There was a period in this country when the only thing that mattered was the content of your character. It was not the ’60s nor early ’70s, but soon thereafter.
Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s I do not remember ever once considering someone’s race, heritage, bank account, or skin color in order to figure out if they were acceptable, admirable or to be disregarded.
Before I go too far, don’t give me that “you don’t understand because you grew up with white privilege” or whatever. In elementary school (one of the 4 I attended), our one-bedroom apartment (don’t ask how many we were) was burglarized – for a 12″ or 13″ black and white TV that was sitting on the carpet – because it was the only thing of value the thieves could find. I still don’t understand why they didn’t take my awesome 2-XL 8-track fed ‘robot’ sitting in the same room. That thing was awesome! Ok, it was a kid-friendly 8-track player with blinky eyes, but awesome anyway.
Moving on to middle and high school (no, I didn’t still have 2-XL). The people I hung around with considered people based on who they were and if they were interesting to be around. We didn’t mess with those we called jell-heads/jellies (stoners) because they just weren’t that interesting. We wanted to ride bikes, play baseball or football (Texas), or attempt to form a rock band (hey, we recorded stuff somewhere …). There was also too much Atari involved to admit to.
I had geeky friends, jock friends, hunting friends, band friends, and bookworm friends. I think I was some horrendous chimera of all of them, but we just enjoyed hanging out, doing stupid crap, and hopefully getting away with it.
What you’ll notice is that I didn’t mention their color, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, or whatever modern identifier today’s silliness requires. Because none of us cared. Girl, boy, Black, Hispanic, Asian, something else.. we all liked pizza and Nintendo, riding bikes, going to Major League baseball games and high school football showdowns. (Please don’t fault us for always ordering pepperoni and mushroom pizzas… cost was an issue.)
I’m not going to list off how many of this kind of person or that kind of person was in our “rat pack.” We didn’t count noses then and I won’t do it now. That’s petty and stupid.
Some had money, others, like me, didn’t. I’m Catholic, some were Jewish, others Methodist and many non-religious. We didn’t care. I went to their services when invited and they came to mine. It was a cultural experience, not one where one of us was attempting to show superiority over another. That construct is new… like since 2008 new.
In college, I associated with all sorts of people … that’s pretty much the college experience. I ran into my first communist and we had amazing discussions where neither was persuaded despite the amount we spent on Double Dave’s pizza rolls and cheap beer (Keystone Light… yeah .. nope).
Then the military where a close friend from Buffalo invited us to join him at his place to repeatedly watch his team NOT win the Super Bowl. Sorry Price. It didn’t matter what color, religion or background anyone was/had, we all hung out. Those football gatherings were a melting pot on accident. No one decided through affirmative action how many of which kind of person could attend. We chose based on who was NOT an asshat.
Returning to Texas, San Antonio specifically, after my military stint, I ran into the hottest Hispanic chic you could imagine – and married her. Two kids and 24 years later and she hasn’t killed me in my sleep yet, so I guess it’s working out (love you, dear, really. Mean it!)
Now, I’m 52. The people I associate with are fewer as my family has become my focus. But now, I am bewildered at America’s focus on skin color, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, tax bracket … whatever. What a load of bologna (which I can’t eat anymore, but that’s another story.) Oh, and I still ride bikes and jump over stuff although not as slim nor as fast (I shaved the goatee for aerodynamics… or something).
As far as identity, I didn’t grow up this way, don’t think this way, and frankly do not understand the racist messaging from the media, former President Barack Obama and people like Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and public figures like Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. There are more, but naming them isn’t going to fix the problem.
The answer is to stop, just STOP! A bad person, regardless of color, gender… whatever, should pay the price for bad acts. A good person regardless of those same characteristics should reap rewards. None should be put above another or pushed below based solely on immutable bullshit.
Only the content of your character should be judged. I heard that somewhere and it stuck.
That’s where I have been, am now, and always will be.
Author’s Note: Let me know where I’ve gotten things wrong, right or otherwise in the comments below.
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