Wednesday, June 3, 2009
A Class Trip to Washington, D.C.
President Obama is not naive by any means but he was a little too P.C. in telling a story about his father. Specifically, he said that 60 years ago it might have been difficult for his father to get a meal in a D.C. restaurant. I think he was being polite in making it such a long time ago. In 1961, a sixth grade classmate of mine was humiliated and stung by segregation during our big class trip to Washington. We road a train with about 80 of our classmates from Chicago to Washington to "witness history." At the time, I was totally ignorant that history had yet to be made when it came to equal rights for African-Americans. Living in a cozy, nearly homogeneous, suburban community, it hadn't occurred to me that having a best friend who had African roots was anything extraordinary. Several generations of her family had lived in our home town, far longer than my family had lived there. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't learn about Michelle's dreadful experience until our 40th high school reunion 2 summers ago. The pain of the memory was still evident. As she cogently reminded me, race was a non-issue in our schools at the time. Problems between the races were never discussed, so it made it seem that there were no problems. Now that I think about it, discord of any sort was avoided. Reminds me of that movie, Pleasantville, about a pleasant town with pleasant people living a shades-of-gray pleasant lifestyle. They were ignorant of the outside world until a brother and sister from the future somehow were transported there and introduced them to literature, art, music and (oh my!) sex. Gradually the town and it's people then took on color and the world opened up to them. Please don't misunderstand me. I loved where I grew up, but now I realize mine was a very sheltered existence. Many of us went away to college and learned some hard, ugly lessons about real life. I now regret that I wasn't aware and mature enough in 1961 to recognize the nastiness of some people so that I might have tried to protect my friends. The resilience and resolve of African-Americans is astounding. The Black Pride Movement scared some whites, but it empowered Blacks and helped to bring about necessary change. Michelle earned a Ph.D. in religion and held high office in her denomination. Other African-Americans went on to become gifted educators, doctors, scientists, musicians, authors, athletes and more despite the undeserved stigma attached to their skin color. WE AMERICANS can be proud that we elected as our President an intelligent, motivated and honorable man -- a man of color!