Laugh Victoria, Laugh.

I was living in Eastland, Texas the first year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was in full force.  At that time Texas was not the most integrated State in the land.  I remember specific sections of town being designated “Colored Town.”  (That is what polite people called it.)  Sometimes we would drive over the railroad tracks and pass through that part of town and I remembered the houses on stilts with no skirting and lacking paint.  Here and there a car up on blocks with the wheels removed.

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402

For the most part yards were neat and tidy with bright, colorful clothes hung on the line in the back yards.  Old men sat on the front porch—some smoking corn cob pipes, others just sitting in straight back chairs with dazzling white T-shirts, wearing fedora hats.    And in my young mind I felt as if this were not a good thing—this separated place for these people.  I couldn’t say it then, for I did not have the language, but it felt oppressive.  It felt unfair.  Like they had done something wrong and living seperated was their punishment.

My best friend that year in school was a girl named Victoria.  Her desk was right next to mine in Mrs. Smith’s  first grade class.  We had nothing in common.  I was a boy and she a girl.  (girls were covered in germs back then) She was very good in school.  I was an average student.  She never got in trouble.  I got in trouble all the time.  I wore plain clothes.  She wore bright colors.  I was quiet in class.  She was outspoken.  I desperately wanted to fit in and play with the cool kids at recess.  She was content to sit alone and read or jump rope by herself. 

The one thing we had in common however was our sense of humor.  I remember I could make her laugh.  She had an easy and infectious laugh.  That was one of the reasons I got in trouble because she would laugh at my silliness.  And she was just as funny.  We couldn’t play together at recess because boys didn’t play with girls in first grade without some major teasing by the cool kids.  But in class—when Mrs. Smith had her back to us—we had a blast.  Victoria was a great gal.

On parent /teacher night my mom wanted to meet this Victoria that I chattered so much about.  I told her that it would be easy to meet her because she sat next to me.  I was hopeful that she would be there that night at the same time we were there.  My hopes came true.  As my mom and I went in to the class room I took her over to show her my desk and there was Victoria with her mom too! 

I turned to my mom and said, “This is Victoria.”

My mom paused. 

Then she smiled and bragged to Victoria and her mom about how much I talked about Victoria when I came home from school every day.  It’s  “Victoria this and Victoria that.  Victoria said this and Victoria said that.  Joe just goes on and on about Victoria.”

I remembered Victoria smiling and looking down at her shoes in a bit of awkward shyness.  My mom and her mom exchanged some pleasantries.  I just smiled at Victoria and she smiled back.  But her smile eclipsed mine with her white teeth contrasted against her jet black skin.

Years later my mom reminded me of that night.  She said the thing that she was so proud of about that first grade friendship was the fact that I never mentioned Victoria’s skin color.  And that told her that she and my father were doing a good job of raising color blind children in a segregated south.

I am the one with the ears…back row third from the left.  I suppose you can guess which one is Victoria.

joe_first_grade

On November 4, 2008 our country elected its first black president.  When Barak Obama wowed us with his victory speech I remembered “Colored Town. “   I remembered unpainted and un-skirted houses.  I remembered news reports of National Guard troops being sent into volatile places in the south.  I remember George Wallace blocking a doorway somewhere.  I remember my mom crying when a white man killed Marin Luther King, Jr. I remember the news reporting race riots all over the country. 

And now my president is a black man!  

When President elect Obama’s wife came on the stage with their two little girls——I also remembered Victoria. 

Now some 43 years later I don’t know where Victoria is….but I bet she is laughing. 

I am laughing too, for change has indeed come.  I am proud of our country.

Heavenly Father, please protect our new president and his family.  Give him compassion for the unborn and voiceless of this world.  Give him strength to protect the innocent.  Close his ears to evil.  Give him discernment to be a good steward of the trust and treasury of our great land.  Give him grace and your blessings.  Let no evil or harm befall him.  Keep him humble and dependent upon You.  My you be glorified through our new president.   Amen.

P.S.  I voted for McCain.

 

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7 thoughts on “Laugh Victoria, Laugh.

  1. Good post, my kids, too play and interact with black children and other non-whites, with out giving it a second thought. But, I must disagree… I believe racism is still alive and doing very well. I believe MANY overlooked 0bama’s character, policies, and values and voted for him only because he is a black man. This is the epitomy of racism!! Mr. King Jr. said..”when a man will be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.” (paraphrased, I’m sure). I am not proud of this country for ignoring crucial issues to support racism at its worst. Quoting my oldest son who is at this moment defending this country in Iraq, “I am not a racist, I would vote for the blackest man in America against a radical, socialist.” My, my, how the pendulum has swung…….Shame, shame, shame on us…..We are still waiting for man to be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin…..Pray for Barrack Obama, our new president and our country……….

  2. I do not agree with President Obama on many, many isues. I just believe this a great day in the maturation of our country on a social level.

    I don’t see this as the end of the world. My Dad prayed a prayer last week when I was with him that come election day we would get exactly the president that God wants us to have. I smarted off to him after the prayer by saying that maybe we would get the one we deserve. He looked at me and said, “It’s the same thing.”

    The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
    Prov 21:1 (ESV)

  3. I still disagree, that this is a great day. I believe it is evidence that racism is still a major problem. Simply because it sides on the ‘black side’ does not make it any less racism…..
    However, my son in Iraq, wrote a great perspective….I copy it below…..
    Alittle perspective from my son, Aaron…

    If you are reading this then you know me. I either went to high school or college with you. You know that I am a gun toting right wing “radical” that listens to Rush Limbaugh everyday that I’m able and votes a straight Republican ticket for every election. You know that I think President Elect Obama is a dangerous socialist radical and that I support absolutely none of his policies. You know that I too am afraid of what he could potentially do to our great nation. But even after last night’s crushing defeat and in spite of all the aforementioned, I woke up today in a good mood; let me tell you why.

    Tomorrow I will get on a plane and leave Iraq for the greatest nation on earth. I will set foot on American soil and breathe American air and kiss my wife for the first time in months. It will be a happy time for me. A week from Saturday I will go see my Sooners play after tailgating with friends, some of whom are extremely left wing liberals. I won’t have to worry about them shooting me for what I believe and they won’t have to worry about me putting a car bomb in front of their house for what they believe. There won’t be any riots or fires or celebratory gunfire. There will just be beer and football and good friends.

    In this country (Iraq), people with political disagreements KILL each other. The officials in power are constantly dodging assassination attempts as they go to and from their place of duty. So forgive me if I’m not too worked up about losing this election now that the initial shock has worn off. Sure, I’m disappointed; maybe I was even devastated for a few minutes when I saw the results. But come on, its not the end of the world! I’m still an American!

    What I will do now is sit back and let the democrats have their fun, let them be happy for victory, let them gloat if they wish. I would do the same if my man had won, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Soon all the cheering and jeering will be over and I will find new ways to stand my ground and defend my beliefs so that more Americans will hopefully come over to my way of thinking. I will say “I told you so” a few times. And then in 4 years, however discouraging they may be, I will speak my mind and cast my vote again and hope for the best. Everyday in between now and then I will wear my uniform with pride and love my country and go wherever it is they send me and do my duty.

    Why do I write this? I write this for all of you out there saying that you are ready to move to Canada or Europe or wherever. What the hell do you think that will do for you? Those countries are far more liberal than the US and far less accepting of people of either party. Take today to thank God that in spite of the issues at stake and the rampant disagreement over them, we are going to be able to wake up in January to a peaceful change of power and an opportunity to speak our minds and fight for our beliefs for another 4 years. Our enemies want us to forget ourselves, the want us to hate each other. So be proud in spite of your differences and show that terrorists that we can and we will stay just as strong as we are right now. And to all of my fellow conservatives: keep the faith, stand your ground, and STOP WHINING LIKE LITTLE GIRLS. Nobody likes a sore loser. I am proud to be an American today, tomorrow, and forever. To give up that pride would be a slap in the face to my soldiers who are here sacrificing everyday for every American, Republican and Democrat alike. After all, we are all AMERICANS first and that’s all that matters when it’s all said and done.

  4. Good post Joe,

    For those of us who see our new president elect Obama as brilliant (Harvard educated Constitutional Lawyer), moderate (returning our tax structure to what it was under Reagan) and compassionate (desiring to bring affordable health care to all Americans) we thank you for “reaching out to the other side” with your post.

    This is the spirit by which the future success or our country depends on.

  5. I remember my best friend for the first half of kindergarten. His name was Percy. He always played next to me in the sandbox and we always drew together. I was in a special class on Fridays and we would cry when I had to leave him behind.

    My dad picked me up from school one day because my brother forgot me and I wasn’t allowed to walk by myself. When he got there, Percy (who’s single mother worked and he had to wait for her everyday) and I were swinging sideways together, trying to touch the round steel pole with the tips of our shoes like the sixth graders.

    I saw my dad and ran to the car, yelling goodbye to my friend, for the last time.

    The ride home was silent. I had no idea what I had done.

    Later that night my dad came into my room and explained why I couldn’t play with Percy anymore. There was no arguing with my father. It was a done deal.

    At school the next day, Percy and I were next to each other in the sandbox again. We were making little roads and running our beat up matchbox cars through them. I remember saying to him, “We can’t play together anymore.” We were both looking into the sand. He never looked up. I think now he knew before I said anything. Maybe a look my father had given him, one that he had seen many times before in his young life in 1966. A look he would have recognized without anyone explaining it to him. Maybe he told his mother about him and she told him what was what. In 1966. A single black woman, with a bastard boy.

    “Why not?”

    “Because you’re a pickaninny.”

    I said it as if it was a normal conversation. As if it was the most normal thing in the world to call your best friend the worst name he had ever been called by anyone. And then all hell broke loose. He started crying, big deep sobs, tears casuing tracks down his sunken cheeks, tears falling in the sand because he wouldn’t look at me.

    Mrs. Garlington must have heard the whole thing, she never once asked Percy what was wrong, but I was snatched up by my upper arm and was hauled out of the room, my toes dragging the ground. The room was silent, so silent, except for Percy, standing in the sandbox, holding his little red car to his chest, hiccuping his tears.

    That was the last time I ever spoke to Percy. My mother was called, I was sent to The Office to wait for her. No one would tell me what I had done. I knew I was in so much trouble. My mother came and met with Mr. Olson, the Principal, for a long time while I sat on the bench, where the bad kids sat, and waited, hands in my lap, trying to look like I was still a good girl.

    I never got in trouble. I did get transfered to the morning kindergarten class. No one ever told me what I had done wrong. When I was 10 my cousin told me the whole story, and explained to me what a pickaninny was. I wanted to die. Years later, my shame was almost to much to bear. I couldn’t understand why my dad had called this boy such an awful thing, and why he would have told a five year old girl to go to school the next day tell him what he was.

    And Tuesday night, I too had thought back in the sixties, spring of 1966, and hoped that Percy was so proud to watch TV and cheer Obama on.

    And that he has forgiven me.

    Erin

    ps…I voted for McCain also…

  6. good post dad. you know how i feel. we need to pray for President elect Obama with very faihful ferver so the voiceless will be heard and protected and justice would reign. May glory be brought to God on High. Amen.

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