I grew up as a little white kid in a family of bigoted fools. But I believed the slogan in ads the United Negro College Fund ran, which were broadcast over and over again on the television that became my family while my parents were off pursuing whatever it was that made youthful white people happy in 1972. “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” was what I heard the moment I came home from school every day until a few moments before I fell asleep each night.
In between those commercials I occasionally heard from the idiot that my mother brought into the house and eventually married. His opinion of the black person’s mind was a canned, rehearsed line he would use to garner laughs from like minded people. Should he encounter a person who did not agree with his self absorbed insight he would launch a verbal attack and cause feelings of uncertainty as to his restraint to cause physical violence. Most dissenters quickly left the room in these circumstances.
The same movie played out at other family member’s homes. At my grandparents home, especially. They were bigoted across the board. “Pols,” “Chincs,” “Japs,” “Jews,” and of course, the African American (although they had another term) were all on a crap list in their home.
After all of it I would be reminded by the United Negro College Fund that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Maybe it was because the ad was professionally produced, crafted for viewership, designed to convince. Maybe it was because it just made so much more sense. Maybe because it was uplifting and positive. Whatever the reason, I was partial to the message. It appealed to a kid like me who had no life experience. It was a good time to run the ad. They caught me at an impressionable time and for that I will be forever grateful.