A Senior’s Reflection on Race

I was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles that when I was young didn’t have one black resident. Some time later, I heard it was because the real estate association had been trying to “protect” property values. I’m not sure  the real reason because our town certainly had its share of minorities. I grew up with many Mexican and Asian friends. The fact is, minorities have outnumbered Caucasians in my former home town for many years.

Because my parents both taught and lived the Golden Rule, I never really thought much about race growing up. Interestingly, my first experience with young black teens came as a shock. I was with my two best friends as we left a sporting event. We were probably around eleven or twelve when we walked past the young black men. They circled around and asked, “What color are we?” We were so surprised and scared, we didn’t know what to say. At that point, one of them punched one of my friends in the face breaking off his front tooth. Realizing we were outnumbered, we ran off as fast as we could. I thought it was odd, but didn’t really understand.

Years later, as a teaching assistant at a state university, I met a young black man named Bobby. We clicked instantly and became fast friends. He was new to the area around the university and my wife and I would have him over to dinner regularly. One Monday he came into our shared office and looked depressed. It seems he had decided to walk to campus and attend a Saturday night concert and dance. As he walked across the parking lot, two security officers pulled up in their patrol car, grabbed him and threw him across the hood. They demanded to know what he was doing. When they realized he was a member of the faculty, they apologized and backed down quickly. He was upset and I was furious.

This was not the first time a black friend of mine had something like that happen to him. In the military I met and became friends with an interracial couple from the south. My friend told me he had made the military a career because he and his wife would not face the obstacles they would have if they had returned home in the South. It was that time in our country’s history.  I’ve also had a black friend lose all of his black friends because he had become friends with me and some of my friends. I’m sure we all have similar stories in our past.

At one point in time, I thought we had pretty much solved the more serious issues of race. But as I grow older, I’m not so sure.  The issue of race still frustrates and tires me. In light of the recent trial making the news, it seems there are people who appear to benefit from the turmoil and want to jump into the limelight by taking sides. For me, there are no winners here. A young man lost his life, a family lost a son, another man will lead a very troubled life and his family will never be the same. It’s very sad and there are not easy remedies. As with most things in life, all we can do is be responsible for our own behavior and treat others as we wish to be treated. I guess mom and dad got it right as usual.

zzzzz close