I was raised in a prejudiced family. My granny and granddaddy lived down in Columbus, KS, near the Bible Belt, and their county was active in the KKK. Now, there's no way my granddaddy would have held with such nonsense--he was too busy trying to feed his family and give his girls a college education. But, bless his crotchety old soul, he wouldn't have held with no blacks as friends or family, neither. Without going into detail, this attitude lingers in the next generation, as well.
And then you come to me.
I had the good fortune to live in Kansas, as well as achieve my BS in Education there, during my 20s. Some of you may laugh, but Kansas, for an educator, is of particular interest because of Brown v Topeka Board of Education.
From Linda Brown Thompson's own accounting of the first time they tried to attend the neighborhood school:
well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know....And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn't understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.
The only solution to desegregate the schools in a segregated town? Busing by lottery. And until as recently as last year, that was the norm in most urban Kansas schools. When I worked in Wichita schools as an itinerant councilor through a university- sponsored program aimed at getting underprivileged kids to achieve a post-secondary education, the schools were firmly integrated. No one liked the busing (some kids had well over an hour tacked onto their school day) but no one could deny the schools were racially integrated.
My first real job out of school, after substitute teaching in classrooms of all hues, was the above-mentioned position. My students were as racially mixed as the schools we culled them from. Well over half the staff was black--I think it was the director, me, and one other woman who were white, on a staff of about ten. I've been the only white face in the room many, many times, be it a classroom or an office or somebody's kitchen. While I worked that job, many of my friends were black. We went out to lunch together. We visited each others' houses, being we were fools enough to live in drafty old places that required a lot of repair and commiseration. We shared ourselves. We were friends.
In my formative years, in an era of drive-by shootings and black gang warfare that would curl the toes of some suicide bombers, while my elder generation was still talking about the damn n-----s, I got over it. And so now when people carefully point out that most Muslims are peace-loving, it's only the few extremists who make them all look bad, I might smile politely, but what I'm thinking inside is, Well, duh.
I don't have a lot of patience for focusing on "color", but not because I'm white and it's not my problem. It's because I worked it out for myself a long time ago--not perfectly, but to my satisfaction. I know it's still an issue. So is women's lib, prejudice against short people, writers without publishers, and all manner of things. However, I'm done with the problem. I know I'm not going to focus on a person's color first, and who else can I really be responsible for? (Incidentally, my kids got in the car yesterday, beaming, and said, "He's the President!" My daughter said she got to see the girls in their cute coats go into their new house. They've never said word one about the Obama's blackness. I don't even think the fact that my son's best friend is half-Jamaican has even registered--not worth mentioning, anyway.)
In my last post, I mentioned yesterday shows how far we've come, and how far we still need to go. In my opinion, having so much of yesterday be about the fact that President Obama (has a nice ring to it, that does!) is bi-racial does the man and the day a slight disservice. I don't downplay the significance, and I thought it was utterly charming that he used President Lincoln's Bible. But really, I've been shocked it hasn't happened sooner, just like it's nuts we haven't had a woman President, especially in the face of so much incompetence in the past decades. But mostly, President Obama has integrity and was the best candidate for the job. I personally spent very little time focused on the fact that he's black; upon having it pointed out to me early in the campaign caused a vague surprise that the topic even came up, and then dismissal.
I won't say I'm not prejudiced at all. Everyone is to a slight degree, for it's human nature to define ourselves with our differences. But to me, racial prejudice is as stupid as keeping gays from marrying--almost as stupid as not facing it head on and dealing with it already.