Today was a day that I honestly never thought I would see in my lifetime, I could not miss it, so I took the day off so I could be sure and watch it on TV. That event of course was the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
You see, I grew up in the South during the later part of the 1950's and 60's and early 70's. I have VERY vivid memories of what life was like during those times.
I remember very well that that every place that had restrooms had 3, men's, woman's and blacks. I remember also everywhere there was a water fountain, there were 2, one for the white folks(not marked) and one for the colored folks (alway with a big sign over it).I remember going to the movies at the Pines Theater in Silsbee where I grew up and being able to walk through the front door of the the theater while the black kids could only enter in through a door in the ally and they sat up in the balcony and they better not make any noise, or they would stop the movie and clear everyone out of the balcony, and then resume the movie. I remember going to the Drug Store for my Mom and when you went to the counter to pick up the meds, there was this tiny window behind the counter on the far end, and that is where
the black folks would pick up their meds, once they entered the back door of the pharmacy, again through the ally.
I will always remember one Saturday morning when I was around 11 or 12 and I had ridden my bike to town for something, I had parked it in the bike rack by the library and was headed to the 5 and dime store. As I was walking down the side walk and elderly black man was walking toward me and as I got close to him, he stepped off the side walk into the street until I had passed and then he got back on the side walk and continue to where he was going. You see, if a black person was actually walking on the sidewalk down town (and not taking the ally), anytime
a white person approached them on the sidewalk, they would have to step off the sidewalk and let the white person pass.
They actually did live "on the other side of the tracks" in the town I grew up in and they had their "part" of town they lived in, and it was to their best interest not be be on "the wrong side of the tracks" after night fall.
I was in the 9th grade when they intergrated the schools in Silsbee. It was a VERY BIG deal. I honestly remember the first week or so of that school year, there was so much tension in the air. It actually took till the mid semester for things to finally calm down. There were a few fights here and there and of course the name calling from time to time. By the time I graduated it was a "no big deal" thing.
Obama said in his speech today that his own Father, 60 years ago would probably not be able to eat at the front counter of any restruant. I know that is a fact in the part of the country I grew up in.
I can remember seeing the crosses burning in fields and sometimes in people's yards.
The KKK was a big thing in area I grew up in, although except for the burning crosses, I never saw them.
When I share stories with people of what it was like back then, they either think I am making it up or I saw it in a movie. But it was real, very real. It was that way not just in the small town I lived, it was that way everywhere in the South.
And I really hate to tell you, but Racism is still very much alive in many areas of the South even today. It was only a few short years ago that a friend of mine from Texas called me and she was very upset. You see, she was upset because the Church she as a member of and had been attending for several years, was thinking of letting Black people start going to Church there. She was livid. She asked me if the Churches here in California allowed Black people to attend the While Churches. I was really taken back, I told her we did not have "White" Churches in California, every church I knew of allowed all races to attend them. I know the Church I was a member of at the time had Blacks, Whites, Asians and everything in between. I did not dare tell her we also had Gay and Lesbian members, I somehow did not think her blood pressure could handle it. Having lived in California for so many years I forget what it is like back there and how far behind the times they can be. ( Just a foot note here, when I took Patrick to Texas the first time to meet my family, my Mom got
excited when she realized we would be there on a Sunday, she told me we just had to go to Church with her while we were there since itwas the Church I grew up in and so many people would be excited to see me. I just looked at her and told her, "Mom we can't go, Patrick is Asian, remember?" You should have seen the look on her face when it hit her I was right, they only allow White people to attend the Church, and this was only 6 or 7 years ago)
So you see, I HAD to be able to witness the events of the inaguruation today. It is a day I have long dreamed of for our Nation, but honestly never thought I would see in my life time. I sat in our living room and watched him take the oath of office and I had tears rolling down my face. My heart was so full and I had goose bumps too.
I was a mess! But I was a very happy mess. It gives me great hope for our country and our people. I do not think he is a Superman and I know he doesn't have all the answers. BUT I think he can start the change we need in our Country. He has not made any big promises of what he can do, all along he has told us we were all going to have to work together to make this change possible.
He also gives me hope that one day I will be able to witness the inauguration of our first Gay or Lesbian President. I know it will happen, and I hope it is within my life time.