Playing the Blues
Dear Dr. David Pilgrim,
For the past few hours I have been glued to your Jim Crow Museum
website. I read both the "What was Jim Crow" and "Why I Collect
Racist Objects" essays. I'm a 49 year white man who was born in New
York City and raised in a very white community on Long Island. I am
fairly well educated by any measure and yet, just as grateful as I am
for your writing, I am also disturbed that I've lived my life to this
point without this knowledge.
I am an IT Director at large company and I have an M.S. but I love to
play and sing Blues music. I was raised very poor. Listening to Blues
that influenced white musicians was unavoidable and playing my instruments
along with their records was how I entertained myself.
I've often felt guilty about my love of Blues because I've had a
lingering feeling that it wasn't right because this music really
belonged to African Americans. I've spent the last couple of years as
a dual resident of both the US and UK and while in the UK, I've spent
my weekends in London Blues bars, publically playing and singing
Blues, for the first time in my life. My feelings of guilt haven't
gone away but I had to do what I did because while I was over in
London working, my company wouldn't fly me home except once per month
and rather than stay alone in a hotel room without my wife and
daughter, to ease my loneliness, I had to take my guitar and go out and
meet other people who shared my most personal of all interests. I
made a lot of friends, had a good deal of fun and it improved my outlook in some very important ways.
Having said that, it still didn't give me any truly motivating and
laudable reasons to publically perform Blues music. After reading
your writing, I have a very, very new idea. I think I should perform
Blues music publically because I am white. If the US Government is
not going to issue a formal apology to the African Americans who built
this country, then I am. I will make it my personal mission to show
all Americans, especially those of African descent, that I,
personally, am profoundly sorry and this will be my way of begging
their forgiveness. This will be my way of stating to anyone within
earshot, that I believe down at the bottom of my heart that America
should sincerely apologize to African Americans for not only the sin
of slavery, but also Jim Crow and the racism that persists to this
If people won't accept my sentiments and beliefs, after all is said
and done, I can't help that I love Blues music. I'm going to keep on
playing and singing, even if no one ever listens.
A dear friend of mine passed away about this time last year. He was an
African America in his 60's. And he used to say to me "Never mind
black or white, learn to be color blind."
Again, thank you very much. I think you are a truly great man.
Respectfully and Sincerely,
Wm. Andrew Wynn
Princeton, New Jersey
-- May 6, 2011