Saturday, October 1, 2016

Race? What's That?

Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery (Source)
So which of those graves holds a black soldier? A white Marine? An Asian sailor? Which grave holds a Jewish airman? A Muslim soldier? A Catholic Marine? A Protestant sailor? Which grave holds an Hispanic aircrewman, which grave holds the mortal remains of a Native American? Which one? Anyone care to venture a guess?

You can't tell? Don't feel bad. Neither can I. All I see are granite headstones and American flags. In life all I would have seen were fellow Americans. Americans who swore the same oath as I. Americans who marched under the same flag as I. Americans who gave their lives in the cause of Freedom.

This photo is from Section 60 of Arlington, where the earthly remains of many of those who fell in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom were laid to rest. Men and women I am proud to call brother and sister. What color was their skin in life? What does that matter? It doesn't. We are all the same species, we are of the human race. The color of one's skin should matter no more than the color of one's hair, or eyes. It should not matter at all.


Growing up in a small town in Vermont I was surrounded by white faces. But we saw black athletes on television and, though few, black actors and actresses on TV shows and in movies. Asians were on TV and in the movies as well, Hispanics and Native Americans were also in movies as Westerns were very popular back then.

Unfortunately, most of the Asians I saw at the movies (or in TV shows like Bonanza) were very stereotypical. Railroad workers and cooks, those were the Asians we saw. Only when I grew up did I learn that most of the Mexicans and Indians I saw in those Westerns were oft times not real Mexicans and Indians.

Some of my heroes growing up were black. Men like David "Deacon" Jones of the Los Angeles Rams, Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Carl Eller of the Minnesota Vikings. I played football, I wanted to play the game the way they did. With passion and power. You might think that I liked playing defense, and you'd be right. Controlled fury and violence. I loved it.

In high school one of the art teachers, who was quite a free spirit, had adopted a number of kids. One of the girls was black, one was Native American, she may have been Hopi or Navajo, all I know for certain is that she came from the Southwest.

So now we weren't a sea of white faces, there was some variety thrown in. In truth a number of us thought it was pretty cool. Something like that wouldn't bug me, my parents didn't raise me that way. We were raised to look below the surface at the real person underneath. I did have friends who were less enlightened regarding race.

Upon buying a record album by Sly and the Family Stone (the album was Stand!, a brilliant work in my estimation). I think it was the first time I actually heard a real person use the "N" word.

"So really, you're going to buy a "N" album?"

Yeah, I was a bit stunned. My answer was "Music is music man." (And yes, I still hold to that opinion.)

Getting out into the world when I joined the Air Force, I met all sorts of folks. Two of my best buddies in Basic Training were black. To the sergeants we were all knuckleheads in fatigue uniforms who might someday be worthy of wearing Air Force blue. We were part of a team. We all had a part. Officially, the Air Force didn't give a crap what color we were.

In tech school my buddies were Mike (Irish descent from Connecticut), Manuel, (Hispanic kid from Texas), and two roommates (who's names escape me), the more excitable of the two was from South Carolina, the laid back one was Hawaiian. We were inseparable, until the Air Force sent us five different ways. (Which happened a number of times over the next twenty-four years!)

I have worked with (and for) folks of all different backgrounds, religions, colors, and ethnic backgrounds. Some were jerks, most were good people you could rely on. Same as any group of people. Race just doesn't matter to me. Never has. I sure wish this country of mine would grow up and think likewise.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27
God has no color, no race. Why do we bother to get spun up over such things?
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
We're all everyday people, let's grasp that, then move on to what could be a bright future. Or not, the choice is ours.

"Everyday People"

Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I'm in
I am everyday people, yeah, yeah

There is a blue one
Who can't accept the green one
For living with a fat one
Trying to be a skinny one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
We got to live together

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can't figure out the bag I'm in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a long hair
That doesn't like the short hair
For being such a rich one
That will not help the poor one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
We got to live together

There is a yellow one
That won't accept the black one
That won't accept the red one
That won't accept the white one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
I am everyday people

Sly & The Family Stone


  1. One of your best! Well done!!!

  2. That was my experience in the Navy, too, Sarge.
    I did, however, benefit from going to HS in a community with all races, though there were no blacks until HS.

    Another great post

  3. Just superb. It's even all laid out in our founding documents, but most people who reside in this country are waaay beyond that simple minded, old fashioned crap.

    Sometimes I think everyone should spend a year or two of their life in the field or deployed. In that environment all the superficial stuff vanishes and people are just people. Some you like, some you don't like, which is perfectly normal. You judge them on the way they behave -- on the content of their character -- and what they look like matters not at all. You shoot the bull and hear and learn things you've never been exposed to before, and you realize that those new things are neither new nor alien, but rather, human. You come to understand that we're all just people, and having gained that understanding, you can't avoid loving those people. That doesn't mean that every swingin' richard becomes your bff, or that you approve of and agree with everything they do and say. Some you're just as happy to never see again. But you recognize the fundamental humanity of each and every one. Well, it was that way for me in my day, I can't really speak for anyone else.

  4. One time in the car biz an individual was trying to suck up to me. Said, "You have promoted more women and minorities to management jobs than anyone I know". "No", I replied, "I've promoted people who get the job done. You are not one of them".

    It is always good to hear positive service experiences. Not in my case. US Army, 1963-1966 USAREUR, seethed with racial discord. Hard truth. Mainly started by blacks. Seemed every time there was some riot in the States, we had an uproar in Germany. Thankfully we were in the field most of the time where we all got along. Back in garrison was a different story. I treated everyone equally util they gave me a reason not to. That said, I was always vigilant. I also didn't hang out with the white racists, of which we had many.

  5. Thanks for another great post.

    Paul L. Quandt

  6. In AFROTC, in St. Louis MO, we had several black guys. Never gave much thought to it being from California. In pilot training there was one African-American guy. He was married and I never did know what happened to him as we separated at the break between Primary and Basic. Had some guys from the Hawaii Air Guard. Asians, I guess you could say. I never gave it a thought, as I said. A very good friend is a retired RCAF LC, a Jamaican. No consideration there either.
    Unfortunately, the current events under this administration have made me think along lines of race and gender. I never did before and I am the worse off for it.

  7. Growing up in rural '60's Kentucky, I saw and experienced segregation every day. Blacks forced to go to "the kitchen door" for takeout, a "separate but equal" education system, etc. My HS class of '64 (all 60 or so of us) was the integration experiment as two students from "the colored school" joined our class for senior year. None of us thought it a big deal but I now understand how traumatic it must have been for those two although they showed nothing but class, style, and grace throughout our senior year. Later, in VietNam, one of our finest slick aircraft commander/flight leads was just one of us although he gave himself the nickname "Shadow." Years later he told me that when he joined the South Carolina Army National Guard that he and another African American (both were WOs, FWIW) were the only two in their aviation company with a combat tour yet were forced to only fly with each other. Over the years of racial strife, some violent in the military, I noticed that most of the problems were not caused by "trigger pullers" but by support troops. Despite those three antidotes, things were changing and our society was growing, maturing, and improving. Wrongs of 200 years ago could not be righted but. although slow, our country and its people were getting better. That is until one political party was hijacked by progressives and their desire for authority and power and we chose a community organizer to lead our nation. We've been divided again and set back at least 60 years. Rant, out, regards, Alemaster

  8. Growing up, I never knew about racism. We were all just kids and people. I mean, 'Blackula' was scary, not because of race but because of vampires (used to be scared spitless over vampires.)

    My first real experience that I remember with being scared of a black man was when my dad's Staff Sergeant (Dad was an Air Force Liaison Officer on a US Army Base in the middle of the Pacific. Kwajalein was great!) But my brothers and I weren't scared of him because of his color but because he used to be a... MARINE! Scary stuff those marines.

    My dad taught us kids that the best food and drink was from the places that English was lacking. Mexican food from that Mex restaurant in the middle of the desert that is at that rail service point, and we're the only gringos there. Japanese food from real ethnic Japanese, where you select your food from a plastic representation, German food from real 'Krauts' and so forth. Best BBQ comes from that joint behind the business district that serves mouth-watering ribs on wonder bread.

    I first encountered true racism (and all it's bullstuff) was when I moved to a very liberal college city in north Florida, when I went looking for some good BBQ just two blocks from my work (in 1995!) Not being served due to the color of my skin was shocking.

    I don't understand the world. I grew up in a military world, where your social status was due to rank and branch, not color. I miss that world.

    1. Before I was fired to make way for a family dynasty worker, I used to be the bane of the EOC lecturers. Asked what I saw when I looked at a room of people (many races, both sexes) and I would answer, "Co-workers." Would piss off the lecturers and many of the blacks to no end. When forced to explain myself, I always answer that I was taught better. Once I told the lecturer that maybe he needed to have been taught better, then none of this racism would continue.

      I also loved it when they asked if anyone had ever been discriminated against and I would raise my hand. My answer was always that I was a male staff assistant in a female world, and I was tired of getting flowers on Secretaries' Day and being called 'honey' all the time. Also loved saying that being a Catholic in a Southern Baptist Mob run group was not easy.

      Always amazed me the number of my co-workers who agreed with me about race and bigotry, but were too cowed to say anything about it. Sad to think that racism and bigotry has come back so hard due to normal people not being able to speak out against them or to just ignore them and let them wither away and disappear.

      Thanks for giving us such a great forum. I am heartened to see so many people out there willing to talk openly about these issues, without resorting to Godwin's Law within three or four comments.

      And I miss my dad, and you remind me of him. Thank you for that.

    2. There really are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

      Family dynasty worker, sigh, we have those where I work too.

      Keep the faith Andrew, we can make this country better and fulfill Dr. King's dream.



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