Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Race relations and one dumb ass

Let me try to do justice to this little morality play in three parts:

First, we went to a breakfast at the community college celebrating Martin Luther King Day. Teenage students were in charge of the program. We were not prepared for stunning ferocity or the fierce beauty of the original poems presented by 16-year-old Shanita Ariona Monique Jackson. She spoke of poverty, of culture, of sickness and of family love. Powerful emotions. We were all in tears and honored her with a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted several minutes. She was crying, too. It was remarkable.

A week later, we went to see “Lincoln.” Since we are of a certain age, we favor the matinee showings. Sometimes, we are the only people in the theater. Not this time. More people turned out to watch Daniel Day-Lewis than any other movie we’ve seen here. Just white people. No black people. All the more amazing, since this is the Deep South where to this day the Civil War has different meaning.

Later, around dusk I pulled in to a convenience store to get gasoline. This particular store had been robbed the week before. A big, rough-looking black guy came out of the store and shot me a look. It made me uneasy so I waited to get out of the van until I saw him ride away – on his little Vespa. No real badass rides a Vespa.

Dumb ass. I’ve still got a ways to go. I suppose we all do.



The South Plainsman said...

If you had had your trusty Glock with you, nothing like that would have entered your mind. LOL

MJ said...

Maybe the black people were still in the balcony.

I'm the little kid who got on the city bus with my grandmother in Ft. Worth when we came down for a visit in 1965 and jumped up and down and cried because she would not let us sit in the back of the bus. I told her I didn't understand why they got to sit in the good seats in the back with all the windows where you could see out if we couldn't.

It wasn't crowded, but there were some black people back there who scooted over and smiled. I was delighted.

"See, we can sit with them Nana, they made room for us and they want us to." I pulled hard against her. She still didn't say a word, but she wouldn't let me go. I finally gave into the deathgrip that was cutting off all my circulation and just sat down.

I'm a few years older now than she was then. The only history we shared was the first half of my life and the last half of hers. But I know she was scared. It was a scary time. Change always is. You just don't start a riot with a three-year old.

When we got back to my grandparent's house, I told my mother what happened and asked her why the black people got to sit in the back of the bus where all the good windows were. She said that's because people had been so mean to them all of their lives...that was the way we tried to make it up to them. Not exactly accurate, but the tables turned where they should have in my tiny mind, and I felt better.

Most importantly, I remembered that day for the rest of my life. Long enough to see it from every angle. And that's what mothers and grandmothers are for.

don said...

hey, george. I was watching a mindless episode of 'last 48' just now while I walked on the treadmill. yep, I've still got some latent racism in my blood. the show plays to that. most of the perps are black, a few latinos, killers all. you were honest in your piece today. I still haven't seen 'lincoln' but want to. abrazos, d

Ken Martin said...

Good piece, George.

I have a tale along the line of MJ's: I was raised in Dallas and my stepfather was a street car driver for 44 years (to get the last couple of years in he finally had to get a driver's license and drive a bus. Took the test three times before he passed and we were scared to ride with him in a car still.)

We lived a block from the street car line in Oak Cliff. We got on and off the street car two blocks from the end of the line. At the end of the line the driver had to flip the seats to face the other way and signs that marked where the colored section started had to be moved so the back was in the back of the street car headed in a different direction.

Being a streetcar driver's stepson and wanting to help, I often was the last person on the car when I came home. so I would flip the seats as we neared my stop and I would move the colored-section signs to the other end.

Dallas schools were not integrated till sometime after I left town in 1958 for a career in the Marine Corps. As a kid growing up I never realized that I was actually, in effect, helping to enforce the racial barriers when I moved those colored-section signs.

Dumb ass kid.

Escaped Waco Alive said...

Larry L. King's CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE RACIST should be required reading for anyone who is white or black in America...but especially those of us down here in the South.

Tim O'Keefe said...

Interesting juxtapositions. So you are human too, hmmm?

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