They bus Eddie Brown's children.
It's inconvenient, and it takes their children far out of the neighborhood, but, unlike most black parents, the Browns don't mind.
The reason is that Eddie Brown's children are not bused to school. They are bused to find someone to play with.
Not that there aren't children aplenty in Brown's suburban Baltimore neighborhood. There are. But there is one thing the neighborhood kids can't do for Tonya and Jennifer Brown, a thing that causes Eddie Brown constant worry.
The neighborhood kids aren't black.
Brown is a financial analyst with the Baltimore investment firm. T. Rowe Price. With a quick smile, unusually precise diction and a substantial salary, Brown has lived with his family in white neighborhoods for most of the past 10 years.
His choice of where to live, he said, has been dictated more by a concern for buildings than for neighbors. "We knew what kind of house and schools we wanted, so we looked for them, and never gave much thought to the neighbors."
But the choice has left Brown with a dilemma for his children. "With the schools basically all white, the neighborhood all white, naturally their playmates are going to be all white," he said. "How do you keep that black identity?"
Brown found a solution a few years ago: "We bused them. We'd take them across town to play with other blacks, and vice versa, so we developed a network to transport them."
To add a few black playmates to the whites with whom his daughters have quickly and easily become friends in the community of Glen Arms, Brown or his wife, Sylvia, makes a 30-mile round "bus" trip each week to the homes of other suburban blacks.
"It's probably something selfish on our parts," he said, trying to define why he makes the effort. "I think it's important that they know they are black, and have some idea of what's gone on before, and an ability to relate to that.
"They've never had any [race-ralated] problems, you know, they don't know what it means. I keep trying to tell them what it means, what it's been about all these years."
This is a story about blacks like Eddie Brown, blacks who are "making it" up the ladders of success in government, corporations and the professions. They differ in age, occupation, location and in most other respects, but they share a common problem: how to stay black in a white world.
It is a problem that contronts a great many people. There were 912,000 blacks holding white-collar jobs in 1976, according to the Census Bureau, up from about 400,000 in similar jobs 15 years ago.
The percentages of blacks across the spectrum of white-collar jobs from clerk to manager has risen from 11 per cent in 1960 to 17 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 1976.
For the most part, this is not the "black bourgeoisie," the group of midddle-class blacks intent on proving their worth by imitating whites and jettisoning the African elements of their heritage, who were so unflatteringly portrayed in black historian E. Franklin Frazier's 1957 work.
Frazier's black elite had its roots in the antebellum era, when the "class" line among blacks was drawn between "house slaves," who worked in the master's house, and "field slaves," who were generally less favored, less well-educated and darker-skinned. Many of the black bourgeoisie are descended from house slaves and free blacks of the slave era.
The new black professionals are a larger group of people, from families whose middle-class origins are only a generation or two old, usually dating from between 1900 and 1930.
The lines between the two groups are not rigid: there are individuals who apan the gap. Most blacks in white-collar jobs are from the section group, though, and the distinction is an important one within the black community.
The score of black professionals interviewed for this article said they take it for granted that there are concessions that must be made by blacks working in traditionally - and still overwhelmingly - white environments: insults that must be ignored, habits that must be suppressed, a comfortable, white view of the world to try to understand.
The concessions can never, of course, make you white; but the danger is that they can make you seem different to other blacks. So, say black professionals and executives, they go to great lengths to prevent their professional success, and the concessions that go with it, from building barriers between them and their blackness.
Most blacks understand what that struggle is all about, whites often don't. Dr. James Comer, a black psychiatrist at Yale, describes the process this way:
"The stable black community, though poor, has a quality of life, a style. There is a lot of banter - they are very bright guys very often - a lot of verbal sparring. The quality of relationships is very, very important, the warmth is very, very important . . .
"The security and sense of belonging and worth come not from your title, or your job, or your ability to pick up the phone call the mayor or the president of the school board," he said, "but from your relationships with other people. That's what they go back to tag up with - the quality, the security, of those relationships."
And go back, they do.
Robert Peterkin, one of four community school superintendents in Boston, said he makes a point of seeing those of his childhood friends he can still find when he goes home to New York City.
"Many people I grew up with are dead," he said. "Some are in prison, some are doing well. I still see them on the block, but it gets more infrequent."
James Woodward, second incommand of Rep, Joe Moakley's constituent service office in Boston, said he goes home to Miami abou twice a year.
"I feel comfortable with folk who are my peers, who went on to school and are professionals now, as well as with folk who are on the blocks. It's close to a 50-50 ratio between the folk who are making it, and the folk who are still there, dealing with life on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We can still identify and relate on a social basis."
His biggest shock on going home to Detroit, said Robert Fisher, editor of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Monthly Labor Review, is how dirty the city is. "The reason I don't have personal shock is that I think I'm essentially the same person. At least I hope I am.
"Obviously, I'm not," Fisher said after a moment. "But I feel that way. So when I go back, and encounter one of my old friends, I don't feel I'm crossing any king of threshold."
But while they try to keep in touch with the people "on the block," black professionals are acutely aware that their contact is temporary and tangential.
"There's no way you can continue to live it," said Peterkin. "Anyone who tries to tell you differently is a liar."
Tagging up provides only a respite. The more pervasive reality is a corporate and professional world where the black identity they strive to maintain in private can be damaging to their careers.
When the black professional's job involves judgments about other black people, the conflict can be especially thorny.
Robert Maynard, a former reporter for The Washington Post who now runs a program to train minority journalists, described the shape of the dilemma as it appears to black journalists in a recent edition of the Washington Journalism Review.
There is a built-in tension, Maynard wrote, between black journalists, driven to cover the full range of the black community, and white editors, who resent being told they don't understand or haven't been properly covering the community.
"As the black journalist attempts to find ways to be credible with the editor and credible with his conscience, division grows within." Maynard said.
"As this process evolves, the non-white journalist begins to doubt his worth. If he insists on the right to report his community in the whole sense in which people would like to be covered, the finds himself moving further and further away from his editors. And his editors find less and less reason to deal with him.
"If, as sometimes occurs, the reporter tries to deal with his assignments as the editors want them, writing the story of the black community in hard contrasts - when writing about it at all - then the reporter soon finds himself at odds with his community, his black colleagues, and perhaps himself."
In journalism, as in other professions, a considerable amount of sophistication is required to juggle both ends of the dilemma successfully. Blacks who have frequent contact with whites at home, school or in other contexts have opportunities to develop that sophistication.
But in the upper reaches of the professional world, social style becomes a crucial element of job performance. It creates a barrier to advancement for almost everyone, but among those most affected are blacks whose professions pave their roads out of the ghetto.
"The way I came up, we ditched school, we smoked dope, a little of everything. I graduated, I guess, with a C average, after I got out of the service. O.K. I had to work, I worked at night on the GI bill" while going to Pepperdine College in California.
The speaker is Charles Simpson, a $28,000 a year bankruptcy attorney in his first year out of law school with the New York firm Shea, Gould, Climenko and Casey. He grew up, he said, in a poor black community in Long Beach, Calif.
"When I came in to [Harvard] law school, I was wearing beads, hat cocked on the side of my head, and all that," he said. "But you quickly find out that, regardless of what's in your head, your appearance alone - those shoes, those pants, that hat and those beads - will make all that education you got at Harvard null and void."
The lesson applies in his law firm as well as at school, Simpson said. Other attorneys in the firm, he said, "don't know how to deal with the brother on the street. When they look at people like me, they see someone who stands between them and the brother in the street.
"They're ready to deal with me, but they're not going to deal with that brother on 125th Street under any circumstances. So if you come on like that brother, you're going to frigthen them, and no matter how brilliant you are, you'll get nothing out of them."
So on the subway ride from his home on Manhattan's upper west side to his job on Wall Street, Simpson undergoes a transformation.
The professional who goes out of his way to stay in touch with "the brother on the street" at home becomes at work a different person, one whose race is subordinated to job demands.
"The professional face" is the term Boston school administrator Peterkin uses to describe the adjustment he makes at his job.
"In Boston," Peterkin said, "we have many level of interface, and one of The professional face says, as the easiest is the professional face. Godfather says, 'It's not personal, it's business.' And we conduct business. On a personal level, they may loathe you . . . The professional face doesn't neutralize the feeling, but it neutralizes the possiblity of a negative performance . . . I try to adopt an icy, professional stance when there's business to be done."
By one name or another, the "professional face" was cited by most of the blacks interviewed for this article as a primary mechanism for facilitating business interactions with whites.
Most black people speak two dialects of English - the standard English that is taught in schools, and the dialect that links black communities across the nation. To a considerable degree, their choices about when to use which dialect seem to reflect their decisions about when the professional face is called for.
"If I'm just dealing with a group of friends, even white friends, it doesn't matter" how he speaks, said Woodward, of Rep. Moakley's Boston office.
"But when I'm in the shop, it's totally professional. I don't use slang. I use a very decent vocabulary to assure that folk I'm dealing with have an attitude that reflects the same . . . My language is completely professional, my attitude is professional."
Whatever they feel personally, black professionals' feelings about racial perceptions operate on two levels. They may fight to protect their racial identities in their private lives, but on the job their preference in for an atmosphere that is color blind.
Color blind, though, is an ideal they know is not likely to be realized in their lifetimes.
"It's just a burden that blacks are going to be forced to live with for generations to come," said Robert Bates, a lobbyist with Mobil Oil Co.
"You cannot be whatever; you are a black whatever," he said. "For instance, there's a black guy who is general counsel for General Motors. Well, goddamn it, he's a black general counsel for General Motors, not just general counsel. Society won't let him forget it. There's no way he can get around it."
There is a perverse kind of competitive advantage in the White business world's inability to separate the black professional's abilities from his color. Some admit to exploiting it; others are insulted at the suggestion:
"I think I've been able to capitalize on my blackness," said Mobil's Bates. "It gives [whites] a perception of [my] being perhaps not so swift, or so bright, or so articulate, or so incisive.
"Yet I think I am all those things, and I know how to make someone who underestimates me understand that" - to the person's ultimate dismay.
"I'm just not good at that strategy," sniffed Boston's Peterskin. "My arrogance is such that it won't permit it."
One result can be a deeply ambivalent attitude toward shites. Bernestine Singley-Battle is responsible for integrating an abandoned railroad line recently purchased by Boston's mass transit authority into the city-s transit system.
She said she still stuggles with feelings produced by a childhood in Charlotte, N.C., that was "totally black - you never saw white people unless you went downtown."
She left Charlotte for Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., to be one of 11 blacks in a student body of 1,300. Her first roomate, she said, "had never seen a living, breathing black person. I'm serious. It was hell."
Singley-Battle, 28, said her college experience turned her into "a hardcore racist . . . I reached the point where for about two months, maybe longer, I could not stand the sight of white people . . .
"I would lock the door and stay in my room all day long. And then, at about 1 a.m., I would walk across the campus to the library reading room . . . If there were some white person in there, I'd be incensed, because I'd think, 'I stayed in my room all day to avoid you, and here you are.'"
Yet one of her two best friends at school was a white girl, Singley-Battle said, and her "confidante" today is a white German who taught her at the University of Florida law school.
"My mother is a maid," she said. "You know, the old story about crawling around on her knees scrubbing white folks' floors. When I was in college, several times I would write Gail [her white friend] a letter, and I would say, 'Look, I can't be your friend any more, because I just don't like white people.
"'I can't like them because the only reason my mother is a maid is because she's black. She has more sense than any of the people she's ever worked for.'"
Woodard remembers the feelings of rage cooked in the streets of his home town, Miami, during the early years of the civil rights movement.
"I've had a white dude in overalls, walking with his daughter, push me off the sidewalk, and had my aunt grab me when I got ready to say something to him. I've had a cop beat me with a billy club when I was in the sixth grade, because my friend and I didn't call him 'Sir,' while we were in whitetown . . ."
An Army captain in Vietnam, Woodard also remembers the battalion commander who refused him a command post in his headquarters cominadvertently clearing the way for Woodeard to obtain "a choice position on the general staff."
"I do not dislike white people," he said. "The chip on my shoulder has been steadily worn away. It probably happened sometime when I was in Nam, or in Africa . . . I went from seeing black folk kill yellow folk to seeing black folk kill black folk. I see it not as conflict between race and race, but as a part of the way people treat people."
Unchecked, the angry and bitter side of blacks' attitudes about the whites they work with can be debilitating.
"I've taught myself not to think about all the inequities betwen whites and blacks," said Singley-Battle. "I only do it when I want to be angry. If I want to function, then I have to forget all the inequities and go ahead and deal."
A Harvard graduate of about Singley-Battle's age said he found the "whiteness" of the university oppressive after 18 years in a Midwestern city, where as in Charlotte, many blacks never saw a white face except in stores downtown.
He moved to a large Eastern city, and got a job in the city courthouse, where, he said, he found himself participating in the enforcement of what he saw as society's exploitation of black people.
His response: like the protagonist in Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," he dropped out. He lost his apartment, his unemployment ran out, he lost his car. Today, he sits in the black studies section of a city library, reading Dostoevsky and waiting for the time when he feels ready to re-enter the world.
It is sometimes difficult for whites to understand the basic dissatisfaction of a black professional who has achieved the salary, the comfort, and the privilege that attach to many of the traditionally white hobs recently opened to blacks.
Again, Yale's Comer can help.
MOre than other ethnic groups late in arriving in the American mainstream, he said middle class blacks "are desperately concerned" about low-income blacks. "They want to be something for the black community," he said.
"The real problem is that there aren't any vehicles for [middle class] blacks to do anything [for poor blacks] . . . Black proverty is structural. It's not poverty you can do right," Comer said.
"The black middle class has no money, no jobs to give out, no political or economic power. There just isn't much they can do . . . There are many who feel that frustration.They have a desire to do something, but they don't have the resources to do anything."