I was a typical, middle-class, white kid who lived on the east side of town and (with much parental training) learned to respect authority. I knew that I was ultimately responsible for my own actions and the subsequent consequences.
Positions of authority need only get in line; I was willing, able and obedient, almost to a fault. I believed (as had my parents before me) that the rules and customs our American society had structured were reasonable and would suit me well through my adult hood and my children’s lifetimes, too. While I may not have yet had my own coming of age experiences to pull from, I knew without a doubt that the rituals and values taught me were meant to be practiced without question.
Yes, I am THAT old.
I grew up believing that police and others with hats and badges were my friends; the white hats were normally the good guys, but as in life, there’d be exceptions. I hadn’t any idea – nor could I have imagined – that some children on the other side of the tracks didn’t also share my self-discipline for obeying the rules, honoring public servants, and basically, just behaving so as not to embarrass one’s parents.
Were there indications of duplicity and racism? I had no reason to doubt my non-Caucasian friends who respectfully shared their experiences to me. Yes, they knew racism and discrimination, in all its variations. I had only known discrimination as a public school child who attended Catechism; being a second class citizen in my own parish was enough for me to understand what discrimination could render in matters large and small.
Civil rights? Yes, they were well past due in several parts of our country, and a necessary priority if America were to remain a leader of the free world. As veterans on more than one occasion would share: We served with fellows who had skins darker than ours; but when we bled, we all bled the same color blood.
The Baby Boomers knew then and know now: our racist tendencies would take years to erase, but we were doing a good job of melding and melting community forums at school and elsewhere. We remained steady and hopeful in our convictions and idealist beliefs that our generation would end discriminatory practices once and for all. We had the leaders to learn from; we had lost John, Robert and Martin within a decade. Our generation would pursue, not the least of our reasons was our shared grief. The Sixties had interfered with our childhood comfort; there was real pain in this world, real sick-os, beyond the Boris Badenovs and other cartoon villains.
Neighborhood families overrode any contrived civic plans; parents couldn’t be forced to bus their children miles away from the original neighborhood, especially if the schools were less than adequate. Families congregate where the familiar and the known are the MOST comfortable and the LEAST alarming; it would take time and lots of behavior modification for skin colors to mix…and find common ground…and trust.
Not all of us are born to activism; we are, however, intrinsically aware when questions are left incompletely unanswered or explanations appeared less than genuine. Could we young people see thru it? WITHOUT A DOUBT. All the hoopla on the TV didn’t necessarily reflect what my friends and I already understood to be true at our grass roots level: we were all in the same boat. If America was going to change and improve for the better, it would be up to each of us.
Shame on those who still accuse fellow Baby Boomers of racism! Speak for yourself if you are unable to discern the differences
- between criticism and race bating
- between cronyism and political integrity
- between spendthrift mentality and financial prudence.
Where were you, friends, when we first learned the value of a dollar? Or answered the call to teach when the profession promised less than lucrative rewards? Even some claiming bluer blood lines answered the call to serve; in the Peace Corps; in public service; or in military uniform…yes, there was a draft. But the majority served in some type of capacity. They served whether they fully understood the risks or not. Some married outside their race. Some adopted third-world children who needed homes and a loving family and a second chance at life. The needs, not the colors, were their criteria; compassion, not greed, an environmental benefit of a shared American mindset.
So where is all this yesterday’s racism coming from?…and why, in my immediate circle of life, is there
Because in this Baby Boomer’s Inn, there is no room for disingenuous, divisive, sound bite clap-trap. Like my counterparts and those mentors before me, I have lived through so many previous responsibilities and phases and am continually challenged in this latter day economy to cut back and stretch my budget and make do and, not the least of matters, thank God for the blessings I have in this, the Greatest Governmental Experiment on Earth.
Granted, I have trusted far too long that my political leaders would “serve our citizenry’s best interests”; thus, I am no longer easily fooled by rhetoric. With the same idealistic fervor of my youth, I will continue to nurture the American ideals, hopes, and dreams of this country’s foundation so that they will remain the kaleidoscope opportunities of a freedom loving republic’s children.
WITHOUT A DOUBT.