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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where's Rosa Parks When We Need Her?

I lifted this image from Towleroad- not sure who else to credit, but for a little drag queen who grew up in the deep south, this says it all. By the time I came along, the signs were taken down, but the water fountains were still there. I remember asking Momma when we would go into public buildings- "Why are there 2 water fountains" and she would say, "I don't know, sweetie." She knew.
One day I asked Daddy, and he said: "that one used to be for the colored folks, but they can use either one now." And I said "why don't they take that old, ugly one away?" And he said "I don't know, sweetie." But he knew, too. My parents were raised in an environment that didn't recognize the races as equal. When laws changed, they tried to teach us the "right" thing. But I don't know that their beliefs ever really changed, because the only black person they knew was Joyce, the lady that cleaned our house twice a week. "My colored girl", Momma used to call her. "I've had her for years, and I don't know what I'd do without her. The kids love her", she would tell her friends.
In the 4th grade, a black girl started in my school. Her name was Jade. I can't imagine what is was like for her and her little sister, the only 2 African American children in a school full of white teachers, students, and principals. The only other African American was Mr. Brooks, the janitor, who ate his lunch every day in the pine-sol scented broom closet just outside the cafeteria. In junior high, there were a lot more African American kids. My best friend was Sherry Fontenot, and she played first chair flute and I was first chair clarinet. Her mother taught 8th grade in our school. She and her sister were both cheerleaders. I loved them all, and they were my friends. We were aware that our skin was different colors, and we knew many in our little southern city would judge our friendship, but we didn't care. And people learned that we hung out together, did stuff together, were great friends, and nothing bad happened! It wasn't the end of the world for white and black kids to be friends! It was a turning point in my life, and I hope others saw the joy our friendship brought each other and realized that it's okay to step outside of what you were "taught" to accept an idea that is different!
Even when prop 8 is repealed, our marriages are reconized, and we win the legal battles we are fighting, there will STILL be 2 water fountains in the oldest public buildings in places like Lake Charles, La. And there will STILL be bigotry, hatred, and distrust.
The best thing we can do is reach out to people who may have voted for prop 8, one at a time, to win them over as human beings. Think about the people with whom you work, who ride your bus or train, or serve you coffee- or you serve them coffee. You see them every day, and interact with them. But have you connected with them? Have you won them over as a person?
I'm not asking you to discuss politics, gay marriage, or prop 8 with them. Just be nice. Real nice. And be yourself. You just may become the only gay person that they know. And that may be all it takes to make a difference.


Indigo said...

You are my hero dear friend. You said so much in a few lines, paragraphs, words. I have a feeling your already know that...I grew up Native and Disabled in the South...It's not a fun world when people fail to see what lies inside of a person and can't get past what's on the outside. Thank you! (Hugs)Indigo

David Dust said...

You are absolutely right about being nice to people. I very rary think about this, as I live in Manhattan and work in Greenwich Village (just steps from Christopher Street). But it is so true - No one likes an evil queen. And people could take that resentment right into the voting booths with them.

BTW - I didn't know you were a clarinet girl!?! I played brilliantly until Junior High, when they actually wanted me to perform in front of people! I gave it up immediately after that.


Dannelle said...

As my Granny used to say: "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." (But do they drown in beer? no that's snails) Hugs, Dannelle

Yasmin said...

Great post, sometimes it's hard for people to change their views, but if you take baby steps a whole new world can be opened to you. As for Gay Marriage I'm all for it let people live their live and have the same rights and choices.


Beth said...

Miss G, you brought tears to my eyes. If only people can learn to get beyond the surface and discover the gem that is within, we'll be a happier world.

Much love, Beth

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Nice entry, I love the water fountain analogy. We have come so far, but still have so far to go.


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