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Black History Month: Looking Back on Simon’s Thoughts on Race

by Dave Emke — February 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm 13 Comments

Bob Simon Black History Speech/YouTube screengrab

Robert E. Simon founded Reston in 1964 on the principle that it would be inclusive for all. Six years ago this month, during a Black History Month event at the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, a 96-year-old Simon shared some of his thoughts about racial inclusion.

His words, which are available on YouTube, are transcribed below:

“The story is something I read in the New Yorker magazine. In those days, if you wanted to go from one coast to the other, you had to change trains in Chicago. After Chicago, there were no more cars where you could get food. You got off the train and went into Harvey Houses.”

“So, the story tells of this troop train. Black soldiers transporting white prisoners from one place to the other. After Chicago, they stopped at the Harvey Houses – the prisoners were put in the dining room and the soldiers were put in the kitchen. Well, that really blew my mind.”

“And so when I got started here, it was inconceivable that we would not be an open community. [unintelligible] It wasn’t that great an idea to some fellow Virginians at the time. The brokers outside of Reston were prone to say ‘That’s communist.'”

“At any rate, the rest of the history is pretty heart-warming. You have, I think I heard someplace, 100 different languages. I don’t know if that’s possible. But we do have enormous diversity here.”

“At the moment, if you want to pick on ethnic origin, it’s not so much Black. At the moment it’s Latino, which is very interesting, what’s going on in the world, if you think about it — how hate can be transferred.”

Simon died in September 2015 at the age of 101.

H/T Restonian. Screen grab via YouTube.

  • “how hate can be transferred”

    I don’t see a positive message here but I guess its the liberal worldview.

    • Tammi Petrine

      Wow! Just Wow! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

      From its founding, Reston has never masqueraded as anything other than an open and loving community for ALL people. If you don’t see a positive message from Simon’s tale, perhaps any other community in the nation would be a better fit for you than our beloved Reston. ‘Love’ does not know the labels of “liberal” or “conservative” despite the dog whistlers trying to equate “liberal” with negativity.

      • Mike M

        A couple of things:
        1) Reston is NOTHING like what Bob Simon tried to create.
        2) Most of what he created failed.
        3) Most of what worked, he didn’t like.
        4) Comparing African-Americans, who have roots in what is now the USA going back to the 17th to early 19th century, to Hispanics who have come in a tidal wave, many illegally, in the last 20 years, is ridiculous.

        • Guest
          • Mike M

            Oh dear! Aren’t you clever. But not really.

            Just so happens I am really good with history and I know your map is but a snapshot in time. Even then, the Spanish are relegated to super-thinly populated regions they never fully exploited. What you have shown is a political map. It’s what the superpowers of the day claimed and agreed upon – for the most part. A demographic map would reveal that the east coast was very English. The pink and green on your map were inhabited by native americans, which is ironically what we are talking about in the recent migratory inundation.

            In fact, our newcomers from the south are Aztecs, Mayas, and other native Meso-Americans – not Spanish at all. Have a look at the gal cleaning your office. She is likely the spittin’ image of someone you would see in Meso-American art. I’m not demeaning her, just pegging her genetically. If you know anything about Latin America, you’ll know that those of significant Spanish blood tend to be running the places and turning them into environments that peasants want to flee.

            Back to the native Americans of North America, . . . My point is this: If you wish to end up like the Iroquois, the Seneca, the Sioux, the Abenaki, the Mic Macs, the Cherokee, the Creek, . . . . then keep on with the unlimited immigration. You will not recognize the place in 50 years.

          • Guest

            Do you think immigration is currently unlimited?

            Do you think today’s America is recognizable compared to 50 years ago, let alone 100 or 200?

            Do you think we can change our country for the better, and if so, what would it look like?

          • Mike M

            You aren’t addressing my points. I was addressing yours. Immigration policy now is very loose. We also have an unprecedented social welfare net combined with an unprecedented wave of illegal immigration that many Americans feel righteous about enabling. I argue that it is not sustainable.

            A better country would be secure militarily AND financially. It would be more free market within the borders. Our trade agreements would be fair and reciprocal. Our borrowing to give people money today would cease.

          • Guest

            So you take back claiming that immigration is currently unlimited?

            Do you or don’t you believe today’s America is recognizable compared to 50 years ago? There have been drastic changes in the past 50-100 years (see the original article) and most had little to do with immigration policy. I’m interested in whether you think we’ll experience more of the same in the next 50, whether or not we lock down immigration.

            All of your historic narrative describes governmental conquest. Do you believe the United States is going to be conquered by another nation?

          • Mike M

            The US is being conquered by a migratory invasion. This is what happened to the native americans and the Roman Empire. This weakened them for military attack. I think the US is becoming not recognizable from 50 years ago when half the churches in rural Virginia have Spanish signs in front and Spanish is the most common language on the soccer fields.

          • Guest

            Ah, Rome. The empire was already weakened before its most notable “migratory invasion”, the goths. Rome had of course accepted migrants to swell its population over millennia, but a corrupt military bled local resources and effectiveness. Goth refugees fleeing the Huns were to be fed by the empire while settlements were organized. They instead starved, then revolted, against legions more focused on graft than drill. Oops.

            Native American resistance was weakened by disease, from early contact and trade. Most of the population vanished before Europeans even set foot in their territory.

            However, changing the face of America doesn’t destroy it. I think we might even have survived the metric system.

          • Mike M

            We’ve not fully adopted the metric system. It took decades to get where we are.

            Your presumption that change is always good doesn’t pass the history best.

          • Guest

            My presumption is that societal change happens. Instead of shuddering with fear and rejection (banning immigration) we should provide guidance and seek benefit (from continued moderate immigration).

            If it weren’t for new arrivals, we wouldn’t even be sustaining the population.

          • Mike M

            I remind you for perhaps the 5th time that change is not always good. Ask the Powhatan and the Cherokee about that. Ask the Persians who got owned by the mullahs and have suffered so much brain drain they may never recover. Ask the Syrians who today want to flee their mess.

            Your presumption is that we must go with the flow and not bother to control our destiny. You are weak. I would say pathetic. I know where that leads.

            I don’t recall suggesting that we shudder in fear and rejection. Those are your words.

            I say we can control our destiny. I say we SHOULD control who can come here and live. I say we need to uphold the rule of law – even immigration law. THAT’S what I say. STOP your L-word game of putting words in my mouth so you can finally sound reasonable.

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