The latest statistics I’ve heard indicate that 15% of voters admit that race will still play a role in their decision for President. The statistics don’t say whether or not it will be a positive role or a negative role, just that 15% will take race into consideration. I was not raised to consider race in anything, so it is something I don’t understand. I didn’t know what racism was until at least high school and even then I didn’t hang around with a crowd that was racist so it wasn’t something I thought about.
In the early 1970’s I was in grammar school at Verplank Elementary School in Manchester, Connecticut. I learned how to jump rope, Double Dutch style, from my friends Janet Cooper and Audrey Gaines. I got so good at Double Dutch that I was better than they were. But they weren’t mad. The were proud of me. We were friends. I knew that they came to school every day on a bus. I knew that they lived in Hartford and that is where the buses took them home to every night. But I didn’t know why, or think about why. I didn’t care why, I didn’t even question why. I think I just assumed that there weren’t enough schools in Hartford. It certainly wasn’t something that I thought was out of the ordinary. In fact, I was jealous that they got to ride the bus (until I got older and actually rode a bus to school every day). My parents never mentioned anything about busing and it wasn’t talked about in school. It wasn’t until many, many years later when busing kids from the inner city out to the suburbs became an issue again sometime in the 1990’s that I even realized that my grammar school was part of desegregation.
My 3 older brothers went to a vocational technical school in Manchester as well. My oldest brother had a best friend named Eric Coke. They were much older than I was back then. My oldest brother and I are only 6 years apart but back then it seemed like generations. Eric lived in Hartford. Eric would often stay at our house on weeknights when they boys had a night game or something and it was just easier for Eric to stay with us rather than have his parents or mine drive back and forth to Hartford. He would come to our house for things like Halloween and dress up with all of us. We used to laugh because back then with the Polaroid instant cameras, the quality was so bad, and Eric had such a dark, very dark, complexion, he would disappear in the picture unless he smiled. It wasn’t something racist to us, it was just a funny matter of fact. We laughed, he laughed, we went trick-or-treating, and that was just another normal day at our house. I was the youngest of 6 and we’re all about a year apart. So having one more, or two more people around wasn’t unusual.
Many years after my father died in 1984, my mother and I met for lunch somewhere. We got to talking about the old days. I was still in my “I’m going to write a novel” phase. So I started asking a lot of questions about my father, his past, his upbringing, etc. My mother told me a story about how my Dad helped the one and only black family in our neighborhood get a mortgage. He spent weeks going from bank to bank with this man until somebody would give him a mortage. I didn’t know any of this. And I certainly didn’t know that banks could be so blatantly racist as to not give a black man a mortgage for a house in a white suburb. Of course it happened right before I was born. But it wasn’t something my father bragged about and it wasn’t part of our family story. It was just something my father did because that’s the kind of man my father was. He didn’t brag about it because he didn’t want to teach his children that people were different and those differences led to people being treated differently. I think he wanted to shield us from the evils of life as long as he could.
I am somewhat of a loner. I don’t like people all that much. I have always hand-picked the people who are an integral part of my life. There are a lot of reasons to hate people. They are crazy. They are selfish. They are self-centered. They are dumb, racist, bigoted, loud, misinformed, uncaring, childish. The list goes on an on. I can’t image that of all the reasons there are to hate people, someone is going to go with color???? I was raised better than that.
I did not have the best of childhoods and I never really identified with my parents. They never truly understood me and I did not understand them. I don’t recall them being very affectionate and loving and I don’t recall really loving them all that much. Of course that has changed and I have re-evaluated many things over the years. I learned to understand my mother better and I learned that I am so much like my father that it’s scary. The big difference between me and him is I don’t have a problem telling people how I really feel. But when I look back and think about all the things my parents did, and didn’t do, I thank them because I was not raised to hate anybody. I was not raised to hate those who were different; different from me, or different from the norm, or different from what society said they should be.
I know I am probably living in a fantasy world about the subject of racism. When I first heard Barack Obama give a speech at the 2004 DNC, I was in awe of him. I thought, “what a great President he would be”. And I never even gave race a minute of thought. I just thought to myself, “Finally, someone who is smart and can inspire me and others to be proud Americans”.
So to me, even if one person refused to vote for a man or woman for President simply because of skin color, that’s one too many.