Monday, August 8, 2016

Black Lives Matter/Why Some Whites Are Waking Up To Racism

This is my personal experience(s) with our fellow compatriots, the adults in my young life first referred to as n...s(the n word, which I cannot say or write, along with all the other derogatory terms I heard), then colored, Negroes, finally, Blacks and African Americans.
I grew up on a farm near a small, county seat town in Southwestern Iowa. When I was very little, there was one black family in our town. By the time of my clear memories, that family had moved on.


In 1956 my beloved Grandpa Joe Ridnour lay seriously ill in the Methodist Hospital in Omaha. Half of his stomach had been removed. It was almost two weeks before he was deemed well enough for us kids to go visit him. How clearly I remember seeing Grandpa lying there in that hospital bed. And how I remember him telling us how well he was being treated by the 'colored' nurses aides. When one came into the room and said, "How you doin' today, sugar?" and Grandpa replied back that he was feeling better, 'honey', my ignorant eyes were opened to a new way of seeing someone who wasn't white like me. I realized 'they' were people, too. Not just people, but friendly, likable and kind. Up until then I realize I had been a bit afraid of black people.

After that there still weren't any black people in my sphere except for a few athletes who came to Corning for wrestling meets when I was in high school. Even in Cedar Rapids where I moved to in '67, I don't remember any, not even at Kirkwood where I took some college courses.

It wasn't until I moved to Des Moines and started working at a manufacturing plant south of downtown that I actually got to know a couple of people. There was a young black man, Sam J. who worked in the plant and a young black woman, Angela, who worked in design that I became friends with. I sat with them at lunch and breaks and really got acquainted with them. He was so funny and she was so cute and smart. I suppose it was because they were the only two black people there and near the same age that I thought they should be a couple, though I don't believe they were ever attracted to one another that way.

A couple years later when I began working in an advertising and public relations agency I met and got well acquainted with one of the spokesmen for our biggest client - Iowa Power and Light. Carl W. had one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. He was tall, dark (obviously) and handsome and so personable. I doubt he ever met a stranger. It wasn't long before a larger media base came calling and he moved North to the Twin Cities.

And I moved back to that small Southwest Iowa town of my youth - an area still devoid of African Americans. Not until we retired to our present, slightly larger, town have there been any black people in my life. There was the young woman in the book club I joined and I see people of color at the Y almost daily. I had a black, woman physician for a while, but she left the area last year. I have a cousin whose son and his wife have adopted black children and friends whose daughter married a black man, but still, no close, personal relationships any longer.

I started this post a few days ago because of that subject line I read 'Why some whites are waking up to racism' and the 'Black lives matter' we see almost daily in the news. I started out with the idea of relating my personal experiences and ending by asserting my lack of prejudices, that I don't see black or white or brown, that I only see people. But is that true? I believe so. I want to believe so. But I live in a white, middle class, comfortable world. How would I feel if I weren't as privileged? Could I be as tolerant? Would I live without prejudices?
Truly, don't all lives matter?

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