It was a warm September 1954 morning when Spouse boarded the bus from his suburban Los Angeles home for his first day of school. When classes finished, volunteer parents helped these 1st graders board their bus ride home. A parent placed Spouse, a shorter kid with black hair and olive-toned skin, in one line and led him to board the bus that took the Mexican kids back to the bracero labor camps in nearby Camarillo.
He got off the bus were Mexican mothers proudly greeted their hitos and hitas. Spouse’s mother was nowhere in sight. He didn’t know where he was. This was not where he lived. So he stood alone in the hot September sun in the midst of a strawberry field and cried.
Someone in that suburban Los Angeles schoolyard assumed Spouse as a migrant worker’s child. He wasn’t dressed poorly. He spoke only English and he hadn’t even a clue to the most common of Spanish words, like si.
It’s safe to guess, based on this continued missed cultural identification of him, that his coloring automatically categorized him as a migrant’s child. “Dark children in this line.” “White children in this line.” This is a signature stupid assumption by a species that claims intelligence.
Well, that was back in the olden days when we didn’t know any better. We know better now. Racial assumptions no longer exist. After all, didn’t America elect a multi-racial president?
To my way of thinking and observation, that’s about the weakest debate point ever. Last week when an unarmed black teen wearing a hoodie died because he looked suspicious, he was automatically placed in the same line of young men who have made wrong choices. Unfortunately for this young man, his wrong choice was one of fashion—according to a few news commentators. I believe he died because of the line he fated to stand in, by a man who believed that if you are a young black male, you are dangerous and a threat to decent society.
The man who shot and killed this teen is the real threat to a decent society. His actions revealed a dirty little secret that politicos and the like insist on denying—racism is alive and well in America. If you don’t believe that, darken the color of your skin and see what happens. Ask Spouse. He’ll tell you because even though he is college educated, well spoken and successful, he knows when someone discounts him because of his flesh tones. I know when it’s happened by his mood when he comes home.
Perhaps the good news is there is less racism than in the past and those who still crawl in racial/sexual/social hate are the minority (I pray). But they leave a stench.
Yes, it angers me. Part of my anger comes from my inability to understand why.
But let me share my dirty little secret—my racist, and proud of it, cousin in Mississippi. The last time I saw him he made no effort to hide his disrespect of any being darker than him. He’s a locally powerful man with best buddies like the town’s sheriff and preacher. They, with their wives, came for Sunday dinner to meet “Tommie’s cousin from California.”
This group made no attempt to use politically correct terminology for people of color. In fact, they decried polite use of language. It was as if I had stepped back into America’s dark ages. I assumed that when one of these men asked me, “What’s it like to live in a state where those ****** (n word) can run around wild?” that he thought because I’m white I was on board with him.
The shock almost thwacked me into the red-painted wall behind my chair. Never, ever, had I heard such a thing. I chewed the grits a little longer than necessary. Visions of my friends back home—my unintended rainbow coalition—filled my head. I thought, this guy’s an idiot. But he was baiting me. The clue? “I know how you white liberals are out there, so I just wanna hear what it’s like to have those darkies taking charge.”
Great. I’m a guest in my cousin’s gracious country home. I’m at a dinner table full of possible members of the local KKK (that was my pre-digested assumption and placement of them into the proper line), and I want to stand up, rip into their hypocritical souls and go back home to California on the next flight out. But that made no sense. So,I explained that my education caused me to think different from them and that I believed all people equal in God’s eyes…and as far I as knew, there wasn’t anyone running wild, because we were all working hard to make a living with little wild time available. My cousin’s wife cleared her throat, which must have been her signal to her husband to shut up. It was a Sunday supper, after all.
On Monday I claimed a fever coming on, and I took the first flight back home. I haven’t visited since. We’ve lost communication, but I’d bet my life’s savings that cousin Tommie never referred to Barack Obama as president.
Today, news reports indicate that the man who shot the Florida teenager has a questionable history, and it is also alleged that he made a racial slur during his 911 call. The shooter, it’s reported, is multi-cultural, so I’d guess that this will become a bullet point to indicate that this shooting had no racial overtones. (Sigh.)
Last night we had dinner with friends. She’s a social worker, he’s a minister. I sensed despair between them because of this recent event, and that compounded by this ongoing attack on women. “What’s next? Black lists?” echoed in the room.
Me? It’s frustrating.
Spouse? He turned off the news the night before and said, “I have to watch a stupid movie before I get sick to my stomach.”
Which line do I choose to stand it?
The line that says, we, as a human race, are becoming more compassionate and caring people?
The line that says, we, as a human race, are falling deeper into the rabbit hole of darkness and despair?
I will not buy fear and paranoia, so this automatically places me in the first line. Loud mouths will defy this notion, while a forceful army of once invisible persons, rises and declines negativity and takes back our country for the greater good with compassion.