Beliefs and Values Regarding Prejudice (Part 1)
I was inspired to share my history with the topic of racism when I read and an article written by michememe, titled: “I AM NOT DATING A WHITE MAN- NO WAY.” I noticed that it sparked a lot of emotion in people, including myself. As I read all the comments I started to recall the experiences that molded and shaped my beliefs and values regarding prejudice against an ethnic group.
I grew up in a small community the population around 4,000 people and I recall only one black man residing in the town. He was employed as the school bus driver, my sister and I were transported to sporting events on the bus. I recall him being somewhere in his early thirty's. As I boarded the bus he always said something to make me laugh. With lack of exposure, I was never really confronted with racial prejudice. The most I ever experience on the subject was my grandparents using uneducated words such as “nigger rigged”. When I graduated high school I immediately moved nearly six and a half hours away to our state capitol with a much larger population somewhere around 200,000.
One of the first friends I made after relocating was a wonderful young neighbor man that played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. We never dated, looking back I think both of us may have wanted to, but neither of us were forward enough to make the first move. But, we did spend a summer together, as he would be moving away in the fall to begin playing football with the Green Bay Packers. I have long since lost track of Jeff, one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. But I fondly remember his friendship and, like it was yesterday, a story that he shared with me. It was 28 years ago when he began telling how he had been a junior in high school in Atkinson Kansas when he was asked to a dance by a very beautiful and sweet blond classmate. His mother was so delighted for him to go to the dance, she carefully helped him shop for the perfect tie along with a nice outfit . This was one of the first dates that he had gone on claiming he had been to shy and involved with football in High school to ask girls out.
Compacting his lack of experience and shy nature was his dates invitation to join her family for dinner before the dance. In the back of his mind he wondered if she had mentioned to her parents that he was black? With all the concerns flashing through his mind he noticed as he drove to her home that the neighborhood where she lived was lined with mansions. Finally he pulled up to an affluent estate positioned on an entire field of turf. He looked down at the shaking piece of paper he was holding in his hands and matched the numbers written to those carved in the stone on the house. While he placed the car in parked, he considered for a minute driving home and calling his date to say he was feeling ill. Heck he could do this with a clear conscience, because he definitely felt nauseous! “No”, he couldn’t disappoint the girl he thought so much of or his mother for that matter.
He reasoned with himself thinking if he could score touchdowns, running through a pack of boys trying to bring him to his knees, he could make it to a dance with this sweet girl no matter how white or wealthy she was. He took a deep breath and put on a brave face and pushed the doorbell.
To his delight the dinner went perfectly her family was very kind and even funny! His date looked amazing. As the perfect dinner drew to a close, her mother helped pin on his boutonnière. The handsome couple posed for his mother to take pictures. She told Jeff she would make sure to get copies to share with his mother. He shook her fathers hand and thanked him for dinner, and promised to get his daughter home safely and by her curfew.
Now making his way out the front doorway, still wearing a smile on his face, he heard the familiar sound of a megaphone yelling his name. But, this time it wasn’t a cheerleader chanting encouragement or praise, his name was followed by, “Come out with your hands in the air”. He could hear his date screaming in the background as the familiar taste of bitter thick grass flooded his mouth, he allowed the attackers to force his arms behind him, and he felt metal cuffs being clicked around his wrists. The police officer pull on him physically instructing him to stand. Treating him like a captured animal, avoiding eye contact, they pushing him toward the street. He felt something crumble under his feet, he must be dreaming nothing made since, he realize that he was standing on broken glass, glancing at his car the back window had been smashed out glass lay all over the street. Was he under arrest? He hadn’t been read his rights? His head slammed against the frame of the police cruiser as he was forcefully shoved in.
He was terrified with no idea where he was being taken or why. The officers made small talk between themselves. He waited for a break in their conversation and mumbled while reaching his shoulder to his forehead to capture the the blood, “Where are we going? Am I under arrest? They glanced at each other rolling their eyes and looking annoyed, then sarcastically chuckled, they magnifying their superiority by ignoring him. They continued driving for around fifteen minutes, but, with Jeff's destination laying in front of him it felt like an eternity.
Now the car finally stopped and an arrogant officer finally used words, saying, “Get out!”. Now he was displayed in front of a tall lanky young man with a bad case of acne. “Is this the guy?”, the officer asked? Jeff told me all he could think was, “I could be in serious trouble, all us black guys look the same to white guys.” He watched in horror waiting for the man to speak. He saw the man scratch at his head while his lips moved in slow motion saying, “NO!”.
The mute policemen again shoved him savagely into the back of the car failing to remove the cuffs. He was relieved to be back at his car and they spoke to him again for the second time of the night with the same short command, “Get out!”. They retrieved their metal cuffs and then disappeared quickly into the night. He said he glanced towards the Mansion feeling defeat and humiliation, tears running down his face.
His hands shook as they clenched tightly to the steering wheel as he drove home. The night had grown chilly and the cold air rubbed against tears that burned down his checks.
He could have never imagined the night ending with such a relief to push open the door of home and run into his mothers arms.