Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Question of Race, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Prejudice in the late 1960s and early 1970s manifested itself in many ways. I remember hearing bad jokes, sick stories, and caricatures that turned my stomach.

Somehow I rejected many of these attitudes, even though they were dominate. Many people I knew had no problem with attitudes about the "colored" folks. My grandmother up until she died last year made off-the-cuff remarks about her caretakers, as in, "she's a really nice colored girl, them folks do good at changing the sheets." She did not mean harm; it was way she was raised.

Attitudes are difficult to change.

In 1971 I was in the third grade at my rural elementary school.

One day I was asked if there were any black teachers at my school.

"No," I said, and returned to whatever I was doing, probably reading a book.

My third grade teacher was Mrs. Fairfax. She was a wonderful lady and I loved her with all the adoration a nine-year-old girl could muster for her teacher. She expected and received the best from me. I was her best student but she did not have favorites. She simply acknowledged that I made the top grades and moved on, but at the same time I still felt special.

She was unique that way.

She was also black. I had forgotten!

A similar event happened when I was 17. I had my driver's license and I wanted guitar lessons. I found a teacher a one of the city's music shops at one of the malls.
He was a wonderful teacher, very patient and very much ready to help me improve my performance and technique.

I took lessons from him for about a year. One day someone who had met him approached me and asked me why I had never mentioned the fact that my guitar teacher was a black man.

"It never occurred to me that it was a problem," I said.

I guess the moral of these musings is that upbringing and environment can be overcome. I like to think that I am open minded and maybe a little less prejudiced than some.

However, I am sure that I have prejudice and bigotries because I do not believe that people can be free of such things. I think everyone has them.

Prejudice and bigotries manifest themselves in many ways. I guarantee there are a number of white men (and women) watching the Democratic primaries in horror. It must be the stuff of their nightmares as they watch a woman and a black man duke it out for the presidential nomination.

I remember when Doug Wilder was nominated governor of Virginia. Several people I knew thought this would be the end of life as we knew it for this state. But that didn't happen. Wilder was a pretty good governor as governors go.

I feel sure that if Barack Obama ends up as president, life will continue on. If Hillary Clinton ends up as president, life will continue on. I suppose it will even continue on if John McCain ends up as president. How it continues on is another question entirely, but it is not a question that I think is answered by pointing at race and gender.

Maybe one day those traits won't matter. Maybe we'll all be able to be see only people, you and you and me and all of the rest, as just folks. Just human beings trying to get along.

**Editors note**

Upon reflection, I changed several of the above paragraphs of this entry to eliminate some things that I thought may embarrass someone else and to clarify a few points at the end. The meaning is still the same, I think.

**End Editors note**


  1. First to the last sentences: yes life will go on no matter who gets elected...the question is "how".

    It's so interesting to read about these times where racial prejudice was so casually felt and discussed. I think of the movie "Babe" and the line "that's just the way things are". Now, hopefully this sort of prejudice is gone from many and has at least waned in others. Unfortunately, from what I read on the Blue Ridge Muse post this morning, it's still all too real.

  2. Yes, of course the "how" is important... but I wonder how much the fear of that "how" is influenced by prejudice or gender bias?

  3. I can't help but think about the movie Plesantville when I'm reading this. Good entries CD!

    I think I'll be musing on this a while. Shannon


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