Monday, August 3, 2009

Lessons on Race from my Father


I’m not sure why the race card got pulled at Obama’s press conference on health care. My guess is that it was planned, as it seems that every move our president makes is extremely orchestrated. It also appears that, if you don’t like his liberal policies, you are considered to be a racist.


I know that is not true. I know what racism is. I was in a restaurant in Memphis as a little girl when a lovely black family came in and there was a huge gasp from all the patrons at other tables. My parents smiled at them, as they also had a large “brood” of children. I saw the caravans of teens that left school the first day of integration in Birmingham as a protest. (Or, perhaps, just so they could go to Burger in a Hurry instead of school!) I had long time family “friends” leave my wedding in a tiff because my black friends came to my church to celebrate an important event in my life.

My father taught us all a lesson long ago without a single lecture. We, a family of nine, came home from church one Sunday evening to find a black man rummaging through our kitchen. DoDad chased him out the back door, down the rickety wooden steps, through the yard full of bamboo, to the back ally. We watched from the back windows as they disappeared from sight. Then my “hero,” my daddy, came back with the man in tow. But, instead of wrestling with him, they were talking and smiling. Instead of calling the police, he called to mother to fix some dinner for the man. He was hungry. He was looking for food. We were poor, too, but we always had food. This poor guy’s punishment that day was to have 7 curious little kids crawling all over him and asking him a thousand questions!

My son is currently teaching in Korea, and he said his little ones stroke his hairy arms out of curiosity in much the way that we stroked that man’s hair. It’s not racist. You have to feel comfortable about yourself and someone else to touch them in that way. I remember an evening of laughter and fun.

Later, DoDad explained a bit about relationships to me. We were in his office building on a weekend, watching some protestors down on the sidewalk. Birmingham had a bad reputation for the way that the police and fire department and dogs treated protestors, and we were witnessing some of that. He told me that basically everyone wants to feel good about themselves and wants to feel more important than someone else. It is part of human nature to want to be special, and that there are two ways to achieve that goal. One way is difficult. We must work hard, get a good education, improve ourselves, and constantly try to achieve the high goals that we set for ourselves. The other way is easy. You merely sit back, call other people names and slap them down so that you can believe that you tower above them. “Which way are you going to choose?” he asked me.

I think I made the right choice.

Which choice will you make?

1 comment:

  1. Your father sounds nice enough, but watching others being discriminated against istn't the same is suffering it yourself.