had witnessed enough anti-semitism, racism and gender inequality in his time to see the silliness in it all.... peoples need for otherness. A need that says I may not be great but I’m better than him, her or them.... the other. Usually, the weaker folks feel about themselves the greater the need for the other. Unless you were the other. In those cases you were hip to it all, had faced the stiff jawed icey look of false superiority, fought it, bore it or silently withdrew in a peaceful warrior mode that saved itself for another time.
My dad was a good guy, quiet and thoughtful. He knew better. I always just assumed that he came down on the side of judging a man or woman by the color of their character, not their skin. I always just assumed....
One day driving through town, dad spotted a black man and white woman walking down the street together, obviously and by their body language a couple. Dad saw me see him see them. He glanced over and said Black and White Cookie* and that was the end of it. But in that one moment, that one glance and those four words I knew that my assumptions about him were wrong. There was a mocking disapproval in dad’s look and voice that let me know he too needed the concept of the other to make him feel bigger, better and more powerful.
Before I was Dr. Robert I was an up and coming musician and recording artist in L.A....I was a contender. One of the great acts I was in was called The Balding Brothers, a seasoned bare bones 4 piece that could rock the house. We all had BBros names. There was Tank Barstow on bass, Larry Jones guitar singa superba, Tommy D beating the drum and me Butch Balding or Butchie B. And while we loved writing a good love song we also recognized the artist’s job of mirroring the world; musical food for thought with a melody and a beat.
A tune we felt particularly strong about was one called Living in the Darkness, a same as it ever was tale of the other. This was several years before Rodney King and the L.A. riots but we were street enough guys to know, to understand the unspoken codes of separation and where the lines of otherness were drawn. So when years later, a video beating surfaced highlighting otherness and then a trial consummating the deal concluded with a firestorm to mark the occasion, we were not surprised.
Much has been written and re-written about those times so that there is no need for further comment here. However, it does seem natural and right to present that tune here for your listening pleasure. Tank, forever holding down the bottom, was kind enough to go into the public domain and find some footage to accompany the audio.
So, and without further ado:
Living in the Darkness (c)1982 The Balding Brothers
There’s a part of the city where the white man never goes
Down in the projects it’s the land of the negro
Gangs rule there with their own unwritten law
Police speed through you know they know the score
Tired of the justice they got in the white folks’ land
Where your color and your pocketbook’s the measure of a man
They gave up and formed their own state
and being whites’ illegal in that place
Living in the darkness waiting for a change
wondering if the sun will ever shine again
Oh no its a cryin’ shame Oh no in the USA
the words for which we stand
don’t stand for every man
When you take a lion and put him in a cage
remember in that cage he’s still a king
so if you forage in there you might feel his rage
especially if its you that put him in
Black and White Cookie*: an oversized cake like cookie covered half and half with vanilla and chocolate icing, usually found in your favorite Deli.
Dr. Robert Lusson is a licensed clinical psychologist currently living and working in Los Angeles, Ca. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org