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.