Racism vs. Intense Emotion
On this the first evening since the election I would like to share something that is conflicted within myself and touches me deeply. There is no doubt that we have just come through an historic and transformative election day. Only time will tell the full implications of the chain of events that are now set in motion in our country. They may turn out to be very great and they may turn out to be very grave. In fact, they may turn out to be both at once or some shade in between. The reasons that people made their choice for Barack Obama are certainly as varied as the shades of color in the fall landscape. One of the reasons was racism pure and simple. Racism is infinitely destructive and as ugly a monster as has ever reared its head in our country. Racism has never been a part of my character and when growing up as a child was the farthest thought from my mind. I never fathomed that someone would hate someone else because of the color of their skin or that someone would like someone else because of their skin color. Unfortunately, I grew older and came to know people that acted exactly in that way. I can not think of a more foolish reason to decide to look on someone with favor or with disdain. Many people voted for Obama for this very reason and this reason alone.
Now let me share a story with you about where I work. I am a School Bus mechanic by trade and work for a public school district at the Bus Barn. Because of the part-time nature of driving a school bus many bus drivers are retired from another profession and now drive for some extra cash or just for something to do. Many drivers or bus monitors are in their 50's and 60's. I have a good relationship with most drivers and many are good friends that I respect and enjoy their company and stories of the life they have lived. One of these people, (whom I will call Mildred for anonymity), grew up in Brooklyn and moved here to the Kansas City area as a young lady. She married a man who was in the service and stationed in the very town that I currently reside in. He fought for our country and was a man of great honor by all accounts I have heard. The time was the late 1960's. He and Mildred went to some sort of ball that the military was having. She was elegantly dressed and he was in his dress uniform. After the evening they left the ball to go home. After a wonderful evening they decided to stop for an ice cream cone. He pulled in the parking lot and walked into the hotel/restaurant to get his young bride an ice cream cone. He was promptly told that "his kind" was not welcome there and that he would not be sold an ice cream cone. Furthermore, he was to leave immediately. This was my very town a short 40 years ago. This man, a soldier in his dress uniform, was rejected and discarded from even purchasing an ice cream cone not because of his character or his actions but simply because of the color of his skin. Even as I now type the horror of those words cause tears to well up in my eyes. He has since passed away and only Mildred is left with us. The memory of this event etched - no, seared - into her mind. She is a kind person and a good person and does not hate those with the same color of skin as the man who rejected her young soldier husband. She would lend me help as freely as I would lend her help. Upon seeing a man with same color skin as hers, the same color skin her husband wore, win the election to become the next President of the United States of America she was flooded with intense emotion. It's an emotion that is beyond my experience on this earth. It is an emotion that I can not even pretend to know. She did not vote for Obama because of his skin color but it is his skin color that brings this intense emotion to the surface. And she was overjoyed to the point of tears last night upon seeing a man with similar skin color, HER skin color, be chosen by millions of Americans to what is arguably the most powerful office in the world. Her husband could not even purchase an ice cream cone for her out of his love for her because of his skin color and now someone with that same skin color will be our President. How could I, or anyone else, begrudge her joy over such an event even though it is based on nothing but pigment? I certainly profoundly disagree with the choice of Obama as President but in the same breath, and to a greater extent, I celebrate the joy and intense emotion of my friend. Politics is politics. People is people and that's important.