It was late in the afternoon. I was 15 years old, and my step-father at the time, Lee, was driving me home from my job at Dodson’s Cafeteria in Oklahoma City. I was a dishwasher… and I left my tennis shoes at the restaurant: they get really dirty in the dishwashing area! The year was 1980 (a little more math and you get my age…)
We were turning the corner toward home, and Lee was talking about the problems in the world, specifically the problem makers: spics and spooks. I’d heard the term “spics”, referring to Latinos. Growing up in West Texas exposed me to plenty of those terms, “wetbacks” being the usual one thrown out. But I didn’t know what he meant by “spooks”.
“What is a spook?” I asked.
“You know, ghosts, black people, niggers.”
That moment was an epiphany for me. I decided right then and there that I would not be that way. It’s taken me a long time to mature in my interactions with people, and a long time to get out of my perfectionist, soloist mindset. But this one matured for me at 15 years old.
My son brought home a required reading book in the third grade. It was all about Martin Luther King, Jr. My son didn’t even know a black person from a white person … they were just people to him. The story brought out those questions. We explained, as best we could to an autistic third grader, that in the past, black people were slaves. They were freed under President Lincoln, but they were still heavily oppressed. King helped to lead the fight to remove that oppression, and he was somewhat successful. But there are still people around like the ones that King campaigned against.
That’s a core belief of mine: There are still folks out there who judge according to color!
I’ve heard conservatives claim reverse racism. I’ve heard liberals claim racism. I’ve heard talk show hosts discuss playing “the race card”. I don’t think that everyone is using the same meaning for that term. At some point, I’ll write my Politics post and go more into the mindset conflict I see in politics today…
But discrimination is still out there – in the workplace, in public areas such as stores or on the road, in education. I strongly believe that affirmative action needs to remain in place. As long as those discriminatory actions exist, society, and the enforcers in society, must work against it.
My hope and prayer is that hearts will be changed – there is neither man nor woman, Greek nor Jew, black nor white.