Over a 100 years ago, on a park bench, high on a wooded hill not far from Cedar Hill across the Anacostia River in Washington DC, a 60-ish white man runs into a even older, grayed and gruff black man. The two have been admirers of each other yet told no one of that, as rationality was at premium back then yet shrouded in outward hatred; ironic because both men think technology and education will spread rationality's maxims. Funny thing: the white man is wearing his signature white linen; the black man, despite the DC mugginess, keeps on his dark coat.
They take to conversation, and the white man tells the black man of his impending bankruptcy if his new book, a slapdash effort called Pudd'nhead Wilson, doesn't sell.
The black man chuckles and says, "You think you got problems...I might not live out this coming year. And my people are up against it far less comically than in your novels, sir."
When they get to the meat of race and history the white man declares, cigar chomped firmly in his yellow choopers, "I've boiled and rendered the fat down to this: In the South, we as whites hate the Negro as a race, but we befriend and value individual Negroes. In the North, whites tolerate and even laud the Negro as a race, yet cannot even bring themselves to greet the same Negroes they see on the street or farm down the lane every day. "
The older black man shrugs, troubles the white man to blow his cigar smoke in another direction and then posits with wrinkles growing wrinkles, "Why is this nettlesome for you, sir? Seems I'm the one who's both 'tolerated' or reviled roundly, and that cannot hold."
The white man sighs. "Because despite all, you and I must share this park bench, for it's the only one with such a magnificent view of our swampy capital...swampy and dismal sight, narrow and uncomfortable bench...but it's ours together, and what else are we to do?"
"True," says the black man, not mentioning that so many benches are for blacks or whites only even in this federal city, "but you seem to want to take more of this bench than I with your feet up, so. And I'm an old man and can't push you off." The old man suddenly softens his chiseled face. He's grinning! He leans over to the what man, whispering, "Then again, I don't need much room."
"Sad," the white man whispers in reply. "But such'll be our secret, eh?"
They take in the rest of a hot but bright day and a hazy vista, and in an hour or so they stand up with creaks and grunts of age, smile, shake and bid each other well. Each knows they don't have all the answers. But they're trying.
When the older black man dies the white man is in Paris trying to drum up foreign booksales (the only people who seemed to like his stuff, he mumbles); he's struggling to come up with the pithy newspaper articles everyone seems to demand. They hate it when he's serious, analytical. He's in a bar when he receives a telegram of the black man's death; several Americans with him, including newspapermen, shrug and wonder aloud why this is such a loss. The white man chastises them. Surprised, they ask if this Negro was a friend. The white man says no, not at all. "But when I go back to that muddy Babylon, that pint-sized Rome called Washington City, there's a bench I shall have to keep clean and tidy--and mind not to put my feet up in his corner."
Just a parable, for perspective...and to chill out the shrill noises.