Reflections on Father’s Day

Just Friday we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. As most of you know, I am White and my wife is Black and we were married in and lived our lives in Arizona, a reddish state Smile
Often nowadays we hear conservatives tell us to get over it, a Black guy is president, so if we talk about discrimination we are, to use a FoxNews phrase, playing the race card. IOW, we are trying to gain some advantage by asking for sympathy or special treatment. This goes along with the conservative belief that affirmative action was about quotas and revenge against Whites and the Civil Rights movement was about bigger welfare checks for Blacks. And I really am not interested in hearing protestations from people who did not listen to the GOP presidential candidates this last time; all they could talk about was “the food stamp president” and “Bla people”, in the immortal strangled words of Rick Santorum.
Fortunately for the country, the GOP base, old White Christian guys we can say now that Kantor is gone, is shrinking. Too many Americans have grown up seeing Black CEOs, five star generals, renowned surgeons, heads of powerful government agencies and cabinet secretaries, and politicians, incl some inexplicable GOP figures, not to mention the commentators on all channels from MSNBC to FoxNews. These younger Americans simply do not understand what it is these old guys see, nor, for that matter, why so many older Americans cried, sometimes for conflicting reasons, when Obama was elected. They simply did not grow up in a time when you could go to school and not have any Black kids in your class. (I’m leaving Hispanics out of this b/c even in Phoenix, AZ there were few Hispanics in those days) They are amazed when told we went through the same marriage issue gays are and that the Supreme Court finally had to rule that our marriages were valid. They cannot imagine a time when all the phones in the Black part of town lit up when a Black person appeared on TV. Hell, they can’t even imagine a Black part of town.
Nevertheless, a lot of hatred toward Blacks exists among young people. It may not be based in the sense of entitlement their elders hold but it battens on the normal ethnic jealousies, rivalries, conflicts, and competition with which all societies are riven. For those younger people, church preaching, outreach, government efforts and educational programs may indeed help. But for the GOP base, nothing is going to rid them of their sense of deprivation and resentment lying in that bed of entitlement and White privilege. It is so easy, at my age, to follow this back to the 50s, even the 40s, when outrages were routinely perpetrated against Blacks with nary of voice raised against it. Talk about liberals! You had to be very liberal to question the right of a landlord to refuse housing to Blacks, to a restaurant manager or hotel concierge to gently steer a Black family to the back after all, in the South, they’d simply be beaten by the police for daring to ask. Not even medical care was free from racial disparities as when my wife and her sister rushed a feverish baby through clinic doors, only to have the medical staff frantically usher them back to the boiler room where the Blacks waited until all the Whites had been seen (1965).
Father’s Day??? I tell you this so you know what Father’s Day means to me. It means threading the needle that has driven so many Black people nuts: is it me or is it them? When you get turned down for a job or fired from a job for very light cause or on false charges, was it my son or was it them? When my daughter gets turned down when asking for help with her autistic son, was it her or was it them? When my grandkids are getting along fine with friends or schoolmates and suddenly things change one day after my wife has picked them up, is it her or is it them? When the soccer team members treat my granddaughter in a less than friendly way, is it her or is it them? When we go out to eat and don’t get served, is it an oversight or was is it intentional, and if intentional, was it on the part of the restaurant or just that particular waiter?
OK, now I’ve strayed a bit, but mostly I’ve put this in the context of being a father and grandfather. And it goes on constantly. So I want to say to all the Black fathers out there (and the Hispanic and Native American and Asian and whoever else), stay close to your family. The mainstay is the family, not the “them”.
Happy Father’s Day

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