I started 1st grade in 1950 when I was six years old. My public school was in Washington, D.C., and all the students were white. This is because the D.C. public schools were segregated, believe it or not.
My 5th-grade class had black kids in it because the Supreme Court had decided that segregation wasn’t equal (Brown v. Board) in 1953. The D.C. public schools were on federal property, so they had to be integrated right away. My school, West Elementary School, was integrated as a ‘pilot’ school in 1954. The whole system integrated the following year, so I attended the first public school integrated after Brown v. Board.
I became aware I had black classmates not because some of my 5th-grade classmates had dark skins. What made me realize that something was different were comments I heard about these new classmates from several of the white kids. They whispered terrible things to me; I heard words like ‘nigger’ and ‘coon’ for the first time.
These white kids mostly disappeared by the 6th grade. Their parents moved out to Maryland – Prince George’s County – where their kids could attend public schools that were still all-white.
I never understood why those white kids were so upset. Ten years later, I didn’t understand why I began hearing that women didn’t deserve equal pay when they did what had been a man’s job.
Ten years after that, I didn’t understand why it was somehow wrong to be gay.
Now I don’t understand what’s the big, fucking deal about LGBTQ.
Don’t get me wrong. I know what words mean. What I don’t understand is the emotion, the anger behind certain words. I don’t understand how anyone can spend one second being pissed off because someone is in some way different from them.
I can kind of understand why Germans went along with Hitler’s hatred of Jews. After all, many Germans lost everything – home, job, savings – in the aftermath of World War I. And maybe it wasn’t credible to blame the post-war collapse on some ‘international Jewish conspiracy,’ but how would you feel if you walked down the street without a dime in your pocket and that Jewish storeowner was still running his store?
My point is that these white guys who drive around in their F-150’s with their MAGA flags fluttering in the breeze haven’t in any way suffered because some woman, or some black, or some guy with a turban wrapped around his head is standing ahead of them on the check-out line.
Where does this anger come from? What makes some human beings fear other humans who are different from them? And more important, how do some people who have such crazy ideas in their heads actually believe that they’ll finally get what they deserve if they vote for Donald Trump?
Again, please don’t get me wrong. Most of the people who go to those Trump rallies or put a MAGA sign on their front lawns probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what Trump thinks or believes, and they really don’t care. They like Trump because they like Trump. People vote for people they like – it’s as simple as that.
And by the way, I’ve said it again and I’ll say it one more time – Trump has no plan to turn America into a Fascist state. That would take too much work and effort and most of all, would require the consent and support of the U.S. Army, which ain’t about to happen, no matter what Robert Reich thinks or says.
If there are some among us for whom racial or gender hatred is the way they want to think, there’s really nothing we can do to change their minds for the simple reason that there’s a piece of their brain missing that can’t be replaced.
On the other hand (the old Eisenhower press conference again), if there are people out there who don’t enjoy the remarkable racial, gender and sexual diversity of this country, they can pick up and go live somewhere else in the Milky Way, because from here all those stars and planets look exactly the same.