My parents did a good job raising colorblind children in a lily-white town. I never heard either of them make any kind of racist statement. Instead I watched both of them operate from a platform of compassion toward all people.
Every summer for a number of years my parents invited Fresh-Air children from New York City to stay with us for a week or two. Honestly, what made Hector and Barbara different from me wasn’t the color of their skin. Rather it was their experiences as city kids.
We had a garden and a menagerie. We caught frogs in the pond during the day and fireflies in the yard at night. We could see the stars.
Barbara and I shared my room. We lay in bed at night and talked. She missed her mom and her mother’s food the same as I would have missed my mom and her cooking.
The battle for middle-class America isn’t about seeing or not seeing the color of the skin. It’s about understanding the similarities and differences of our experiences.
At our Sunday worship service before MLKJr Day, a woman talked about her experiences in the late 60s – early 70s when she, a white woman, was married to a black man. Her husband, college-educated and employed, some days was quite late getting home because police prevented from entering his own neighborhood simply because of the color of his skin. She spoke about “white privilege” — something we white folks can’t see because we live it.
In Cooperstown, I remember watching both white and black baseball players inducted into the Hall of Fame. Arrogance comes in all colors. But so does humility and friendliness.
My two favorite ball players that I met when I worked at the Hall of Fame — Cool Papa Bell and Ernie Banks — were both black. I don’t know a single one of their statistics, but I remember their smiles and the way they made me feel.
Jackie Robinson is one of my father’s heroes. When I read his story, it made me cry. Such indignity in the way he was treated. Such strength in his response.
But I ramble.
I hope I have passed on to my children what was given to me — eyes that don’t see skin color. It can’t stop there, though.
Now we need to understand the difference of our experiences.
We’re making progress.
But we still have a long way to go.