Swimming In My Head…

diving in the deep end…

Vernon, Alabama – It’s where I want to summer, Part Deux

Let me start off by saying that I’m writing this post simply because of the volume and passionate nature of comments (some posted, others received privately) that I’ve recently been receiving by some Vernon, AL residents in response to my post “Vernon Alabama – It’s Where I Want to Summer.”  There is a difference between sarcasm and arrogance – you be the judge.

I remember the day the reality I was trying to avoid set in.  The day I realized that racism is alive and well in the United States.

It was in 2003, I was 30 years old and I entered the Cactus Lounge in Perryopolis, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh) with several members of a bridal party that we were in.  I chuckle now because I’ve had to make it funny in my mind in order to not be depressed by it, but at the time it was scary.  It was just like the movie Blazing Saddles – when I walked in, the music stopped, everybody stared and then slowly went back to what they were doing.

As everyone else in the bridal party got their drinks, I sat there waiting for mine.  I sat there, sat there, and sat there some more until one of the white members of the bridal party asked the white female bartender about my drink to which she replied: “we don’t serve his kind here.”

My kind?  What kind is that?  My American-born kind?  My tax paying kind?  My law-abiding citizen kind?  My educated kind?  My working kind?

For those of you that can walk out of your door and expect acceptance generally wherever you go, it would be quite difficult to understand someone like me who has to always wonder what I’m up against because someone may not like me for the color of my skin.

Usually, this is where people say that there is prejudice/racism on both sides of the spectrum.  Absolutely correct!  However, simple mathematics based on the number of blacks as compared to the number of whites in the U.S. will dissuade the statistical likelihood that whites experience the same amount of racism over the course of their lives.  And let me state for the record, I am equally disgusted when a black person generalizes or makes racist comments toward white people instead of focusing on the true object of their anger.

Now, I brought up the incident in Pennsylvania to point out that I am not naive in thinking that racism is limited to the deep south, Alabama or Vernon, Alabama alone.  Maybe you’ll want to hear the rest of the story…

I made it through the incident at the bar without showing what I was truly feeling, I even went to the subsequent wedding reception and I tried to have a good time in yet another room full of people where there were more than 1 that had some obvious misgivings about me.  It wasn’t until late that night, when I was alone, that I sat in the dingy bathroom of the closest thing to a 5-star hotel (Holiday Inn) that Perryopolis had, and I cried – a lot.

I cried because I was tired.  I had only been on this planet for 30 years at that point, and I’d done everything I could to be a good person.  I grew up very religious and had always tried to do unto others as I would like done to me.  I paid my taxes, I paid my bills, I worked and did my best to contribute to society.  Worst of all, I had, up until that point, tried to ignore the nagging feeling that this stuff existed.  So, why was I working so hard for the acceptance of someone that didn’t even know me, but hated me?

I was hoping that in my lifetime, I would never have to personally experience true hatred with no basis other than skin color.  I couldn’t make it logical, but unfortunately I had to see it and draw some unfortunate conclusions.

So, I bring this post to those residents of Vernon, Alabama who have blasted me because they seem to think I’ve condemned the entire City of Vernon.  You couldn’t be more wrong.  I got some things off my chest about the ignorance of the statements made by both Gail McDaniel and Don Dollar.  I’m not apologizing for that.  I would’ve called the woman out by name who stated that “she didn’t want a black man over her” too if she had been brave enough to have her name posted.

I don’t think for one minute that everyone in Vernon is racist or ignorant.  But in the amount of fervor and time you’ve taken to call me out for my post, I can only wonder if you’ve taken the same amount of time to state your dislike toward what Gail or any of the other people quoted in the New York Times article said.  Because if you have/had expressed that displeasure with them, my post would not have bothered you.

I have kept my mouth shut for years, bottling up feelings in the hopes that people with racism issues would see the ignorance and lack of credibility in their thinking.  Gail McDaniel said that she fears that Obama’s election would “give blacks a right to be more aggressive.”  That statement deserves to be ridiculed.

Does that mean that every time a white President has been elected (which has been all but this year) it gave white people the right to be more aggressive?  Should the Klan have been more aggressive?  Should any of the white murderers, rapists or thieves gotten a free pass to be more aggressive with each election?  How come some 7 and 8 year old white children in Rexburg, ID were exhibiting aggressive behavior by chanting about assassination of our incoming President?  Technically, per Gail, the aggression should be limited to blacks.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for this country to grow out of this stage.  I know that we’ve taken a big step forward with the election of Obama, but I’m also a realist and know that there are some people with some real issues as it relates to race.

All I know is that even on the day that I wasn’t served a drink because of the color of my skin, I couldn’t hate white people.  “White people” weren’t the ones who mistreated me, the bartender who wouldn’t serve me was who I disliked.  I have a problem with that bartender, not “white people.”

I’ve seen some things in my lifetime that I thought I would never see – the collapse of the ‘Twin Towers’ (9/11), a commercial jetliner crashing into the Pentagon, a complete economic crumble, and the election of a black President.

I can only hope that I can someday add to that list – complete unity as a country…but I’m feeling like it’s a pipe dream.

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Life In General, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Alabama – the decent parts…

When I wrote my sarcastic post 2 days ago about Gail McDaniel and Dan Dollar of Vernon, Alabama, I never anticipated such a big response.

For me, it was a matter of answering some absurd comments to show them for how ignorant yet hurtful they were.  I would be remiss however, if I didn’t answer the other side as well.

Although I have yet to see an article in print that highlights a feeling of entitlement or extra “right” from African-Americans, this can be considered preemptive.

I can say with conviction, that I don’t believe that Americans of any ethnicity but especially those with a similar background to President Elect Obama view his election as an excuse or “right” to suddenly “be more aggressive”.

Rather, I feel that the bar has been raised and those that previously felt that they are relegated to second class citizenship will now understand that opportunity exists for all Americans.  But it has to be worked hard for.

President Elect Obama certainly did not lazily campaign, he worked tirelessly.  It’s a good example to follow.  For those of us that have been fortunate enough to understand it, we know that although at times very difficult, we can achieve great things.

So, what I would like to say to any Alabama residents whose feelings I may have hurt is, I know that Gail McDaniel and Don Dollar are not good representatives of the intelligence, progress and people that make up Alabama.

That NYT article stirred the pot, but the reality is that there are some decidedly decent parts and decent people in Alabama and I’m using the reaction as a lesson learned.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | Life In General | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment