Black Lives Matter

I know my blog doesn’t have a large readership or audience, but I have a voice, regardless of how small it is, and I will utilize that voice in this time of uncertainty and anger. The writing herein will not be refined or characteristic of my usual writing style. Instead, I am writing this raw from a point of anger and sadness.

I grew up in Leavenworth and Lansing in the state of Kansas. As a small child, my elementary school had a large minority population. I personally didn’t notice anything different other than the fact that some of the kids had different skin colors than me. Racism was unknown to me. My father never really brought it up to me, and my teachers never said anything about it.

I played quite a few sports when I was younger. Baseball was my true love, and my father was one of the coaches for much of my young baseball life. My team consisted of a relatively even amount of white and black children. During my time in youth baseball, racism never reared its ugly head. At least I didn’t see it take place, and even now, I couldn’t tell you if racism played a heavy part in any of the team’s dynamics or politics.

But then my second grade year began. I had a black teacher by the name of Mrs. Ferguson. I remember her being a very lovely woman minus the times she yelled at me for doing something against the rules. Each year, we put on a school play. For my second grade play, we did a play during February for Black History Month. Each student was assigned a prominent figure in African-American history and portrayed them on stage. I was given the honor of playing Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice.

To be honest, I never thought anything of it. I just knew that I was portraying an important person in our nation’s history. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory, I remember seeing many upset people at the performance. People were mad that we were doing a show all about black people during Black History Month. At my age, it never registered that people were upset about that particular aspect of the show. I just assumed people didn’t like it.

Eventually, we moved to a different nearby city which meant going to a different school. In that new school, the majority, and by majority I mean probably 90%, of the students were white. Very few black children were in my classroom, but again, I never thought anything of it. Racism hadn’t really been a part of my childhood at that point; at least not from a perceived point.

In fact, it was in that first classroom in the new school that I met my best friend for the last 20 years. His name is Greg and he is black. Again, I never thought anything of it.

My first real taste of understood and perceived racism was on a Sunday morning at a local restaurant. If my memory serves me correctly, I was probably between 10 or 11 years old.

We had gone to a local restaurant that was renowned for its Sunday brunch. Church was over, and we made our way to the restaurant as a family. My family consisted of my grandfather, grandmother, father, sister, and myself. They were unbelievably busy. The wait was catastrophic to me, because my patience had always been a fickle thing when it came to waiting for a table at a restaurant.

After 45 minutes, we were finally seated at a table and given menus. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then thirty. After thirty minutes, no server had stopped at our table to take our orders. My grandfather was becoming extremely furious, even attempting to flag a few people down to come provide us with service.

While we sat there in fumes, hungry and thinning patience haunting us, a group of people walked past us, led by a hostess that was taking them to their seats. The group was comprised of a black family. Within seconds of them sitting down, a server immediately went over to them and started taking their order.

Now please, don’t construe this as me thinking we were being racially profiled. I remember zero sense of feeling like we had not been served because we were white. The thing I remember is my grandfather slamming his hand on the table and telling us we were leaving. We all got up and went back to the car. Once we were in the car, it was explained to me that the reason we left was because, “they served black people before us.”

I love my family. I have nothing but love, respect, and admiration for my deceased grandfather. But my family explained to me that we left because the black family received service before we did. My grandfather was infuriated that we sat there for thirty minutes with no service, and vowed to never return there again because they served the black family immediately after seating them while we waited for thirty minutes.

Looking back on that entire affair, I realize that I don’t know the entire details. Perhaps the server for that family wasn’t our server. Perhaps our server had walked out and quit and nobody was there to serve us. Maybe they were so busy that our party of five was overlooked. Honestly, I don’t know. Unfortunately, the only thing that sticks out in my mind was the explanation provided to me by my family once we got back in the car.

While that small form of racism doesn’t involve murder, it still stands out as my first perceived idea of white privilege and the racism that plagues our nation.

As the years passed on, I began to realize that racism was a far bigger problem than I originally thought.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls right around my birthday every year. One year, I decided that was I going to research why the holiday existed and what it meant. I remember getting a book from my high school library about MLK. I found it to be a fascinating read that really opened my eyes to the injustice in our country to men and women of color.

MLK Day is an important holiday, but not everybody seems to think so. I remember quite a few advocates during my childhood years that fought against MLK Day.

“Why should there be an entire holiday for a black guy that used to protest? That doesn’t make any sense!!”

No amount of explanation or logical thinking that I could present to those with that mind set could ever change their way of thinking. Ignorance and naivete are dangerous aspects in the minds of stubborn and uneducated people.

As the years have passed, I have seen racism explode in tumultuous ways. I have witnessed it in the most minute of ways as loved ones have criticized my best friend for his skin color. I have witnessed it in more severe ways as my fellow servers at the restaurant at which I worked were asked to not serve a table because of their skin color. I have witnessed it in extreme ways by watching on helplessly as men and women of color have been killed and abused by law enforcement on TV and in the news.

I am white. I have a privilege unknown to those of color. I am inherently inclined to make more money than people of color. I am less likely to be pulled over by the police for travelling in neighborhoods that aren’t my own. I am less likely to be viewed as hostile for committing a crime of any caliber.

I don’t know what it’s like to be persecuted for my race. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn down and unable to rebuild because of my race. I don’t know what it’s like to be judged simply because of my skin color. I don’t know what it’s like to be scared to go walking down the street. I don’t know what it’s like to fear for my life because I was pulled over for speeding.

I don’t know.

White people need to understand that we don’t have a fight like people of color do. We wake up every day and are given an inherent privilege simply because we were born white. Black people wake up every day and have to fight and struggle to find their niche in the world simply because they were born black.

The murder of George Floyd was a horrendous act committed in a treacherous manner that sickens me to my very core. Because of COVID-19, I am choosing to stay home instead of joining those peacefully protesting throughout the world.

But I want you to know that I am with you. I may be sitting at a computer desk and writing in front of a screen, but I am with you.

I want to listen. I want to understand. I want to stand with you. I want to support you. I want change. I want love. I want peace.

Black Lives Matter.

5 comments

  1. I will follow you not because I agree with all of what you wrote but just to help you understand. I grew up before all this racial tension started. I too never felt any of it in the 50’s and lived in liberal SF. Never once noticed the color of another’s skin. Had maybe two Black girls in high school with me. Never saw any discrimination toward them by anyone. In fact one of the Black girls was a cheerleader. Not bad.

    But my mother’s oldest brother, my uncle, was shot during a robbery by a Black man in Watts. I went to his funeral at age 5. But my mother and grandmother never spoke ill of Blacks. Never walked out of a restaurant due to not getting served first. Never had any of this behavior. I didn’t need to read up on Black history. I lived through the MLK shooting and JFK and Bobby Kennedy too.

    To be honest I never noticed racial discrimination until Obama became president. And it has escalated recently due to politics. You are at the age to have it influence you more. I’m a realist and have worked with Blacks and there are some bad apples from my personal experience nothing more than that. I don’t want to go into why.

    I have one redheaded son and my mother was a redhead and my brother. So we have something in common.

    Just don’t start having White guilt. Every life matters. We don’t get to pick our parents or our race or our economic class we are born into, but we can pick how we use what we were born with to make the most of ourselves. My mother did and ignored her grief but instead instilled love for family and “do unto others” in us.

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    1. Thank you for your cordial words and thoughts. It makes me happy to see that we can still be amicable while having stark disagreements on different matters.

      You make some valid points, and I appreciate your thoughts. I wouldn’t necessarily call it white guilt. Instead, I would call it a realization that I have a certain privilege because of my skin color and shouldn’t take that privilege for granted, especially when delving into the intricacies of rhetoric revolving around the racial problems facing our world today.

      You make an excellent point about how every life matters, however, in my opinion, every life is an overall facet while black lives are in peril now.

      The best example I saw a few days ago explaining this said, “Hey, come help me fix this thing wrong with my truck.” The other guy says, “What about my truck?” The first guy says, “What about it? Your truck is fine.” Second says, “Yes, but I want you to care about my truck too.” First says, “I do care, but my truck is broken.” Second says, “But why should we only focus on your truck and not mine?”

      While that could go in circles for a while, I like the ideal point of it.

      You are correct, though. It’s up to us to make the most of what we have. We can’t control who we were born as, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help make others not like us feel comfortable and safe as well.

      To each his or her own, right?

      Cheers!

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  2. Thanks for your civil response too. I hope you do become a writer. I published three mystery novels recently and it was quite fulfilling. I had a thought yesterday: if I had witnessed what was happening to George Floyd, I would have intervened by screaming at the cops to let him go rather than video it. “Get off him!” I would have yelled. I didn’t hear any of that in the background. Interesting. It may have saved his life.

    Keep in mind the privilege that you think you have is slowly diminishing. It started in the 70s with Affirmative Action laws allowing minorities and women to be hired over other qualified White men. I’ve even benefited by this law. Then over the years it became SOP to hire a minority over a White guy. Then with political correctness, women’s lib, and Obama becoming president, a White man is one of the worst demographics out there. I’ve noticed it in children’s schools even. They will believe girls first in order of their race Black at top and White at bottom then the boys in similar order. If you’re White boy, forget about it. It’s called teachers overcompensating for white guilt. Don’t become that person and hopefully you won’t be overlooked in the workplace.

    I’ve never felt privileged as my parents didn’t have a lot of money and I had to sew my own dresses in high school, pay for my own college classes, buy my own car, and never asked for a dime. I started working full time at age 17. My sons not so much. They had priviledge although they got jobs in high school and wore expensive tennis shoes. But they told me I raised them to have respect for the police despite them getting pulled over all the time for speeding and they aren’t Black. Bleeding heart liberal, I am not, and hate to see young folks falling for it. And most of my friends are Democrat and I haven’t dumped them yet. Go figure.

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    1. Writing as a full-time job is becoming less and less of a reality, but it’s not going to stop me from writing as much as I can. I have a few ideas for some fantasy novels floating around inside my head, but I haven’t the motivation to begin writing them at the moment.

      That is a fair point that I hadn’t considered. In some of the videos, not just George Floyd’s, you can hear pretty avid negative responses from those that look on, but you are right that it wasn’t done in George Floyd’s case.

      I suppose overall privilege is becoming less prevalent, but I still feel like there’s a modicum of privilege in different areas. While procuring a job may be more difficult than before, I still feel relatively safe when I get pulled over for speeding or for any other reason. I feel comfortable travelling in neighborhoods that aren’t my own, and I don’t feel like I’m being watched when I walk into a convenience store or otherwise. You make a good point about not succumbing to the idea of guilt, but I feel like recognizing and attempting to understand it is vastly different than becoming it.

      My privilege fell in different ways. I didn’t come from a lot of money, started working full time at 17 as well, and continued working as hard as I could for the longest time. But when I was 17, not a single coworker of mine was a person of color. By the time I was 20, I still hadn’t worked with a single person of color. Now, I don’t know if that’s because I was in a predominantly white area. Perhaps I was given more opportunity because I was white. Maybe people of color in my area didn’t want to work. It’s also possible they didn’t get the same accessibility I did. There are a myriad of justifications for the situation, none of which are known to me.

      I don’t consider myself liberal for the sole reason of white privilege. My liberalism stretches far past the ideals of racism. In fact, a majority of my liberalism ideals stem from many of the obstacles and hurdles I’ve overcome in my own life.

      It’s a strange world with strange perspectives. Nothing is sound anymore. Objectivity has become a thing of the past in the most unfortunate way.

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  3. Perhaps less Blacks at your work place as they still are a minority population nationwide. I see few where I have lived too thus fewer will have been hired. I voted Democrat until Bill Clinton came along and I changed ever since. I didn’t like his infidelity while in the White House and as Governor of AK. I thought elected officials should set a better example for the rest of us. Bush was a good example and so far Trump has been. Although he used to be a playboy in NY, he’s had to change 180 degrees.

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