What a World!

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Things hit me today, things that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Let me start by saying I grew up in a small farming town about 26 miles outside of Cleveland Ohio. My childhood consisted of men in coveralls, torn shirt sleeves, chewing tobacco and John Deere hats. Every face in town was white. The only non-white faces we saw were the migrant workers that appeared each summer to pick crops, but we were not allowed to mingle with them.

Women were women, they had babies, kept the house, tended the garden, made clothes and handled childcare. Men worked, came home, were fed dinner and faded into the background to tend to the lawn, work on cars or gather in garages to drink. Driven women who wanted to work or do house repairs were called bitches. Men who wanted to paint pictures or cook were shunned as wimps and sissies.

I never saw a black person until I was five years old, and it terrified me because nobody told me people came in that color! I ran home and my mother and aunt had to calm me, and explain that the world had black, brown and white people, many nations where the people didn’t look like me. It was a day of epiphany, a day I realized I wanted to know these people and see what I had been missing.

My youth was also filled with other bias, such as a minister who was forced out of his parish because he wore sandals. Excuse me, didn’t Jesus wear sandals? There was also my two favorite teachers, one taught art and Spanish, the other gym. There was a collective gasp when the community discovered they were lesbians. They were quickly dispatched and I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how who they dated harmed their wisdom and teaching styles and input. Both held my attention and motivated me, but poof! They were gone. Many of my learned elders were quick to tell me these women were degenerates who would ravish children.  Something about that statement didn’t seem right, even to this sheltered child.

Fast forward to 1980, they year I tended bar at a local eatery. I invited some of my friends out for a drink and a visit.  We had fun and they left about 10 pm as they had to work in the morning. Then, imagine my horror when I left work at 2 am to find the parking lot illuminated by flashing police lights. My group of city friends left the bar, and most of them made it out-of-town, but Levon, the only black boy in the group, had been grabbed, dragged into a soy bean field and beat within an inch of his life, by my neighbors! I packed my bag and left town.

My mom and dad shunned the majority of neighbors, refused to laugh at racist jokes and invited everyone into their home if they needed a place to be safe. They backed my ideals and I gained a new respect for them. But I didn’t go back.

A lot has been done and said since my youth. Women’s lib, civil liberty protests and gay awareness. I was always hopeful, yet doubting. I signed petitions, attended rallies and pushed our school to make changes. Never dreaming that I would see so much change in my lifetime.

Major stars no longer hide behind studio spin doctors. Celebs like Anderson Cooper, Sam Champion and Neil Patrick Harris have come out to bolster the Gay cause. And…they still have talent and careers.

Prejudice is not gone, but I never thought I would see a presidential race, in my life time with either a female candidate or a black man. I saw both with Hillary Clinton and our president Barak Obama.

We have a lot more to do, the fight moves forward, but small minds and prejudice live on.

Now, I am living with a family, my own, that would have had me beat up or shunned in my youth. I have a lesbian daughter and another daughter dating a black boy. Gasp! Shock! But things have changed a bit. My girl is allowed to go to prom with her girl, but they can not buy couples tickets. ??? People who think my other girl, seeing a black boy is wrong, now seal their lips. They don’t like but they don’t burn down your house anymore.

Givin my early life, I thought this impossible. Now I find it awesome and it leaves me with some hope. Hopefully it won’t take  too many more generations to get it right.

We have morphed, but we have much, much more work to do.

Jane Kohler

c 2013

 

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Comments
  1. Yes we have a very long way to go but we are getting there. Two weeks ago my grandson and I was talking. I don’t remember what it was but it was something illegal that g-son wanted it legal. He said if I become president I’m going to change the law. 20 years ago little black boys didn’t say things like that. So there are changes.

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