note: My wife Cheryl asked me to thank each and every one of you who paused on my previous blog and left a comment to wish her a Happy Birthday. All of your words and wishes were greatly appreciated! I also personally appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness for leaving such kind comments on my post. end note
Brothers and sisters, today I am going to talk about my early formative years. Not that they were that entertaining or worthy of being written about, it's just that I wanted to share with you the period of time in my life that shaped me as a person, and particularly my views on race. Allow me to go back several decades, in fact let's trip back to when your homie was a little boy back in the 60's. (I can hear some of my younger audience gasping since some of them weren't even born yet) I was born in 1956, by the way, during a time when Jim Crow was gradually being replaced by a more subtle or underground racism. For those of you who don't know what Jim Crow was/is, well the way I understood it to be, it was the openly accepted practice back then of publicly defining the separation between white's and black's through the use of aids such as laws, signs, placards, declarations, guidelines, reserved areas, or any other (at the time perfectly legal) means of letting it be known that black folk (colored folk, back in them days) were not welcome here, ok? When I was in elementary school, the early sixties were a time of massive change in America as the black people finally started claiming "legally" and by force what had been denied them since the beginning. And most of the time the change was not automatic or accepted so easily by the rest of the country and was often violent and bloody. By the time I was in middle school during the early 70’s racism had evolved into something that instead of being practiced blatantly and openly, was now being practiced subtly and in invisible or hard to see ways because of the laws that were being passed. Results were still the same, but it was more easily hidden now, easier for folk to be private racists. Back then although I was young my analytical mind had already formed at that early age. I used to sit and draw while I was thinking about deep adult stuff like race relations, poverty, injustice, the Vietnam war going on then, while other kids were happily playing with bikes and dolls. Back then for the life of me I couldn't understand how it was possible for people of any color to hate someone else merely because the color of their skin was darker or lighter. I always viewed all people as relatively decent people first, then let them define for me whether or not I am right or wrong in that assumption. You see, that racism ish never sat well with me, on either end of the fence. I was brought up in a home environment that taught respect, love for thy neighbor (notice I said love and not lust), self reliance, plus I had a solid moral foundation that came from having spiritual and good people involved in my upbringing. As I grew up my heart commanded me to treat people as I would want to be treated and if they acted a fool then to chalk that up as their loss and move on. That is a mindset that survives even unto this day with me. I clearly remember back when I was in 4-5th grades when we were about the only black family in our school, me and my brother and sisters being chased home from school by a small gang of ignorants who were calling names and throwing rocks… I was too young to even attempt to understand the logic for their hatred and anger at that time, but it left an impression on me that remains to this day. Call it misguided if you want, but my young mind had already decided to prove the “world” wrong…all those who had developed a negative opinion of me, and by “me” I was referring to not only me as an individual, but “me” as in my race, as in all black people. I grew up determined to prove that I wasn’t stupid, or a dirty shiftless bum, or a thief, or a liar, lazy, non-working, uncaring, or any of the thousands of other myths and lies that we as a people, and especially us as black men, were tagged with back then that still stick to this day. I excelled in elementary and middle school, always got top grades, and was very polite and respectful in my dealings with my teachers and elders (well most of the time). Special note however, I remained true to who I was as an individual. In other words I wasn’t a cop-out, suck-up, or someone who sought to get approval in order to prove something. For some reason I got a sort of perverse pleasure in knowing I was much smarter than most of those who disliked me for my skin color. I was especially determined to also show those who were outright racists how silly their actions made them look and sound, especially when you stripped away all the lies, ignorance, and misconceptions. Little did I know it at the time but I was also laying the foundation for the personal path that I was to unconsciously follow for the rest of my life and become a better man for it. Being the best person I could be under all circumstances and giving everyone a chance to prove their humanity first before forming an opinion about them. All that, because of a misguided desire to prove the rest of the world wrong so that they would realize that not all of us black folk were lazy shiftless illiterate sex-crazed baby-makers living off the fat of the land and waiting for the next handout. Hell, that label there can apply to every last race on earth; you’ll find the lot in every racial community. So as I sit here and marinate on low while looking back over the fog of time, I can honestly say that I want to thank those from my past who considered me the enemy back then when I was much younger. Because of your unnecessary hatred and anger towards me, it inspired me to become a better man in the end. And I am especially thankful to all the adults (black and white, male and female) in my life back then who saw fit to guide me in the right direction when I was a youngster by showing me right from wrong, and instilling good moral principles in my mind that allowed me to grow into the cool character I am now.
Everyone say Heyyyyy!
Y’all B good!