FSI stands firmly against all forms of discrimination. A personal message from our CTO Mr. Dale McIntosh on racism.
Dear family, friends, and associates,
While processing the events of the last few weeks, I feel compelled to share my story and some of my interpretations of the recent events in a non-political way. Before I do that, I want to be clear about what I do and do not support. I support the peaceful demonstrations that demand equal protection by law enforcement personnel for all. I do not support the destruction of private or government property and I do not support the targeting of those who faithfully put their lives on the line to protect ours. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi taught us that only non-violent means of protesting achieves desired results.
Many of my friends and associates do not know my story, or how I came to be the person that I am. More importantly, most of my friends do not realize that pretty much every black person in this country has a story, that is rooted in racism and injustice. I recognize that my personal story has another side. I was fortunate to be born in a time of affirmative action, which I benefited from. I also understand that my parent’s story was more impacted by racism than I will ever know. They rose above adversity to achieve success that became the foundation of my existence. I have had a great life and I am grateful for all of the relationships that I have and the opportunities that I have been given to me by people of all races, creeds and color, but predominantly white.
I grew up in San Diego, CA in a predominantly white neighborhood (Allied Gardens/Princess Gardens/ Del Cerro/San Carlos). My parents were very protective. They shielded the children from many of the realities of growing up black, while there always was an undercurrent of negative sentiment that a black family was living in the community. Unbeknownst to me and my siblings, the community was not quite as accepting as we believed. I was seven at the time.
My parents were the first to purchase a house in the new community of Princess Gardens, but ours was the last house built in the entire development. The developer gave a lame excuse because they did not want anyone to know that a black family was moving into the neighborhood to preserve the value of their unsold homes. They located a construction trailer and an outhouse on our lot while the other homes were being built. My parents would take us to play in the empty lot after all our neighbors’ houses were occupied. I formed some life-long relationships with wonderful people during this time. We were the only black family in our community for four years until another black family moved into an adjacent neighborhood. I recently learned that after my parent’s offer was accepted, the developer refused to consider any other offers from black buyers, so we were the only black family in the development. A dear friend of mine, who is white and has lived across the canyon across from where I grew up recently recounted “In the late '60's, less than 1/2 mile from the McIntosh Family, lived a Southern family on the northeast corner of Conestoga Way and Laramie Way. A distinguished Black family (father retired military, and retired USPS worker) bought the house across the street. The Southern family started flying the U.S. and Confederate flags daily and attempted to organize the adjacent neighbors to petition for the removal of the Black family from the neighborhood. This is the truth. I witnessed and fought it. I was thankfully not alone in my apologies to the offended family, and several of us made it our mission to make them more comfortable. We were absolutely elated that the offending family decided to sell and leave the area with a year or two, as I recall.”
While in elementary school, I remember seeing meeting notices of the National Socialist White Peoples Party (NSWPP) posted on a telephone pole near our home in Allied Gardens. The NSWPP is the same organization as the American Nazi Party (ANP) and the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists (WUFENS). This organization was created in 1959 and is based largely upon the ideals and policies of the Nazi Party that ravaged the world during WW2 and resulted in the extermination of the Jewish and other non-Arian peoples from Germany during the war.
While I attended SDSU, I lived in Lakeside, CA, a rural suburb, east of San Diego. Tim Metzger, a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, ran for the U.S House of Representatives in 1980 to represent the district which included Lakeside. He won the Democratic nomination with 33,071 votes, a 37.1% share of the votes. Many of my Lakeside neighbors proudly flew pennants announcing their support for Tom Metzger and what he represented.
We speak of “white privilege” as an advantage that a white person has when competing for resources against a non-white person when all else is “equal”. However, I think people might be more able to understand the concept of a presumption of innocence. For example, if a disturbance occurs in a crowd of light skinned people and there is a single dark skinned individual in the crowd, when the police come onto the scene, there is a much greater chance that the police will question and potentially use force against the black person before talking to any of the white people. When I was 20 years old, I spent most of the summer at my friend Mike Siegel’s house in Del Cerro. Mike is white and almost all the homes in Del Cerro at the time where owned by light skinned people. I walked up to the Siegel’s door one evening which was surrounded by a courtyard, and just after ringing the doorbell, I heard eight running individuals wearing hard shoes. Then I heard someone shout “FREEZE” followed by the sound of eight guns, which were all pointed at me, being cocked. The front door opened and Mike’s mom, Paula, immediately shouted “DON’T SHOOT, HE BELONGS HERE!”. At which point the uniformed officers checked the address, realized that they were at the wrong house and literally ran off. Had I made a quick move, there is no doubt in my mind that I, Paula Siegel, and anybody else in the line of fire would have been shot that day. The police had been called for a domestic incident, but when they saw a black person, they assumed that I was the cause of the disturbance and approached me with weapons drawn. The only word they uttered during the entire encounter was “freeze” and “wrong house.”
There is nothing more sobering than having eight loaded and cocked guns pointed at you. This is part of the shared black experience. I would not be surprised if, in truth, every black male in this country over 50 has been pulled over at least once for “driving while black.” I can tell stories of being pulled over when riding my bike in Del Cerro when I was 10 years old and questioned as to why I was in this neighborhood, my response being, “I live here.”
I am blessed to have many awesome friends and associates, most of whom are white, and I love them dearly. But most of them do not know my story. My great grandfather, Henry McIntosh, was a slave at the McIntosh plantation near Lexington, Kentucky. He escaped to the north though the underground railroad and became a free man. He became the first black landowner in Lake Forest, Illinois, where he built homes for himself and five of his children. My grandfather attended Northwestern University in the early 1900s and was the only black football player on the Lake Forest College football team in 1921. He owned the sanitation business in Lake Forest and later in life became a Baptist minister. My dad was a rocket scientist, who wrote the pitch and roll program for Atlas missiles at Convair in 1960. He was one of the first black engineers to support a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. While his co-workers stayed in Coco Beach during their visits to the Cape, Dad stayed in Miami which is a 3-hour drive one-way from the cape, because Coco Beach was all-white. His story is chronicled in “QUEST - The History of Spaceflight Quarterly” Volume 19, Number 1 published in 2012. My mother was a chemist at UCLA Medical School when she met my dad and stopped working to raise their children. My family is represented by many esteemed African Americans who have unique and compelling stories. However, the single shared experience of everyone in my family from the day that Henry received his freedom, is overcoming the obstacles put in place to prevent black skinned people from succeeding in this country.
I have been married for 36 years to a wonderful woman who happens to be white. We have two grown children. We were married in 1984, only 17 years after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished anti-miscegenation (any marriage or interbreeding among different races) laws in a landmark ruling (Loving vs Virginia on June 12th, 1967) At that time, 16 states had anti-miscegenation laws on their books.
I do not believe that it is possible for my white friends and associates to understand what being black in America is really like. I once read a book called “Black Like Me,” about a white person (John Howard Griffin) who altered his skin color to appear black and went on a journey in the Jim Crow South to experience the plight of black people. Many will read this book and conclude that things used to be bad but are better now. The reality is that things are different now, but many barriers still exist. I remember eating at the Hamburger Factory in Poway with some dear friends 20 years ago and seeing a teenager with a shaved head sitting with his family wearing a jacket that had a swastika on the back that said, “Just Kill Them All and Let God Sort Them Out”. My friends were appalled that a parent would allow their child to wear a jacket like that while they sat in a public restaurant. But I said that “the jacket probably hung in the closet next to the dad’s white sheet”.
The problem from my perspective is ignorance and lack of education. There are those that still believe that black people are genetically inferior to white people. There are those who would prefer to be surrounded by people who look like them. There are those who believe that to push someone from a different ethnicity up, will result in holding someone from their ethnicity down. I believe that real change can only come when our children understand the evil in racism and create a world where racists are ostracized and racist behavior is no longer socially acceptable, anywhere in this country.