I was born in 1944. Which means I was 9 years old when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education in 1953. I remember it very well because until 1954, I was a student in a segregated school whose student body then became more Black than White within one year.
I didn’t attend a public school in Louisiana, or Alabama, or one of those Southern states. My grammar school, West Elementary, was located on Farragut Avenue between 13th Street and 14th Street, right in the middle of Washington, D.C.
That’s right. The District of Columbia, the seat of the Federal Government, was segregated not by custom but by law. I lived less than three miles from the National Archives which displays an original copy of the Constitution containing the 13th Amendment which says that Blacks are just as free as Whites, but until Brown v. Board, Blacks couldn’t live in my neighborhood, they couldn’t go to my school. Not by choice, but by law.
Slavery was and remains a curse on this country. This is because our slave system was the most draconian and punitive of any slave system ever devised. We were the only society which enforced a slave system that had no grounds for manumission at all. Once you were a slave, you were always a slave, and not just for the span of your own life. Every Black person living in the United States in 1865 was a slave, even though the slave trade ended in 1808.
My family moved from D.C. to New York in 1956. I went on a Freedom Ride in 1958. Our bus took us to a diner on U.S. Route 40 in Delaware which didn’t serve Blacks. When you drove across the Delaware Memorial Bridge and got on Route 40, because I-95 didn’t yet exist, the first roadside stand where you could stop to pee had a sign prominently displayed: ‘Colored – around back’.
When Black kids showed up in the 5th grade of my grammar school, I remember that some of my White classmates began using words like ‘nigger’ to express how they felt about this change. I had never heard that word used before but I knew from the anger and fear I felt from these White kids that the word meant something very bad. Something scared them, something had gone wrong.
From that day to this day, I have never understood how or why anyone believes themselves to be better than anyone else. I simply don’t comprehend how such ideas can swirl around in anyone’s head. But there’s lots of other things I don’t understand about how humans think and behave. We really do have feet of clay.
That being said, I also believe that the worst thing that will happen if Trump is re-elected is that we will have to put up with his daily exercise in demeaning the office and stature of the Presidency for another four years. We won’t lose our Constitution; we won’t lose our civil rights. I don’t even think women will lose their right to choose. I’ll just spend the next four years watching movies instead of CNN on my TV.
Friends of mine keep telling me that Trump is a ‘fascist.’ I lived in Spain during the worst, most repressive years of the Franco regime. That was Fascism. This is nothing more than a bloated, reality-TV personality who figured out that anyone can become President if he can find two-tenths of one percent of the total votes cast in three rust-belt states.
I really hope Trump gets his assed kicked in and takes his new movie-star buddy Rudy Giuliani along with him when he leaves. But if he somehow manages to find another two-tenths of one percent of the votes in some swing states I’ll survive and so will you.
Which is to say you’ll survive if you remember to wear your mask.