I came home from kindergarten one day and told my parents that my “girlfriend” had chased me down on the playground and tried to kiss me. They laughingly asked who she was, I said “Ebbie!” They followed the conversation through by telling me we shouldn’t be doing that. They didn’t tell me that because Ebbie was African-American. They told me that because we were five years old. I was raised in a podunk northern suburb of Waco, Texas called Elm Mott. Heart of the Bible Belt, smack dab in the middle of central Texas. My parents were progressive for the area. Especially, my mother who had been a hippie child of the 60’s and dedicated her life to teaching special education. Color was not something I was ever taught to use as a classification. It sounds unrealistic and utopian, but true. It was always based on what type of person they were or what type of effort and vibe the person emitted.
A few miles from Elm Mott there is a community called Lincoln City. It was a poor, rural area almost completely inhabited by African-Americans. I think it’s changed some demographics since back then, but largely remains the same. I went to school with the kids that came from there. And I thought nothing of it. Despite being out in the country, our school district was very diversified. Available data for 2020 shows that diversity has only grown since I graduated two decades ago. Currently, that school district is home to a student population that is 33% African American, 32% Hispanic, and 29% White. I grew up in a community that was divided that way. But, it wasn’t an inherent deterrent to the greater idea of a community. We played together, learned together, worshipped together, celebrated together and at times grieved together. As far as I was concerned in my juvenile brain and world outlook, we were all treated equally. Because that’s how it was in our community. As I grew older, I would learn that wasn’t the case at all.
Senior year, nearly the entire student body was at a house party not far from White Rock Creek. It was in the country, but there were houses nearby. Of course, sheriff deputies arrived after having been called by a neighbor. As shouts of “5-0” and “Cops!” rambled through the chilly autumn air, we all began to run and hide. Kids of all backgrounds, races and various involvement in the night’s revelry. Several of us took to the woods surrounding the house to hide it out. It wasn’t long before the military-grade spotlights found us and told us to come out. We attempted to stall them out for nearly half an hour before realizing we were stuck. We all soon obliged with their requests. It was a pretty standard operation of ID checks and calls to parents. But, there was one startling difference. They divided us into two groups and a quick look around proved that they had put the black kids in one group and we white kids in another group. The officers interacting with us were cutting jokes and talking about last Friday’s football game. The officers interacting with the other group were a little more….aggressive. Frisking, shouts of “hands up!”, questions about where the weed might be hidden. We all managed to make it out of there legally unscathed, but we’d all learned a lesson. Despite the manner in which we’d grown up together, the fact of their being two sets of America wasn’t just something that was on TV or in Los Angeles. It was right here in front of us. Half of us were ignorant to this fact. Half of us had been living with it in plain sight all along.
The society I grew up in was multicultural. It is what produced my love for all music and things. I loved NWA and De La Soul as much as I loved George and Garth. All while having Motley Crue and Def Leppard all up in the mix. And we were all that way. It was ubiquitous. As tuned in and aware as I thought I was, I wasn’t as clued in as I had thought. And I’ve seen many revelations over the past month from peers of mine that ring similarly.
As I’ve watched the past few weeks unfold, I’ve been intently listening to people who comprise the other side of the societal divide. It’s such a turbulent, sad time we all find ourselves in. I’m thankful that I’ve lived up to my raising. I still don’t use color as an arbiter of worth. And I don’t surround myself with folks that do. In real life or the social media realm that is decaying our culture. Ignorance can be cured. Hatred is taught. And lessons abound in both. I hope you’ve all been listening and learning lately.
That mother of mine that taught me those lessons regarding color, worth and humanity is now in her 70’s and dealing daily with the ravages of MS. I do a great deal of her caretaking, but I have a lot of support from family and a squad of caregivers from a local home health company. Each day, I see her welcome them into our home in a way that many others in her predicament would not. They’re white, black and brown. And the only thing I’ve heard her critique them on is mask etiquette and how they handle transporting her in the wheelchair. The quality of their work, content of their character and the way they treat her. That’s what matters. How people interact with each other. The world needs more love. Some may find that notion cheesy. But, the best teacher I’ve ever known practices it daily.
-Masks. Wear them. It’s not a political statement. Nobody enjoys it. We recently traveled on a daytrip and popped into a Buc-Ee’s. We all masked up. When we got back in the truck, my kids both noted “Daddy, there were a lot of people not being nice in there.” I asked what they meant, and the younger one goes “They weren’t wearing masks.” If they can do it, we should do it.
-Due to my mother’s MS we’ve remained rather vigilant about social distancing, going out etc. Always masked up. Air high-fives. Washing hands like I’m about to go into surgery.
-As of this writing, we are 5 weeks away from River Jam. As of this writing, we are still planning on it happening. That could very quickly change with the way things are going. If it does come off, it won’t look like normal. We won’t be packed in as tight. But, we are going to give every effort to make the best of it.
-I miss sports. Not surprised the NBA is figuring out a way to make things happen and MLB is dropping the figurative ball.
-Josh Abbott for governor. He can’t do worse.
-Been finding solace in happy tunes amid these trying times. Our Good Mood playlist is now over 75 songs. Try it out.
-Although there are some days I just need to get the anger out. I have a personal playlist for that too.
-This month’s recommended album: Kyle Nix – Lightning on the Mountain. A Turnpike record without Evan Felker. That’s what everyone is going to compare it to and at its essence, that’s what it is. It’s bluegrassier and it grooves a little more than vintage Turnpike, but the vibe remains the same even when the lyrics aren’t quite as descriptive as it’s forebears . This is one of the best albums of the year and sure to make any country music fan happy. Whether you’re a Turnpike diehard or not.
-”Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain