Good Morning Everyone. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, I like to take a moment from my usual postings of funny stories to reflect on the topic of racism in America. This year, I will turn 62 years old. As an African American woman, I have experienced many incidences of racism in my short life. Below is one of my experiences I would like to share with my readers.
I was twelve years old when I became aware of racism for the first time. In the fall of 1970, my, father, a command sergeant major in the army and a three-time war veteran, received orders to go to Bozeman, Montana for two years, shortly after he returned from Vietnam. We were living in Tacoma, Washington at the time, and I was in the sixth grade. Two weeks before my father was to report for duty in Bozeman, my parents piled me and my four siblings into their giant Oldsmobile and drove to Montana for the weekend. It was a long and grueling drive, 690 miles one way to be exact.
Once we crossed the Montana state line, we ran into snow. I remembered the snow piled high on the side of the road and the road appeared to stretch for miles with no ending in sight. By the time we arrived in Bozeman, it was near dusk. I remembered Bozeman as a small town with streetlights flickering on and off. The town was almost empty except for a few town residents lingered on the sidewalks. Most of the businesses were closed except for the twenty-four-hour diner on the corner.
Exhausted and hungry, my parents decided to find a place to stay before getting something to eat. My Dad stopped at five different motels with vacancies, and not one of those places agreed to rent to my father. Finally, after two hours of searching for a place, a small motel showed us mercy and graciously allow my parents to rent a room for the weekend. After we checked in, my Dad went to the local diner and got us something to eat then we settled in for the night.
The next morning, after we showered and dressed, we piled into the Oldsmobile and went to the local diner for breakfast. As soon as we walked in, everybody in the restaurant twisted around in their seat and stared. We were the only black people in the restaurant, and the whole town as far as I could tell. I remembered feeling uneasy. They watched us take a seat at the table closest to the door. I remembered my father insisting on sitting on the side where he could view the entry. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. As we sat and waited for the waitress, immediate dread came over me. These people staring at us didn’t want us here. No one said a word. We waited patiently for the waitress. Ten minutes later, she came over and politely took our orders. Our meals came out twenty minutes later, and we ate most of the meal in silence. My parents had a brief conversation and that was it. Somehow, we distinctly knew, we must stay on guard, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
After we finished eating, my Dad paid for the meal and we left. As we exit the diner, the people there continued to stare. Even at the age of twelve, I didn’t want any parts of Bozeman, Montana. I also asked my father why we were even moving there. He told he had orders to the army base outside of Bozeman, and this assignment will be his last one before he retired. I cringed at the thought of living in this dreary, unfriendly place for two years. I had seen enough and was ready to go back home. I was not happy.
My parents searched for housing the entire weekend, and although, housing was available, no one in the town would rent to my parents. Racism in Bozeman, Montana was thick like Karo syrup. It was clear, we were unwelcomed there, so we packed our bags and returned to Washington State. The following Monday, my father called his commanding officer and relayed his concerns about moving to Bozeman. His commanding officer gave him new orders, and his assignment was an instructor for the national guard in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1972, my father retired from the United States Army.
This experience opened my young eyes to racism. Racism has reared its ugly head off and on throughout my life. Sometimes it’s blatant, other times, it’s subtle and there are times when it hits me with condescending condemnation. I don’t know which is worse, but the outcome is always the same. “Your kind are not welcome”, “You have no seat at the table,” You have no right to justice or self-determination” as a Black American in this country.
There are some white Americans oblivious to the pain they often inflict on people of color. They continued to support the mantle of racism despite George Floyd’s cruel death. They used tactics to change the narrative instead of acknowledging the pain of racism. They preferred to rationalize racism’s existence instead of looking for ways to reform this country’s discriminatory practices. They even go as far as using race and religion to justify their reasoning and mindset which is an insult to the black community.
For example, on FB yesterday, a white colleague of mine posted a statement by a bi-racial black man who stated he had a white mother. His issue was not stamping out racism but addressing sexual immorality and other sins outlined in the bible. This post infuriated me. Did he think he was exempt from racism because he has a white mother? Most black people in America have a white relative in their immediate family or background.
The mixing of the two races started in slavery. White slave owners raped black women and this violence birthed bi-racial children. Today bi-racial unions are by choice. But these children who come out of these unions are still view as black. They are not exempt from racism, bigotry and inequality. Does this man not know America’s history? He’s still a black man. Having a white mother does not exempt him from the brunt of racism nor does it give him the special privilege. He will be stopped just like any other black man on the street minding his own business. He will be questioned, harassed and even killed.
This same friend detested Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled against racial injustice in this country during the national anthem. His mother is white, but this brother had enough sense to realize his blackness, self-determination and boldness was viewed negatively by white American society. Some white Americans changed the narrative and made Kaepernick’s protest about the flag instead of the racism, inequality and injustice of black people he was protesting. They didn’t miss the point. They didn’t want to face their sin.
Therefore, on FB yesterday, my friend tried to invoke another narrative. She refused to acknowledge the crime of racism, and the injustice of black people in this country. She and others like her failed to see how White America has consistently and persistently benefitted from the oppression of black people. They never see their participation in the enforcement of racism and injustice as a problem. They view it as Black America’s problem. How can you call yourself a Christian and discriminate against your fellow man of a different race or skin color? Does she and this bi-racial man not know that God is a God of Justice and, he, too, despises racism and injustice just like any other sin on this planet?
It’s seems that all Christians of every stripe and color should want to fight against racism and injustice. Instead of taking responsibility for the sinful, destructive nature racism and injustice have on people of color, especially black people, they blindly focused on other issues and buried their heads in the sand.
Racism, inequality and injustice are immoralities too. Black lives have suffered way too long under the sin of oppression. It’s time to reform the justice system in this country and make it fair and equal to people of color not just for White America. If this occurs and the nation successfully makes that change, then George Floyd’s death will not be in vain.
Thank-you For Reading. Comments Welcome.
Categories: Short Stories