Race, and Other Irrelevant Matters

An Australian friend posted a link in a FB group I’m a part of. Discussion ensued, and eventually I posted my own comment. You might find it interesting.
Times have changed. They began changing for me in 1956.
I grew up in the segregated south, in Louisiana. I had a couple of jobs part time while I was going to high school. I hadn’t experienced the hatred of some, the fear; my father employed men of color for a time, they were invited in to have lunch with us. In every case, they refused; I didn’t understand why. Later I realized that if someone had seen them, they might have been whipped or lynched. The possibility alone was enough to make them refuse. It also might have had to do with colored culture in those days.
But in ’56, I started working for a movie theater. I worked under the supervision of a black man. He was the first one I ever got to know. He supervised because he knew a lot more than I did. Economics in action.
In 1958 I joined the Army. There were African-Americans in uniform, we lived and ate together, and by 1959 my best friend was A-A. (note that the terms had begun to change; later they would be ‘black’.) In time I would serve with black men, have charge of some, work under the supervision of others.
In 1963 I found myself stationed at a missile base in Chicago. Guess what? That city was as prejudiced as anything I’d seen in the south. Granted, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were probably worse, but I’d never been to those places.
Before the civil rights movement gained much traction, I took part in an early sit-in, in El Paso. We went to a restaurant for breakfast, we’d been going there for months, but then we took a black soldier with us. They refused to serve us. Eventually we simply went into the kitchen, cooked our own breakfast, made out our own tickets, and paid them. We carefully left a one-cent tip by each plate and never went back again.
In 1964, my girlfriend (now my wife of 49+ years) decided she wanted to go to Birmingham. I told her no; if she went, that was the end of the relationship. But if she was serious, we could start in Chicago, and so we did. We went ‘block-busting’, trying to find housing in all-white neighborhoods for black college students. Frustrating, no headlines, no marches in the street…but we did what we could.
And that was only the beginning. Yeah, this country isn’t perfect. But if you look only at my personal experiences, you can see the change happening.
Music happened. Sports happened. Popular culture happened. Politics happened. Somewhere along the way, almost all of us began to drop the unreasoning part.
Now let’s look at the reasoning part of current civil rights.
There are parts of every major city where whites should not venture, especially after dark. Complain about Trayvon Martin if you will, but there have been multiple instances of whites venturing into areas controlled by one or the other street gangs, black or latin. Some have been mugged, some killed. A video made during one of the LA Riots showed the rioters dragging a white man from a truck and smashing a concrete block into his head. I think he survived, but badly brain-damaged.
You see, there are blacks and browns, probably yellows (Asians) who are just as quick to assault a white as some whites are to assault people of color. That conveniently gets forgotten in the rhetoric.
So: take Ferguson. Why is it overwhelmingly black?
I didn’t force anyone to live there. The residents made that choice. Why?
I currently live in New Mexico, before that I lived in El Paso, Texas. The areas are only about 250 miles apart.
I’m part of a minority in both places. They’re both majority Mexican by ancestry.
I chose to live in those places. No one made me do that. No one made the other residents live there either.
That too is ignored in the rhetoric.
Prejudice? Indeed…but that’s not a characteristic of one color. ALL of us practice it to an extent. Consciously? Now that, we have some control over.
Which is why so many public figures in this country are race-irrelevant.
Soapbox is yours…


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