Some days I forget how old I am.
Martin Luther King Day first appeared in 1986 while Reagan was in office. Which should have put me squarely in 9th grade. Maybe 8th. I’m old.
It was another thing on the pile of the goofiness of my childhood. Not that my entire childhood was goofy it just seemed to swing to some very polarized spots. It’s a public blog so I don’t want to explain much. I prefer to keep everything involving personal a bit foggy for you reader. Growing up there were two sides of my family – the Appalachia side and the Georgia Side. One side never saw black people. They lived out. For me it was the edge of the world. The other side had members in a nefarious organization that didn’t care much for diversity that were prone to put on a bed sheet.
My family isn’t wealthy by any stretch. I am a proud example of public schools in action. I also lived in a very blended world at school. If you were to look at elementary school through high school I was part of a very shrinking majority. My elementary school was probably 50% white and 49% black with 1% being whatever Asian family appeared for that year or three or six. High school was probably 95% black. It didn’t bother me much. My high school in an attempt to foster excellence OR keep state regulators off their backs formed a “school of excellence” where probably 30 or 40 of us worked to keep the school average up and technically evened things a bit better racially. I could never say enough good things about my teachers or principals. My elementary school principle still appears from time to time. “Mr Wolf how are you? Oh Mr Hale – How are you?”.
It was always fascinating. At school I was in the minority (but was part of the majority). Church I was back to being a Majority again. Extended family never quite knew where I went to school. The Appalachia side didn’t care. The Georgia side didn’t entirely know. I laugh about it now.
Anyway, I really don’t remember this Holiday getting passed. The year previous I had won a black history month essay contest. I was incredibly worried about going to the church on a side of town I didn’t normally visit to pick up my savings bond. So I didn’t. I regret not going. The pastor of the church came to school to give me the award and we stood next to each other for 5 minutes before he realized I wasn’t black. I was the guy who had won the award. I kept the savings bond until college.
In high school, Morehouse came handing out scholarships. Now this was in the days of no computers. So they pulled the top 15 or so students for scholarships. I was number 15. I ignored my name when it was called. The teacher (who was white) came up to me and laughed. “You have to go.” I looked at her going “But….Mrs <> – I…..eh…..They’ve made a mistake”. “GO”. And I went. I walked in and there was two things that happened. My friends “Randy what are you doing here hahahaha” and the Morehouse representatives looking exceptionally confused. I asked for half the money of the award in cash. Didn’t get it. One of my friends got award number 15 due to some quick paperwork shuffling. I got to keep the original printed award for the memories.
Gym was a whole exercise in pain. I remember one conversation with three people. Stud from the football Team. High School basketball Coach. Me. “Hey Coach, Why don’t white people come to out school?” said the football guy. The coach would reply “because they all think they better than us”. Me “Hey! I’m not better than anyone”.
In my first “real job” back in the 90’s my boss came up to me the day before MLK Day. “Eh…so I don’t recognize this holiday. We work on Monday.” and I go “Eh….so I get paid time and a half for working on a Holiday?”. “No. You can take off later but you’re gonna work. This Holiday is just bullsh*t.”
In some field work not terribly long ago I found myself in an all Black neighborhood. The field crew I was with was slightly more nervous about being there than I was…mainly for my safety. “Randee – so this area is…..” me: “Mostly black and they won’t like a white guy walking around talking to people?”. Everyone would stop to look at me and I go “I know – I’m good with that – here You (pick out someone) are boss man for this week. Just follow my lead on the technical”. Which was a blast. You get to learn a lot when you aren’t “in charge”.
These days I’m surrounded by more crazy right wing people that listen to too much talk radio. “Too much race baitin’ these days. Everyone is happy if you don’t point out how different everyone is.” Of course then I start pointing out how we are different and some people need help. Maybe things are slightly to greatly unequal if you can wrap your head around that.
So at 43 I’m working part of today. I am owned by a small business. I realize that all of that “fun” of high school was 26 years ago. I often look back and think that the environment gave me the most well rounded eduction of all. I’m fairly tolerant of just about anyone except people that are just a-holes. I don’t have enough friends currently though. Much less ones that are black, green, gay, straight, religious, and shades of crazy. I am tempted to visit the church up the road today – they are collecting can goods and while I don’t want to spend any extra money….how much am I gonna miss 10 bucks next month?
So go out today and laugh. Do something good. Help someone.