During the decades that Washington had a black majority, national policy makers and investors left the city’s aging infrastructure for dead. So it is astonishing to witness the about-face that has accompanied the influx of white professionals in the past decade. Now there are urban-friendly transportation policies, lavish corporate spending on education and billions in private real estate investment and development. As residents finally get the city they have always deserved, many black Washingtonians are feeling the rage of the loyal first wife, kicked to the curb as soon as things started looking up.
Could it be that sports are critical to the illusion of common culture and purpose and destiny in this country? Perhaps they provide a common lexicon, a sort of “pidgin”, that mill workers and hedge fund bosses use to communicate across the divide? Just a thought. Anyway, wishing I knew more about sports.
Jacob, like the children he would bear, was the very definition of a hard worker. The stereotype of immigrants putting in eighteen hours a day is one that, although it did not begin with him in mind, surely was to be kept alive by him and others like him. There is little doubt that he toiled, and sacrificed, and in the end there was a great payoff indeed.
His children all became moderately successful, at least comfortable-my grandfather would graduate from a prestigious university, Vanderbilt, in 1942-and the family liquor business (more about which later) would grow into something of a fixture in the Nashville, Tennessee, community that the Wise family would ultimately come to call home.
But lest we get carried away, perhaps it would do us all some good to remember a few things about Jacob Wise and his family. None of these things, it must be stressed, take away from the unshakable work ethic that was a defining feature of his character. But they do suggest that a work ethic is rarely, if ever, enough on its own to make the difference.
For after all, there had been millions of black folks with at least as good a work ethic as he; millions of peoples of color-black, brown, red, yellow, and all shades between-who had lived and toiled in this land, typically for far longer than he; and yet they, with few exceptions, could not say that within a mere decade they had become successful shop owners or that one of their sons had gone on to graduate from one of the nation’s finest colleges.