Friday, May 8, 2015

The Art of Segregation

Spending the day off watching moving, true-life movies about overcoming odds and becoming stronger sort of messes with your mind. You go to bed and have these weird dreams where you are saving the world, you are one of the bad guys, or you are the one that has to overcome these odds.

And then you have The Epiphany.

What we were in the sixties and seventies versus what we are today, that is my story. In the sixties and seventies, White people were on top of the food chain. We easily went to college, found jobs, and went on to earn bucks as doctors and lawyers.

Then along came Martin Luther King.

He had a dream... No, he had a damned good dream!

He believed that all people were created equal. It's what the constitution says, so how can we argue with that?

The only thing standing in his way was the White people dream.

We were living the dream and denying that our dream was their dream.

I have even heard it recently from that Duck Dynasty dude (no, I don't watch the show)!

He said he worked in the fields with Blacks and they were happier working in the fields than they are now.

To quote what's-his-face and GQ: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson is quoted in GQ. "Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

I worked at a fast food chain in my first round with college. All of my training stemmed around smiling for the customer, smiling for the boss, smiling for the boss's boss. I smiled when they gave me a nickel raise. I smiled when they had me running the floor and the drive-thru during dinner rush. I smiled, Smiled, SMILED!

I would laugh and joke with my peers. I would tease the customers. Sometimes, I would even sing, when the mood took me.

But inside, I hated that job, I hated my boss, I REALLY hated my boss's boss, and you don't know how badly I wanted to tell them to shove that nickel raise up their royal asses.

But I stuck it out for two years and worked 3 other jobs to supplement my income.

That's what poverty does to you. It makes you smile, even when you want to cry. It makes you go to the drug store and buy vitamins instead of going to the hospital, because really, you can't even afford the vitamins, but the choice goes both ways.

You see, you can't walk around crying, or you either get put in a loony bin, or people avoid you like the plague.

Poverty is pain and suffering. And poverty is survival... Smiling in the face of adversity.

And Robertson, pre-entitlement was a time when all people were created equal, but if a Black person wanted to vote, they had to walk through a line of armed, white bigots intent upon keeping them down.

But yes, the dream of actually voting, was a worthy dream.

And then we entered the seventies.

The White man was still on top, the Blacks could vote, and all was right in the world.

And then Cesar Chavez moved to Texas.

The grape farmers were on top, and whenever they needed a few extra hands, they would just drive over the border and get more workers that would be thrilled at two dollars a day.

The farmers didn't even provide the laborers toilets, because "they don't know how to use them anyway."

They had children working in the fields! The thought makes me cringe.

It didn't matter that these kids weren't going to school, because they were going to grow up and become farm laborers like their fathers and mothers. So they didn't need to read or write. They just needed to know how to pick grapes.

So Cesar Chavez taught them how to fight without throwing fists. And when they tried to throw fists at the people who deserved it, he fasted for 28 days. He starved himself to teach them about pride and sacrifice... Much like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

And the sheriff sprayed the workers with pesticides when they picketed.

But they stood firm, and Bobby Kennedy stood with them.

And the rest of us Whites sat up on a mountain top thinking of those poor little Mexicans doing hard labor.

The mountain top has sunk a bit. It's getting harder and harder to look down on someone when they are almost at the same level you are on.

But they have their own mountain top to stand on. That's the reason that they can look us in the eye.

But it's a separate mountain top.

It's just as pretty as our White mountain top, but it's their mountain top.

It had to be this way. In order to empower themselves, they had to think of themselves as a separate entity. And they became separate, but equal.

In 2008, I voted for Barack Hussein Obama, and he became president.

I was so proud of myself because I voted in a Black man for president.

And now I am ashamed that I even thought that thought.

It was still us and them when I cast that vote. We were still separate but equal.

I ask myself today why I voted for President Obama. And I know that it was his policies that he spoke of when he was running. He is a damned good speaker.

I look at the pictures of him playing with kids and how they react to them, and I know that he is a good man, even if I don't agree with everything that he does. Kids wouldn't be that cool around someone on a lofty mountain top looking down at them.

The Epiphany is one of shame I carry because I was still thinking separate but equal, when I just should have been thinking equal.

Several months ago, I made a vow with myself never to sneeringly say "Bush Jr". I call him President George W Bush. I call all of those men before him president as well, as much as I dislike their policies and politics.

You see, as Americans, we voted in all of these men to the office of President. And no matter how much you hate or revile whatever president, they were elected by a majority of Americans and earned the title. And I know to say it with respect.

I have climbed down off of my mountain in shame.

I look up to the other mountains, and I wave from my lowly place, where I must learn humility and grace without a lofty perch.

There but for the grace of God go I...

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