An ex and I were lamenting ten years ago about racial strife in America. His deeply Southern roots conflicted with my experiences as the daughter spawned from upper-crust Connecticut meeting inner-city Brooklyn and settling in a rural yet industrial area of Texas.
My dad had a woman who cooked his breakfast and tended to the house. A surrogate motherly caretaker, her race differing from his wasn’t noticed in a negative light. She was who she was, and she was loved by my father.
120 miles but many lifestyles away, my mom grew up in the projects. Her five-story government building housed those from all walks. Her socioeconomic status made her no different than the other children — whether immigrants, traditionally deprived racial groups, or plain ol’ white folk down on their luck.
Combine these two walks of life, and mine became one where I was raised blissfully unaware of perceived differences. I eventually came to learn that there were people who blindly didn’t like black people, but our family chalked those sorts up to being bona fide white trash. And while growing up in Huffman, Texas, there’s little more you tried to avoid than to succumb to life as white trash.
During our talking, my ex said something about his father drinking from segregated water fountains during his youth, and I had to stop the conversation from shock. In my mind, despite being an educated and socially aware person, I never put it together that people who are not-so-old adults today lived as not-so-young children in the 60s.
Perhaps it’s having parents who grew up in the North, or perhaps it’s associating black and white photos with a time so long, long ago. Either way, it just never registered in my 18-year-old brain that the racial friction that came to a head in the 1960s really wasn’t all that long ago.
Since that conversation ten years ago, I’ve looked at events through new eyes. I sympathize with what Malcolm X aimed to do, and I now understand why he chose his biting tone. The man was fed up — and rightfully so. His oration had a fantastically effective way of inciting a call-to-action.
I juxtapose his rhetoric with Martin Luther King’s, and I see his differing approach. I always wonder if he used that softer, more peaceful stance as a PR move to make it make sense to everyone, still feeling the anger that Malcolm X so aptly described. Whether a matter of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar, his message is just as relevant to the turn our nation needed.
I think about the generation below mine. Those self-absorbed little shits (I call it like I see it) are being raised in an interesting time. Whereas my peers see racists in a most-negative light, the crap heads of this newer generation are the anti-gays. Racial prejudice in many areas is simply not accepted or understood.
I’m not naïve enough to fully don my rose-colored glasses on this matter, but it’s undeniably true that the longer that time goes on, the more archaic these matters seem to be.
The woman’s place being in the kitchen? Long gone.
Black men needing to metaphorically tap dance for the boss? Nearly gone.
Gays being different in their abilities to love and be loved? On its way out within 20 years, just as the other persecuted groups before them.
As a political news junkie, I’ve been keeping up with the Democratic primary process. I hold staunchly Libertarian viewpoints, but the past five months have moved me away from blindly putting my vote in that ‘Other’ category. The discussion of viewpoints and plans for action has been most interesting. My thoughts on Hilary Clinton have deepened in the negative column based on her issues — not just because she rubs me in the absolutely wrong way with her man-in-a-skirt act. And although I’m a lot more by-your-bootstraps when it comes to social issues, I’ve been interested in what Obama has to say.
I appreciate his common sense approach to matters. I understand his desire to transform the current system. I respect that sometimes shit happens and that the country needs the occasional hands-up. But most of all, in an absolute admission that advertising works on me, I agree with his message of change.
I listen to John McCain and nod at about half the things he says. I read Obama and nod at the half that I disagree with McCain on.
Did you catch something there?
Let me repeat:
I read Obama and nod at the half that I disagree with McCain on.
I make this distinction intentionally, as I fully realize that when Obama talks, I’m not a partial source.
Simply put: The man moves me.
Combining that with last’s night historic announcement that a black man is now the perceived nominee as the Democratic presidential candidate, and I found myself absolutely inspired by what our nation has achieved in the past 50 years. We’re not yet where we need to be, but the passing of two generations fostered enough common sense and understanding to make this event possible.
It’s historic. It’s beautiful. And no matter where your vote goes this November, I hope you take a moment to savor what’s happening and let it move you.