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My 70th Year



28 March 2012

Or maybe the saddest thing of all is that I do recognize my country.

I have not read "The Hunger Games," and so I have paid little attention to the hype about the movie and would never have read this article had not someone linked to it on Facebook.  It seems that two of the characters in the book are described as having dark skin and African American actors, apparently, were cast to play them.

A raft of angry tweets broke out:

"why does rue have to be black? not gonna lie. kinda ruined the movie"

"why did the  producers make all the good characters black?"

"Call me a racist, but when I found out rue was black, her death wasn't as sad."

"I was pumped about The Hunger Games until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue."

"sense [sic] when has Rue been a nigger?"

I grew up in the idyllic 1950s where, if you were a white child, life was beautiful.  I went to a Catholic grammar school where there were no black children.  That wasn't the policy of the school, it was more the area of town where we lived.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of black kids in my high school, though all of them were my friends.  It never occurred to me to think badly about African Americans.  I just never thought about racial differences at all.   They were just girls that I went to school with. 

The idea of prejudice never even entered my head until my sister was going to go to the movies with a black friend.  My father paid the young man a visit at his place of employment and told him he was not allowed to take his daughter out and that he felt that people should date only within their own race.

I remember being jolted the first time I saw an African American in a television commercial.  It didn't bother me, but it was something new and strange that I had just never thought about before.

I grew into adulthood during the Civil Rights movement and African Americans came into my vision, really, for the first time in my life. 

Years later, I would transcribe a raft of interviews done with women who were leaders of the Civil Rights movement, women like Fanny Lou Hamer, Dorie Ladner, Ella Baker and others and as I heard their voices and typed their stories, I marveled at the amazing things they had done, at the risk to their lives.

I watched this country seem to settle down into a more normal relationship with people of all races, where we worked together, socialized together and seemed to be getting along just fine.  By the time our own kids went to school, the schools were fully integrated with children of all colors playing and learning together.   I loved it when David made it a point to have lunch with a black schoolmate once a week because that was the day that their dads had lunch together.

You knew that we were not past racial tensions, but they didn't seem to be as overt as they had been when I was growing up.  But then we moved (not by choice) to a town that was predominately white.  So white that when the son of the African American psychiatrist I worked for would ride his expensive bike, or drive his father's Mercedes around town, he would be stopped by the police "just to check."  It was no wonder the young man was angry all the time.  (how little race mattered to me was evident in the fact that when I proofread this paragraph, I had to add "African American" because I never thought of him as anything but "the psychiatrist I worked for")

Sadly, racial tensions seem to have escalated since the Obama election.  It was OK to live and work with black people but suddenly there was this "uppity" family moving into the White House (who was it who called them uppity? Wasn't it Limbaugh?).  So many things that have happened during the Obama administration seem to scream "GET THIS NEGRO OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE," though couched in political rhetoric, because nobody would dream of admitting that the main objection to the president is the color of his skin.

The fanatacism of the "birthers" to prove that this man is not really American shows how much hatred and suspicion there is of him, even now, though he has been in office for three years.

And then there is the murder of poor Trayvon Martin.  It is ironic that recently someone tossed some powder on Kim Kardashian at a red carpet event and the powder-tosser was arrested on the spot, yet the murderer of this young black man remains at large and because of the ridiculous "Stand Your Ground" law may never be charged with the murder.

The media is trying to make this Trayvon's fault.  He was wearing the wrong kind of clothes.  He was once suspended when they found a trace of marijuana in his locker.  Blame the victim.

They say that the "Stand Your Ground" law provides immunity to people who kill in self-defense.  I just want to know how many reading this actually believe that if it had been Martin who killed Martinez under exactly the same circumstances, he would still be walking around pending "further investigation."

I am ashamed of this country.  I am ashamed that we are still fighting race battles, when one would have thought that we settled all that in the 1960s, in the struggle for which Martin Luther King gave his life.  But then I'm also ashamed that we are still batting the issue of birth control after so many decades.

My mother says it all the time and I fear I have begun saying it too.   "I'm glad I'm as old as I am...."


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The first "big" rain of the year,
taken through the windows of the book store.



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