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June 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #1011
It Ain’t Right
by Ken Dalton
There are key moments in everyone’s life that define what they become. Often this happens early in life, maybe even while a child. For me it was when I was about 13 years old.
From the time I was 8 (1959) until I was 12 (1963), my best friend in the whole world was Aaron. He is black. I am white. [ NOTE I wrote this a decade ago. Now I know we were both triracial] We shared everything including mamas and grammas hugs and spankings. When one of us had an opportunity to get a new comic we knew what the other already had. We shared our toys, …what few we had. My bloodbrother and I shared every joy and wish. Oh……. by the way…….. being rowdy boys we knew our blood was the exact same color of red……. suffering many cuts and scrapes together. We knew we liked the same stuff.. and had the same chores and problems. The only difference either of us could see was that he came pretanned. To this day, I haven’t found any other differences.
One hot summer day, we had done something that his gramma asked him to do and we did a good job so she rewarded us with the last corner of a carton of storebought ice cream. Aaron grabbed 2 spoons and we tore down the sides of that box and dug in. We were several bites into it when his gramma looked around and saw us. She flew into a fit and started slapping him about the head.
“BOY! YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THAT!!!!! Get a bowl. Y’all can’t eat together like that.”
I asked her, “Why not?” (We had been sharing an apple in the orchard just an hour earlier, alternating bites.)
“Cause you can’t!” she said.
“We do it all the time!” I exclaimed.
“Well you gotta stop.” she said.
“Why?? What’s wrong with it?” I asked, still confused.
“Cause they’ll hurt you. They’ll beat you down.” She said. Looking at her grandson she said, “Boy, you know about being uppity. You know what will happen.”
“That ain’t right.” I mumbled, starting to understand what upset her.
Well, that’s the way it is. Don’t matter what’s right.” She flatly stated.
“It DOES matter what’s right!” I asserted.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes…. cupped my face in her hands…. and said, “Child, God knows I wish you were right, but you are not. They will hurt you. They will hurt you worse because you are white.” Then she hugged me tight and sobbed quietly.
“It ain’t right.” I muttered.
Stayed tuned for Chapter 2….. Integration comes to our communityJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #9990
Several years after the ice cream incident, my school was integrated. Aaron and his brothers and sisters ( along with 2 other families) were the first “black” children to come to my school. At school we pretended not to know each other but we still played together at home. We both knew that’s the way it was, right or wrong. When they got abused by the other white kids, they had to take it and I had to pretend not to notice. At home we never mentioned school.
Then one day on the bus the small constant stuff escalated until it exploded. A group of students was dapping some type of cream on Aaron’s little sister to “make her smell better.” Nobody was trying to stop them and most seemed to think it was funny, including the bus driver. She was quietly taking it.
Inside, I was screaming, “LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!!” I started to stand at one point, just as Aaron stood and was pushed back down. Then I heard that voice, “They will hurt you” and I knew she was right. I’ll never forget the hurt in Aaron’s eyes as he looked to me and I looked away. He rose back up and they beat him down. And now they knew his threshold so they stayed just under it from then on. The black kids kept taking it until they graduated and I ignored it. I went on to college and Aaron left for parts unknown. Some say he was a Black Panther during the 70s. He’s married and middle-class today and living over 100 miles from here.
I never got over the shame of failing my friend…… and I swore never again to quietly accept what ain’t right. If it ain’t right, I won’t do it……. and I’ll resist it…… and I’ll do all I can to fight it.
And I’ve been beat down……. and I got back up and kept fighting what ain’t right……. and I’ve been beat down again……. but I’m still here … and it still ain’t right…….. and I’m not gonna change my mind, even when I can’t get back up.
peaceJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #9992
Yes. But do you have any idea how common your experience is? Do you have any idea how many souls walk the earth with the same gaping wound. I know this because I was part of a movement during the 60’s after the riots of Watts and Newark and in my own home town of Plainfield, NJ. No one had ever heard of Plainfield, NJ back in 1967. They did though, after the tanks rolled down the streets trying to restore law and order.
The 60’s. Those were some heady times – powerful. In that decade America took a blow and was ripped across her side. It was like a great fissure that belched toxic waste up from the core.
After the initial shock I recall the churches calling for special meetings – offering their members a place to come and talk and ask one another, God, whomever, what could have happened – to the quiet, safe, tranquil lifestyle that once existed. What happened? I saw it happening because I was watching. Very few people know how to watch. As a matter of fact, very few people want to watch. It’s uncomfortable – makes them queasy. I was the rebel, so I watched. As a person of color, It was impossible for me not to have an understanding of the types of things you had to be told. Your innocence and youth protected you from the cold hard realities called “facts of life”. Who creates facts? Those who assume power and control. They write the facts for the rest of us to follow. Some are well intentioned while others are not. With the exception of those who live out of the box that’s pretty much the long and the short of it.
Ken, I’ve conducted many meetings bringing people together in a safe environment to bridge the racial gap and understand one another. I did this because we children all played together while we were young – sleeping over one another’s homes and thinking not a thought of skin color – and the parents were very cool with it. So what happened? I learned a lot as a result. I’ve sat before every kind of human being you could possibly imagine. I’ve broken bread at the table of racists, trying to understand what could be wrong with them. This is what I learned… Unless something is going to greatly improve the quality of someone’s life – in tangible terms – they aren’t going to buy into a paradigm shift. Period. Only a powerful direct spiritual experience from within can do that.
Sorry. I think I went off on a tangent again. The point I’m trying to make here is that you shouldn’t walk around with the burdon of guilt. You felt badly and you lost a soul mate in that powerful experience. I understand that, I truly do. But you learned something powerful as well. I lost many anglo friends from my childhood. I lost them to a cruel world. I actually had one friend who was beaten up by a bunch of cruel black children because they knew she was my friend and they didn’t like mixing. They didn’t dare attack me because I had tough older cousins. My friend was in the hospital for weeks. Her parents wouldn’t let me visit her in the hospital. My mother went to their home to see if there was anything she could do. She wasn’t allowed past the front door. I had slept at her home and she had slept at mine. Similar story to yours. It was a great loss in my life. I was nine years old at the time. One day, maybe a year or so later I ran into her on the street wearing a catholic uniform. I ran to her, truly excited and stopped cold at the look in her eyes. In the company of her new friends, all staring at me on that street that day, she told me, and I quote, “I’m not allowed to play with niggers anymore because I’m catholic now”. Well, for a long, long time, I thought all catholics were racists. It felt like an icy hand had crushed my heart. My heart really heart. But I forgave her. You have to forgive yourself as well. You have to move on from that spot and not live there anymore. But in moving on you must take that experience and weave it into your future – it’s part of your life story. How you do it and when you do it will come to you if you step outside of the box. That experience, along with others helped to give me a very colorful and interesting life.
I’m still weaving that experience into my future. It was my experience – one that was given to me and I am caretaker of it – Creator selected it for me to do something with. All I can do is the best I can. I know I have been raised up by it.
titoJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #9994
Tito says >>> You have to forgive yourself as well. You have to move on from that spot and not live there anymore. But in moving on you must take that experience and weave it into your future – it’s part of your life story. How you do it and when you do it will come to you if you step outside of the box. That experience, along with others helped to give me a very colorful and interesting life. >>>
I have moved well beyond that experience except for a face to face with Aaron. I wrote this years ago and gave a copy to Aaron’s brother to give to Aaron but he hasn’t been back to this area yet.
The experience did shape who I became. Perhaps it was not just the loss of fear of personal injury or danger but the beginning of my quest for danger. “Very colorful and interesting” would be a mild way of saying what I’ve done and the windmills I’ve tilted………… Got another one to work on now……. a lot of healing needs to happen and I will continue to do all I can in my small corner of the world.
And seeking healing is the only way to make it better.
Retribution makes you just like them…………
ending the fear of the power and refusing to obey the rules improves the overall life of the oppressed but does nothing to reduce resentment of those formerly powerful.
Only through forgiveness can healing happen.
And it only took me 50 years to understand that 😉
peaceJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #9997
You sound like a good soul. For what it’s worth, in my humble opinion, the fact that you even had a sustainable conscience about that event is admirable. I’m sure that the social pressures leaning in the opposite direction were profound.
I hope you have your day with Aaron. I hope you find closure with or without him. Your post is definitely a step in the right direction.
titoJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #9999TomParticipant
Hey Y’all ,, well up here we have had our moments w/ this type of thing.
I was once cornered in an enterance way and held at gun point, I had to take it I was 12 years old!, when the older boys in the family set up the accusers and drug them out of thier vehicle and treated them the same way, we were almost charged!
Well scars on the inside always show up on the outside, sometimes at the oddest moments, but folks take the guff and make it better. Just don’t pass it on.
My late Mom always told us don’t go looking for a fight but never back down , you don’t go looking for it and you don’t have to take it.
Well I’ve taken my share…. and do on a daily basis but I make my day and I am makin’ my way.
I have been apart of and not apart of the process many times I have been apart of the other side that has been marginalized, well for what it’s worth I can pass for white, sometimes it’s just good cammo!
Anyway, Don’t go looking for and don’t take it!
Wishing you all the greatest of days, Tom.June 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #10001
Thank you Tom.
Life is a bit of a navigation process isn’t it. I think if everyone were the same someone would come along and claim that they are better because they have a bigger nose.
I think men process anger a little differently than women. Maybe I’m a dreamer but I’m expectant that things will change.
Peace to youJune 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm #36475
Because of the direction of the conversation in the “many drops” thread, I thought some of the new members might find this thread relevant.
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