Sadly, even some of the people I loved were infected with it. Like our current pandemic, it was invisible. Even more sorrowful is that parents were often the perpetrators of its spread. It was a taught and learned infection. And this virus is still active in its infection, a disease named Prejudice.
Unlike Coronavirus, it’s not novel but very old going back in history as far as when Miriam complained to her brother Moses for marrying Zipporah, a black woman.
Through the years, dreadful stories have surfaced about the mistreatment of black people of color, and too often they’ve lived and died by an uncomfortable, demeaning label.
My husband told me about his teenage friend Foster who came to his house one day and admired Johnny’s model airplane. Johnny suggested he buy a kit that only cost a quarter in those days and come to his home to build it. He’d show him the ropes of model airplane building.
Foster dropped his head and said, “I don’t have any money to buy a kit.” Johnny who worked as a pinsetter at a bowling alley asked, “Would you like to get a job and set pins with me? My boss needs more pinsetters.”
Foster’s face lit up, and he excitedly responded, “Yes, man! I’d love to get a job.” And away the two friends went to the bowling alley. Innocently, Johnny felt his boss would jump at the chance to get a much-needed pinsetter, so with excitement, he said, “Here’s a new pinsetter for you.”
His boss scowled, “Not the likes of him, I don’t.”
“But you need pinsetters!” Johnny insisted.
“Get him out of here!” the boss yelled.
“We’ll, you’ve just lost yourself a pinsetter because if you won’t hire him, you can’t have me.”
“But, but we have leagues tonight, I need you.” Johnny and Foster walked away. Johnny has never forgotten Foster’s dejection and his own inner anger.
You Are Invited
I, too, was exposed to that mentality that was so common then and sadly still embraced by some today. Once I was invited to a tea party at a black friend’s home. I remember I felt special that Gloria had included me. But when I asked for permission to go, my joy was dashed with the unwanted word, “No.”
Often we’ve thought about many such disappointing experiences. There was no way we could really make it right back then when we were kids.
We grew up and we recall the civil rights marches with Dr. Martin Luther King and the others, including a handful of whites who have tried to help purge prejudice from our American ranks, but overall little has really been accomplished. Now for the first time in my lifetime, I see whites in droves on television news coverage, who feel the shame of their forefather’s behavior, trying to make a difference.
My husband and I did have many opportunities to help be a voice for this virus over the years, and for this, we’ve given thanks to God.
Do What You Can
Now I’m old and frail nearing 90. I can barely walk, let alone march, but I can write, and I’m writing now to appeal to those who can march to march! Some of you have proudly participated in marathons; why not have marathons for the eradication of the oppressed? Yes, we’re in the throes of a pandemic and we must obey social distancing. Why not invent a different kind of marathon to do during lockdown. Put on your thinking caps to reach out to help curb the scourge of prejudice. Don’t wait for the pandemic to end. Let your voices sound to help the dark-skinned among us for, after all, God made us, and we’re His children. That makes us all brothers and sisters.
Betty Kossick writes from Florida.© 2017 - 2021 When People Are Kind. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.