I grew up in post-war San Diego. My family lived in plywood rooms tossed up for the influx of the wartime factory workers. We could have conversations with our neighbors without leaving our mutual homes. When I went to school I was exposed to a lot of people who didn’t look like me—tow-headed blue-eyed white speaking kindergarten English. Spanish was common and I often wished I had been dark haired, dark skinned, and dark eyed. Years later I learned that my brunette mother had considered brown eyes preferable but she kept having blond haired, blue-eyed children.
My early school class was probably a third black; I remember thinking there was something wrong since at least half of those kids had no shoes so the light skinned soles of their feet showed a contrast with their dark skin. Other than that, I was mostly concerned if a classmate was bigger than me (I was a wimp).
Eventually we moved to the suburbs and I grew up in an all white neighborhood until I went away to college. When I was a senior in High School there was one black student in the school … ONE!
But this is not to say that I didn’t have some exposure to others that might not have looked like me. In San Diego the real alternative to white suburbia was the Mexican culture. You would go shopping downtown (this pre-dates shopping malls) and every establishment had a sign in the window announcing “Se habla español.” My family hosted South American exchange students and I was even rousted once by the police who thought my friend and I might be gangbangers.
My grandparents moved to a small house in the predominately Philippine neighborhood and many of my friends were, once again, brown skinned. The house next door to my Grandfather’s was a large Philippine family with several truly scary older boys. But no knives or guns or drugs could keep me from admiring their 1950 Merc with the full flame job, chopped and channeled, of course.
In fact, many, if not most, of the cultural memories I have from growing up in San Diego are associated with the various ethnic cultures available in the area. This includes, although not apropos to the theme, the scruffy boots of the inland cowboys and the bushy-bushy blond hair-dos of the surfer dudes.
At the same time I was growing up, there was an entirely different concern prevalent throughout much of the country: racism. I guess I was embarrassingly neutral in this struggle. Oh, I went to see Martin Luther King when he spoke at the university and I lived a very integrated life in the college dorms, but I didn’t really consider myself a soldier in the civil rights movement. In my defense, I was smack-dab in to middle of the controversy over the Vietnam war and it might have deflected too much of my energy and outrage.
I just watched Blackkklansman on HBO. Excellent movie but it constantly reminded me of the times we are living in right now. And then Spike Lee provided a vivid and compelling epilog that makes it intensely clear that the continuum of hatred and racism has slowly moved to the current horror overtaking our country. At one point a comment is made that they would never elect an openly racist monster to the office of President of the United States … but they did, and even if there are good people on both sides, he is definitely not one of them.
While in custody of Drump’s toady Justice Department, Jeffery Epstein commits suicide in a jail cell specifically designed to make it nearly impossible to do so and we’re supposed to ignore the obvious? It’s one thing to hide your tax returns and quite another to make your accusers disappear.
One thought on “Racism: Chopped and Channeled”
I grew up in Texas. Living in Houston there were zero black students in my high school, but quite a few Mexicans. Also a few Native Americans, one of whom was in my homeroom.