When I reached my senior year of undergraduate studies, I moved into an old duplex that was probably built in the late 19th or early 20th century. There was an even older cemetery out back, which was cool since we knew our backyard neighbors would not be complaining about any commotion that might ensue from the revelry of a house filled with college students. I moved there on a recommendation of a friend, as it would be the first time in my entire life that I’d have the opportunity to have my own room! Growing up with three brothers meant shared space. That was followed by sharing a dorm room, and then other rooms in other boarding houses. This was a luxury indeed! Funny how that was so special then.
At any rate, I settled in, and somewhere in the ensuing months a new housemate moved in. Some of the men in the house were closely acquainted with him from around campus, but I had only a slightly more-than-casual relationship with him. After a few days of living together, I realized the kinship we were developing was, at least on my part, due to the fact that he so much reminded me of my oldest brother, who was, and remains, one of my role models and heroes. So when people asked me how the new housemate was, I responded that he was just like my older brother. They would ask – how could that be?
Oh, did I forget to mention that my housemate is a man of color? I have done that a lot over the years. How could a black dude remind you of your brother? What??? I was exasperated. In Facebook/Twitter/Text Speak, I was SMH (Shaking My Head). Paid them no never mind. That housemate remains one of my closest and dearest friends to this day. (The subject of college buddies, by the way, is another story … stay tuned.)
Recently, this friend’s lovely daughter, and her children, were in a grocery store checkout line, and the cashier commented that she thought, “Mulatto kids are the most beautiful.” Oh wait, something else I forget to relate – my friend’s daughter has bi-racial parents. I forgot because her mom and dad have always been just my friends – skin pigmentation was never an issue.
So my friend’s grandchildren obviously have a bi-racial genetic makeup. (They are friggin’ gorgeous, by the way.) But mulatto? Last time I heard that term used I think I was in grammar school – that was over 50 years ago for Christ’s sake. The cashier did note that her “granddaughter is mulatto, too.”
Not that the term is a slur or anything, and I really don’t believe the cashier had any overt ill intent in what she said, but she, like those who queried me on my housemate so many years ago, and too many others of that ilk, all retain that subtle bias that seems to simmer at the rim of our society. I was fortunately raised to forgo skin color when evaluating folks, and I still do. But it is frustratingly disturbing, and disheartening, to realize that after all these years, and often so close to my heart, I see instances of the racial divide all too much for my digestion – both mental and gastric.
A well known, though perhaps not so venerated man named King (Rodney), once pleaded for us all to “just get along.” Wish we would. We surely could. We seem to be more influenced by, “just do it,” and deep-seated negative tendencies than by striving to love one another. So much easier to love than hate – to any degree.
Hey, I am no saint. I fall prey to jokes I should disdain. I fight off certain feelings about certain people. My snob index rises sometimes, even though I know I am really not better than anyone else. But when I wholeheartedly have a dislike for folks, it is based on who they are, and not what they look like. That I have down pat. And I will continue to try to improve in my dealings with fellow citizens of Earth.
People all over the world,
Start a love train, love train.