WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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LOVE SEES NO COLOR: My View On Interracial Relationships

My feelings exactly. Image courtesy of theodysseyonline.com

 

I reckon that the title of this post has given away my feelings on people of different races and cultures dating and having romantic relationships.

A few years ago on the website HubPages.com I wrote about seeing a young teenage couple at a bus stop one day, doing the typical teenage couple thing; kissing, cuddling, etc.

The thing that appealed to me about that twosome was that she was Latina and he was an African-American, giving me a good feeling that relationships in which the people involved are a different race/ethnic group/culture are more accepted in the present day then when that Loving vs Virginia case was going down in 1967.

Unfortunately – and especially in the current cultural atmosphere triggered by the election of this country’s President-Who-I-Refuse-To-Name – there are plenty of folks who are completely against Miscegenation; folks who have the view that different races and ethnicities should never mix romantically, which includes Asians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and Jewish people as well as blacks and whites.

I remember back in high school having a crush on a Persian girl; to make a long story short, when I tried to call her, her mother angrily rebuffed me, me not knowing that a big part of Persian culture is for them and their children to only be “with their own”.

Of course I saw – and still see – that as plain old bigotry.

 

Florida, USA — Young interracial bride and groom on wedding day — Image by © Kai Chiang/Golden Pixels LLC/Corbis I love this wedding pic – that groom is SO lucky to be marrying such a beautiful bride! Photo courtesy of imgarcade.com

 

In fact, I’ll be perfectly honest…

While as a black man, I want to emphasize that this is no way whatsoever implying that I have anything against African-American females as I have a list of black women and girls that I had a crush on over the years, including Clueless’ Stacey Dash (her politics notwithstanding), The Facts of Life‘s Kim Fields, and especially Michelle Thomas, who played Urkel’s obsessive girlfriend on the TV show Family Matters and who tragically didn’t make it to the age of 30, dying of cancer before reaching that age,

I have always been attracted to females of all races and ethnic groups as their personality and integrity has far more importance in my book than the color of their skin and how they worship God.

Basing my romantic interest choices by initial physical attraction (unfortunately, that’s a natural reality) and  – more importantly – “the content of their character”, to quote Martin Luther King, is something that I have always emphasized.

In fact, I’ve always felt that to limit my dating/relationship options to strictly “my own kind”, as too many people, particularly social conservatives and right-wing types, would prefer to do, would not only be akin submitting myself to a voluntary Jim Crow-segregation,

I would feel straitjacketed, limited, and bored.

BOTTOM LINE:

When it comes to love, a mate should be chosen based on one’s heart and soul rather than skin pigmentation and cultural/ethnic sameness.

They say that “The heart wants what the heart wants” , and I’ll always strongly believe that anything between two individuals that is loving and affectionate should be appreciated and celebrated.

Which was why it gives me a feeling of gladness whenever I see interracial couples out there; it’s real good to see that race, ethnicity and culture in dating is far less of an issue for millennials than for previous generations.

My suggestion to all those couples out there who are given dirty looks or nasty comments because their skin color or ethnicity is different:

Just say this to those folks:

“Love sees no color, because there is only one race – the human race.”

Or tell them,

“You have a right to feel that way, but you know what? It’s SO none of your business!”

Which it isn’t!

Or better yet,  just ignore them.

 

Now this is a great picture of a truly gorgeous family. Photo courtesy of triadmomsonmain.com

 

My Worst Encounter With Racism

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Photo courtesy of suenammirichardsromance.blogspot.com

 

Despite being born after most of the big Civil Rights events – the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the various sit-ins, the March on Washington, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts – like pretty much every other African-American I have encountered negative and stereotypical behavior directed towards me because of how my skin pigmentation looked.

This includes being called a word that rhymes with “bigger” and starts with an “N”.

However, the encounter that I consider the worst in my life with regards to this did not involve that epithet…

It was sometime during March, 1991.

I was in the midst of my last year as a student at UCLA at that time, but this personal encounter with racism had nothing to do with that either as it happened off campus.

You see, I had been a youth baseball coach for the past several seasons, working with young people in the Santa Monica Little League and Bobby Sox Softball League. It was my way of staying involved with the game that I consider my favorite, and a way to do something that I enjoyed: interact with kids who liked baseball and softball as much as I did.

I was managing a baseball team in Santa Monica Little League’s Intermediate division – a level geared toward seven-to-nine year olds where the coach pitches, which my brother happened to be on – that season, but for some reason I wanted to coach softball as well.

One day I was reading UCLA’s student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, as I had done every day, when I came across an ad in the classifieds calling for someone to be an assistant coach for a girls’ softball team in a league located near the campus in Westwood.

I remember thinking, “This is perfect for me!” as I called the number listed in the ad.

I won’t mention the name of the lady who answered my call, if I am going to talk about what ultimately happened.

We had quite the conversation, this lady, who was the manager of the Major division (10-to-12-year olds) softball team (whose name will not be mentioned, either) and I. Especially after I told her my experience and qualifications, which at nearly 24 years old were already formidable as I had started on youth baseball coaching staffs while still in high school and had managed a team at not-yet twenty.

She was very friendly to me on the phone, giving me an impression of being very impressed with what I had to say, and she invited me to her team’s next game that following Sunday (I believe) so we could formally meet and – as I had every reason to think – make my joining that squad a formality.

It was what ensued at that field that Sunday that induces bad memories for me…

I had arrived at the diamond about a half-hour or so before the game was to start, feeling very enthusiastic.

When I met this manager face-to-face in the bleachers behind her team’s dugout, however, her expression a bit strange as her in-person demeanor was as unfriendly as it was friendly on the phone. She, in a bit of a gruff manner, asked me to have a seat in the stands and she would talk to me after the game.

Looking back on it now, it was apparent that she was not only surprised to find that I wasn’t a European of Caucasian descent, she was also rather reluctant to interact with someone from a race/ethnic group/culture like mine. Nor did she have any desire to have her little girls interact with any scary-looking black male, either.

I say this because of what she said to me after the game, which her team won and which completely caught me by surprise – and obviously not in a good way:

“We’re going to have another person with us to help the team because he asked first, but I’m going to put your name with the board in case there are any other openings.”

I know this is not exactly what she said – there’s no way I can remember that two and a half decades after the fact – but as far as my memory is concerned, that’s about as close to her exact words as I can remember, especially the four words, “…because he asked first.”

Which to this day I am convinced is a lie, because of this:

How can someone be so friendly to and enthusiastic about someone on the phone, then have their attitude about that someone change 180 degrees the moment they saw them in person for the first time?

I can’t honestly think of any other reason in this case except that she was judging me for the color of my skin rather than, in Martin Luther King’s words, “The content of their (my) character.”

Of course I grew at least a little bitter upon realizing such a couple of days after that encounter, but strangely enough not as bitter as I could have been; I wish I could tell you why that was so, but I can’t as I really don’t know.

I DO know that if time machines existed, I would go back to that episode, go to the league’s board, and charge that lady of racism, telling them about how she was so nice to me on the phone but was virtually the opposite upon setting her eyes on me, giving me the impression that in her opinion, blacks and whites should “stick with their own kind” – how could there be any other explanation?

Could have there been someone who truly asked to assist that team first? Sure. I fully understand that I have no hard evidence of any racist intent by this softball team manager.

But why did she not mention such over the telephone, say something like “We have other candidates to consider; I’ll get back to you with my decision.”

It would have saved me from spending a Sunday making a trip to that field when I could have been doing other things.

I reckon one can see that though I’m not nearly as affected by all of this as I was, being in my late forties, 24 years later the memory remains a bad one, as it would for roughly 95% of the African-Americans out there.

I never saw that lady again, though I do forgive her for what happened in those Persian Gulf war, George Bush Sr. days.

It’s not my intent to grind any axes or hold any real grudges; she may even be dead by now, and it’s just not worth it to me to hold any bad anger over what happened.

But it did teach me a real-world lesson, that there are those who will never see African-Americans person as equal to them – intellectually and otherwise – will always consider them as somehow inferior, and a group that they would just rather not interact with.

It’s not a pleasant lesson to learn, but it’s an important one not just for blacks, but also for Latinos and other ethnic groups of color.

 

 

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Certainly illustrates my experience here. Cartoon courtesy of huckleberryfinnsatiremap.blogspot.com

 

 

 

Is The Quest For Full Civil Rights and Brotherhood Failing In America?

 

 

 

 

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Our nation’s President making a commemoration speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL on the 50th anniversary of the March from that point to Montgomery

 

Policemen getting away with murdering young unarmed Black men like Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Fraternities singing graphically bigoted songs; does anyone think that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma is the only Greek Letter organization that partakes in that sort of thing? FAR from it!

A fraternity at the University of Washington jeering and throwing things at a parade of people protesting the goings on at Oklahoma.

The young African-American student at the University of Virginia that was recently beaten up by cops.

A ten-year old white girl writing to her Black friend that her father wouldn’t allow her to attend her birthday party because of the color of her skin.

Various courts undermining details of a 1965 Voting Rights Act that so many people marched, were jailed, and died for.

Continued racial profiling and traffic stops for the crime of “Driving While Black”.

Continued hostilities over the fact that the President of the United States for the past six years has been a man of color.

Personally reading the most brutally racist comments at the end of online articles covering racial issues or incidents.

Considering these and other tensions stemming from race, ethnicity and culture, I believe I’m justified in wondering if the 150-year quest (I’m dating it to the end of the Civil War and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, in 1865) for true equality, love, and brotherhood in America is failing.

If Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of a nation where one is judged by the “…content of their character” is rapidly on its way to being over and lost, if not already such.

All of this reminds me of two things that I once read, the first one being this:

“…black and white players on a whole talk differently, walk differently, listen to different music, drive different cars, and even dress differently…these differences breed mistrust.”

Tim Green, a former player in the National Football League, wrote this in his book The Dark Side of the Game to describe race relations in his league.

He was talking about an entity where one would think that things are all hunky-dory, given that over 60% of the NFL’s players are African-American.

So one can easily imagine what things can be and – from what I’ve seen as of late – are in regular society.

Personally, I would have added this to what Green wrote:

“These differences breed discomfort, which breeds mistrust.”

That, I feel, is a main root of all these tensions and incidents, the fact that as one approaches adulthood, they have a tendency to – socially and otherwise – gravitate to others based on what they have in common, base their friendships on such.

Race and culture is among those bases.

Not that I’m implying – at all – that I approve of this, but that’s the cold, hard truth.

As is the fact that there will be always a segment of Caucasians of European descent who will always see Blacks – and other people of color for that matter – as inferior beings whom should never be near where they are, whether in neighborhoods, schools, or anywhere else.

The book Friday Night Lights, depicting a high school football team in West Texas and the social life and nuances of the town that fanatically supports them, illustrates this concept quite well in that nearly all of the town’s whites, who hold very conservative views regarding virtually everything there is to hold views on, commonly regard to black as “N*****s”

And think nothing of it as according to author H.G. Bissinger:

“In (whites’) minds it didn’t imply anything, didn’t indicate they were racist, didn’t necessarily mean they disliked blacks at all. Instead, as several…explained it, there were actually two races of blacks…the hardworking ones who…didn’t try to cut corners…And then there were the loud ones, the lazy ones, the ones who…every time they were challenged to do something claimed they were the helpless victims of white racism.”

 

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At a Ferguson protest; as for the sign, I couldn’t have said it better…

 

Another telling passage from the book concerning this issue:

“What was wrong with the use of that word (n*****)? Wasn’t that what they were? Let a judge shove school desegregation down their throats. Let the federal government have all the free handout programs it wanted. It wasn’t going to change the way they (whites) felt.”

A restaurant owner in that area describes his opinion of blacks bluntly:

“…I live (in my neighborhood) because I want to live with people like me and I don’t want kids bused in from the black side of town…Mexico’s nothing but a big god***n pigpen.”

And in an editorial from this town’s newspaper during the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement:

“If there are those who insist on integrated schools, let them. Those who prefer all-white schools, or all-black schools, likewise should be allowed to exercise their choice.”

The worst part of all of this is that these views were voiced in the late 1980s, when the book was written.

And more importantly, judging from recent events these views are still alive and well a decade and a half into the 21st century, not only in West Texas,

Not only all over these United States,

But throughout the world; check out the reports of soccer fans in Europe making monkey noises and throwing bananas at black players sometime.

And lets not ever forget the dark days of apartheid in South Africa that ended just over twenty years ago.

It all comes down to one thing, that I honestly feel that Dr. King and his Civil Rights associates may have overlook in their struggle:

REGARDLESS OF HOW MANY MARCHES, SIT-INS, LAWS OR “I HAVE A DREAM” SPEECHES, YOU CANNOT FORCE BROTHERHOOD OR ACCEPTANCE OF A RACE OR CULTURE ON SOMEONE WHO HAS NO INTEREST IN IT.

I reckon some who are reading this may be thinking that I’m blanketing all whites with regard in how African-Americans, Latinos, and other people of color are viewed.

Let me firmly state that nothing can be further from the truth, as I know full well that in the forty years since Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, things have gotten much better in society as integrated neighborhoods, romantic relationships and marriages are at an all-time high.

And thanks to what the Civil Rights Movement accomplished, I have never seen a “Whites Only” sign anywhere, nor have I ever had to sit in the back of a bus or have been denied service at a store or a restaurant or anywhere else.

But racist experiences has not eluded me as I was called the n-word as a little boy, racially profiled in my 20s and 30s, and although the prospective employer said that it was because someone “asked first” denied one job in particular clearly because of the color of my skin.

So at the end of the day, the question remains:

Is the quest for full civil rights and brotherhood along racial and cultural lines failing in America?

Lots of folks would say no to that question, considering all the incidents.

As for me, the only thing that come to my mind is this:

I certainly hope not, because it would mean an extreme sense of heartbreak and an ultimate sense of losing if this century-and-a half quest indeed fails.

 

 

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A symbolic protest against SAE’s actions at the University of Oklahoma; encouraging to see whites involved as well as African-Americans

 

 

 

An Update on “MY ASPIE LIFE”

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A nice picture I wanted to include; I don’t know if this lady has Asperger’s or not, but the word coming to mind when looking at it (at least to me) is “Introspect” 

 

Briefly updating the progress of my book “MY ASPIE LIFE: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome in a Neurotypical World”

 

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed how my book, a book that will detail my struggles of being on the Autism Spectrum in a society/culture that not geared toward that population – in other words, being mainstreamed – has been progressing as far as writing it, so I thought I would give a brief update:

As I may have mentioned, I finished chapter ten, which is the second of two consecutive chapters regarding my failures in the mainstream workforce as an employee, just after the beginning of the year; my shortcomings in the workplace were so many that much like reliving my mostly bad high school experiences, giving a recount of (almost) all of my social screw-ups at work required two chapters.

I’ve been considering what I wanted chapter 11, which is to be the final chapter, to focus on; I’m leaning toward discussing the different social faux-pas that I have committed in recent years, a time when I – and I suppose a lot of folks, particularly neurotypicals (non-disabled people) – thought that being in my forties, the days of saying and doing weird, inappropriate, inflammatory, and just plain stupid and childish things would be over and finished with for good.

That, sadly, has not been the case as I have found myself verbally screwing up on quite a few occasions, notably when I get the feeling of being interacted with in a condescending manner by different people.

I also want to end the chapter with a sense of personal hope as there has been certain events that have led me to gain maturity, self-confidence and a better sense of inner calm.

And I also plan to write a brief epilogue which will probably talk about how my life is at the present time, what my situations are and the state of me in general.

Because I have been very busy with my new sports fan site/blog, SoCal Sports Annals, and other personal endeavors, along with not being exactly certain of the approach I want to take in the chapter’s beginning, I unfortunately haven’t been able to make a chapter 11 outline or begin a rough draft, but I am determined to get started on that this month, if not this week.

The reason? It’s quite straightforward…

My ultimate plans to have “MY ASPIE LIFE” finished and published (self-published, as my desires to NOT send my book to publishers only to get rejected) by mid-July – in time for my 30th high school reunion – has not changed as I want to have the book done by the time I reunite with the people who I spent my formative years with, some of them whom I have known since the age of nine.

It would certainly be an accomplishment, I think anyone would agree with that.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds as for all intents and purposes, “MY ASPIE LIFE” is coming into the home stretch.

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when the book is done…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Personal Encounter With Racism: When I Was Denied Something Because of (In My View) Skin Color

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Early Spring, 1991.

I was in my final year as an undergraduate student in college and heavily involved in what I hoped would be my life’s work: working with children.

In this case, I was heavily involved in coaching baseball and softball, and had been for several years despite my young age (23).

Although I was the manager of my brother’s Little League baseball team that Spring, for some reason I wanted to coach softball as well; to keep myself busy and occupied and continue to obtain the necessary experience that was needed for my career plans…

Which was to either become a social studies teacher or a P.E. teacher/coach, or both.

So imagine my feeling that a golden opportunity had revealed itself when I took a look at my college newspaper and found an announcement that a girls’ softball team from a different little league from where I was coaching my brother was looking for someone to join its coaching staff.

I wasted no time in calling the number listed in the ad that evening, confident that I would impress the person doing the hiring with my knowledge of softball.

On the other end of the line was a woman who was the manager of the team, which consisted of nine, ten, and 11-year olds. She informed me that as she was a parent who volunteered to coached and wasn’t too experienced in softball, she was looking for someone who was and could teach her charges how to play the game.

I also recall this lady stating that her players weren’t very enthusiastic about being on the team or playing softball in general, that at times those girls behaved like they were only there because their parents wanted them in an enrichment activity. This lady – who shall be nameless – likewise said that being that they were from an affluent area and well-to-do families,  they sometimes acted entitled.

Not that they were exactly spoiled brats, but a more accurate description  according to her would be kids would were not used to, and didn’t like, hearing the word “No”.

I could easily tell that this manager of the team was very much impressed by my replies regarding experience and reactions to her various issues with her players as I was giving anecdotes about how I handled similar situations with the teams that I had coached, as well as what I do to get her team up to speed, namely putting them through batting and fielding drills.

In other words, do activities with those girls that would make them better softball players.

My enthusiasm for potentially working with these youngsters, which I conveyed over the phone, was what I believe impressed her the most.

As our phone conversation went on, it was painfully obvious that she liked what she was hearing, and eagerly invited me to her team’s next game so we could meet face-to-face and – or so I assumed – formalize my officially joining the team’s coaching staff.

Imagine how taken aback I was when I arrived at the park a few days later and approached this lady whom I had such a good interview with over the phone, all enthusiastic at what was going to be a good adventure and experience for me…

I could feel the freezing tension from her as she gave me a most peculiar look that said, “What the hell?!”  like she was shocked at the sight of me, which looking back I’m sure she was.

In what was a much more unfriendly tone than she exuded over the phone, she told me to have a seat in the bleachers behind her team’s dugout, watch the game, and she would talk to me afterwards.

So the game began and ended, and afterwards I approached this woman to make arrangements to impart my knowledge on her band of ballplayers as an official coach when with that same unfriendly look, she told me something that nearly 25 years later I have not forgotten:

” I’m going to hire someone else to join us because he asked first, but I’ll put your name on the board for future opportunities, if any other openings come up.”

Which of course was a fancy way of saying,

“We’ll keep your name on file.” 

Or more accurately, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,”  both of us knowing full well that there would be no intention of doing so.

Now I understand that there will be folks who will say that I shouldn’t pull the race card, that I am needlessly crying victim and maybe someone else really did ask first.

However, here’s the rub in all of this…

This was the same lady who was so impressed with what I had to say and was so friendly with me over the phone, she practically anointed me as a superhero-like savior.

Then she takes one look at me and her body language and vibe turns 180 degrees from how she was on the phone, to where she seemingly saw me as an Ultimate Pariah who in her opinion ought, to coin a phrase, “Stick with his (my) own kind”.

Of course she didn’t tell me flat-out that she didn’t want me around her team or her girls because of my being an African American, that she was uncomfortable with some big black dude coaching and interacting with her little white girls – at least to my face.

For the record, I’m not sure if this was a huge factor, but the league that her softball team was in was, at minimum, 98% white with a handful of Asians thrown in; I was told by a parent that the only African American kid in the entire organization was the son of some celebrity.

I strongly suspect that during the game in the dugout, out of earshot, she was expressing her unpleasant surprise that my skin color wasn’t the same as hers and that she was most apprehensive about working with someone who was of my ethnic culture.

I should have confronted her about it that afternoon, saying…

 

“I would like you to tell me something, and please be as honest as you can…”

“Being that you were so friendly and enthusiastic with me over the phone and you interacting with me in such a different way now – which is how I perceive it – is this a case of you being uncomfortable with having black men among you and your players, that when it comes to situations like this you feel that  African Americans and whites are better off separated?”

 

I would have respected this lady if she had told me that I was right in my assumptions, because I have always felt that raw, naked, brutal honesty is needed as far as espousing racist views if any true progress is going to be made in this country.

As opposed to the old standby, “I’m not a racist, but…” that so many people seem to say.

Unfortunately, that is all a moot point in this case because after this manager said what she said, I simply stood there, replied “OK”, and went home.

I don’t even remember her shaking my hand.

What I should have done was go to her league’s board and file a formal complaint/accusation of racial bias.  But alas, that failed to cross my mind.

I would go on to have a great season coaching my brother’s team, which (along with that league) was much more culturally diverse, but what happened on that softball field that cool spring afternoon bothered me for a while.

I certainly received a valuable life lesson, that despite all the gains that African Americans and other people of color had made during the previous 30 years there were still – and most likely always will be – folks who will see you as a lesser being because of your skin color, or your surname, or the fact that English isn’t your first language.

And will consequently refuse to hire you because of that.

Please don’t misunderstand – there’s been a lot of water flowing under the bridge since that day in 1991, and it would be very ignorant of me to harbor any grudges or hate of this girls’ softball manager for what happened over two decades ago.

But how I was personally affected by this rejection, and how it remains entrenched in my memory, says something about how seemingly indelible this issue of racism continues to be.

Despite the presence of an African American president.

do remain hopeful that things will change, that every living person will at all times be judged strictly by the content of their character; I believe that it’s only a matter of time.

How much time, however, remains very debatable.

 

Children Running with American Flags --- Image by © Kevin Dodge/Corbis