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Friday, February 26, 2021

Opinions > Sense of Direction

Black and White

Feb 11, 2021

By June Donohue - columnist

This is Black History Month. These are some personal experiences that I have had.
I am on The Martin Luther King committee. My friend Luis Merlo was also on that committee. One year a photographer from a local newspaper came to one of our meetings to take a picture of us to accompany an article about the upcoming MLK birthday commemoration.
Luis' comment in regard to the photo was “Will it be in black and white?” It took me two days to get that it was a joke, describing the physical make-up of our committee.

My son, Michael has a friend, who has a black mother and a white father. Somehow I forgot that and complimented her on her nice even tan. Her response was, “You should see my mother.”
When my husband and I were planning our wedding he was working in Arkansas. When he told his co-workers that the date we had picked was June 19th, they said that was Juneteenth day, a day that black people got married. We had never heard of Juneteenth day, which is associated with the emancipation of slaves.
As I've mentioned in another column, our grandson, Ryan was born on Martin Luther King's birthday so when I went to our daughter's house to take care of his brother, John while his parents went to the hospital, I asked her if she was going to name the baby Martin or Luther. She didn't get it and said she hadn't picked either of those names.
Whenever I hear someone make a prejudiced remark, no matter how awkward it is, I call them on it. When I strongly disagreed with a man in a wheelchair whose home I was a guest in, it was not only awkward but a bit nervy. People confined to wheelchairs often grip the handles on each side of them and raise themselves up just to relieve the pressure of sitting all the time. When this man did that, I thought he was about to come after me.
On a more serious note when I was 18 years old I was having dinner with my parents in a restaurant in New York City called The Crossroads of The World which was near Times Square.
People seated at tables were being served, all except for three black men in uniform. After being ignored for about 20 minutes, they quietly got up and left. I don't know if the uniforms were ours or from another country and I don't know which would have been worse. I was so upset I left my Thanksgiving dinner, which I was enjoying, and went upstairs to the Ladies Room and cried. I felt, even though I was only 18, I had to do something about it.
When I went downstairs I asked to speak to the maitre d, who came to our table with what he thought was a reasonable explanation.
He said that when you were in business, sometimes you had to do things like that. My parents just went along with that and I felt alone in that room. But then a man at the next table stood up and said very sarcastically, that you had to be very smart to do something like that.
I worked in the phone company at the time, not far from there, and thought of coming there with some of my black co-workers and demand to be served but I didn't want them to be put in that position so I never did. That was before the sit-ins in the south at lunch counters.

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