I was on Facebook, moved by what I saw, so I clicked share.
It was that picture of Mr. Rogers and a black man soaking their feet. On it was the caption: "In 1969 when black citizens were still not allowed to swim in community pools alongside white people Mr. Rogers invited a black police officer on the show and asked him to join in and cool his feet in a small plastic pool, breaking a well-known color barrier."
It was a touching gesture, an inspiring bit of history, a beautiful picture, but the part that stuck with me was the date. 1969. I was twelve that year. I had always thought that this degree of racism was from way before I was born.
1969. That was the year I saw my first real live black man. I am Canadian born. Our country's racism was centered on 'Indians' as we called them back then. Black people were no issue at all as far as I knew. I came from a small town with only a couple of TV channels and no Mr. Rogers. It was easy to be naive, unavoidable really. In fact, I wouldn't even have known about the hatred towards 'Indians' if my parents hadn't adopted one.
I want to speak about our present-day riots in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but first you should know a few things about me.
1- I have a strange relationship with color and often don't know how to differentiate one race from another. This is physiological. As a child I had synesthesia and though I could hear sound I also saw it. Sound was represented by my brain as rays of color. This developed into a racial color blindness I thought everyone had.
2- At the age of twelve I saw my first black man when he came to teach music in our elementary school. It seemed like the whole town gathered out front that first day of sixth grade just to see him come out and ring the bell. He fascinated me because his tongue looked so red. I wrote a story about his watermelon-red tongue and the way the spit flew at us from the gap in his teeth. I got the strap and a two-day suspension for that. I was 43 years old before I understood why. Though I was strapped and suspended nobody explained that watermelon and negroes, as we called them then, were a negative association.
3- My adopted 'Indian' brother was brought to us because we were a white family. I did not know that. I just thought he was a kid that needed a home and we wanted another boy. My mother showed him off and got him to dance like a native around the living room before cleaning him up and dressing him in fortrell suits. My parents were abusive in very different ways so it wasn't until I was 16 and had left home that I started to get an inkling of the fact that my brother being an 'Indian' meant he was intrinsically despised by my parents. They kicked him out at a young age. Since this story isn't his story I will leave out all the in-between happenings and tell you that his life ended at 24 when he was murdered for the second time. He was beaten to death and thrown off a balcony. Two years before that he was gutted and his throat slit twice. During both incidences he was homeless and vulnerable. And before you think I didn't try to save him, trust me I did, and did, and did, and did, until he was gone.
When someone you love is murdered the anger, hatred, pain, is so white hot there isn't even sadness just rage, rage, rage. I will not do this pain the injustice of trying to put it into words. The only way for you to understand it is to experience it, and I don't want that for you.
Eventually I healed enough to adopt racially and ability-diverse children who sired some more racially, ability- and gender-diverse children. Our lives are a testament to our integrative style.
Oh, there is one more thing you should know about me. I started speaking out against prejudice at the age of eight when I gave my first sermon on lay Sunday. Prejudice has always hurt me, even before I knew that anyone in my life was.
There, those are the relevant parts of my history as they relate to what is happening today.
Now for the story I wanted to share:
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).