The last 20 pages of Travels with Charley are downright painful.  Steinbeck ends his journey across America with a stop in the south.  It is 1960.  The ‘n’ word is The Word.  He watches a demonstration outside a school where a little girl is trying to go to school.  Hatred and fear infect everyone and everything.

Fifty years later, things have improved, right?  Maybe.  But not enough.  When I visit my childhood home in southern Missouri, people still use that word.  There is still this hatred and fear.  Fifty years later.  When I tell this to friends and neighbors in northern California they, like Steinbeck, can’t believe it’s possible.  They have never seen it or heard it. “That can’t be,” they say.

I promise you.  It can.  It is.  Fifty years on and there is still such a long way to go.

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