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One of my most vivid memories of growing up in Detroit is the sight of a jeep full of Army National Guardsmen patrolling my neighborhood in the summer of 1967. The vehicle edged along slowly. Men in fatigues stared us down as we sat on our front porch on the eve of curfew. A big machine gun was mounted on the jeep’s back. The men were edgy. The city was rioting. Death and smoke were in the air. The riot scared me. I was low-rent white living dangerously close to smoldering black rage. The rage seemed so understandable, almost righteous. Better to burn it all down and start anew than to live in fear and anger. I marvel still that we have survived so long our racial tensions. The color line is thick; change is slow in coming. The recent riots in Cincinnati come as no surprise. Nor does the news that when police shoot to kill, it is black children who end up dead. Racial profiling is obvious to anyone practicing criminal law. Obvious, too, are the lies told by the lily-white police chiefs who act as though the very concept were alien to them. The German philosopher Hegel several centuries ago wrote works that are still almost impenetrable to read. But one of his arguments is simple. History is about change and tension between ideas. He called it a dialectic. Thus, at a given moment, one set of ideas takes preeminence over others; one perspective on reality becomes the prism through which the world is constructed. Other views emerge and conflict with the dominant views. Sometimes our world changes. Thus, a thesis predominates. An antithesis arises in conflict. The conflict gives rise to a synthesis, which in turn becomes a new thesis. History rolls ever onward. Want a concrete example? Consider race. Look no further than the copyright infringement suit pending in the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of Margaret Mitchell’s antebellum romance, “Gone With the Wind.” The work is a romance about life, love and the human spirit in the deep South at a time when Americans of color were still commonly regarded as property. Comes now a new book entitled “The Wind Done Gone,” by Nashville author Alice Randall. Although it has not yet been published, reports say it takes an antithetical view of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Call it a view from the slave’s quarters. “Gone With the Wind” is, to put it mildly, a cracker fairy tale. Racist to the core, the novel depicts people of color as no more than props in the romance between Rhett and Scarlett. Why not a counter-tale that regards Rhett and Scarlett as historic accidents? Privileged buffoons living off the back, and at the expense, of humans whose blood, sweat and tears are still all too often regarded as expendable commodities. “The Wind Done Gone” portrays an untidy world filled with interracial love, homosexuality and portraits of the plantation-owning class that are, to say the least, unflattering. In effect, the work appears to be an in-your-face counter-stroke to the mythical image of the South created by Margaret Mitchell. What’s wrong with imaginative literature that tells it like it was from the eyes of those not privileged enough to be invited to the ball? Why not a history that truthfully reports a drunken lout’s brutal rape of his black property? Are we yet ready to accept the justifiable rage of Cincinnati residents over the shooting of young black people? There are more colors in the garden of history than lily-white. Sometimes it takes ashes to fertilize new growth. Burn, baby, burn. Norm Pattis is a name partner at New Haven, Conn.’s Williams and Pattis.

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