About 10 years ago, I met an elderly white woman that saw the welcoming reception I received when I went into a local sports bar I used to frequent called Coach’s. She called me over to her, and began to question me. She initially thought I was an athlete by the reception. She’d never seen white people get up and walk across a room to say hello to a black man. When I told her I was just a guy that worked for a construction company, she began to cry. This threw me off, and I asked her what was wrong. She said she never thought she’d see the day that a young black man would be so welcomed at any establishment in Pineville, NC. This initially made me angry internally. I thought it upset her that the predominantly white bar accepted me. But her next words floored me. She said, “I marched in Selma AL with Dr. Martin Luther King.” She began to tell me how her sons were beat up on a daily basis for the parent’s beliefs that blacks should be treated equal. Her husband used to have to drive to Statesville to work because every time someone found out his view on equal rights, he’d get fired. (Statesville from Pineville is an hour drive NOW, I could imagine what it was before I-77). She said they had to buy paint 5 gallons at a time because people would come to their house at night and paint “Nigger Lovers live here” on their garage door. By the time she was done, we were both in tears. Until that point, I’d always only heard the black perspective of the civil rights movement. And it opened my eyes to a number of things in life, and gave me clarity. The lady died 2 months later. I was asked to attend the funeral and to ride in car with the family. I grew up a lot in those 2 months.
The Trayvon Martin verdict has brought out the best AND worst in our society. Some of the comments, remarks and feelings have been scathing to say the least. Race always polarizes us. Some don’t want to acknowledge it’s existence. Others place it as the blame where it is unwarranted. Though I don’t know if the verdict was racially motivated, but I personally have no doubt the catalyst of this tragic event was.
The reason I felt compelled to write this blog post this morning is based on some of the blanket statements I heard during discussions last night after the verdict. Unlike the post OJ verdict, I saw as many whites upset about the verdict as I did blacks. The people that felt “justice” was served was an infinitesimal. Yet I saw a number of people (black and white) that made blanket statements, like “White people don’t want to admit they’re racist.” or “Every time black people don’t get what they want they throw the race card.” There are no absolutes in life, except death.
Racism is alive and well, but with every generation it’s weakened more and more. Racism’s biggest asset are the older generations. The generations that witnessed/ experienced it first hand, in person. Unfortunately, many of these people are the ones that still make rules, legislation, hiring decisions, and the significant choices in society. They tend to not only be racist, they tend to also be sexist and homophobic. Again, not all of them, but some. But America is getting better in spite of them. I recently went to 2 comedy shows with black headliners, and the audience was almost 50/50, white to black. That’s progress. When I was in high school, an interracial couple was practically a scandal, now it’s common place. That’s progress. I’ve seen young children playing, and having a great time. Then a Hispanic kid walks up, and the kids naturally acclimate him into their games. Then suddenly, the parents that just told their children they have another hour to play, suddenly have to leave.
Racism isn’t hereditary. It’s not instinctual. It’s taught. It’s passed down. It comes from experiences. The most racist people I have ever experienced seem to have never actually spent time getting to know the people they hate. It’s ignorance and lack of exposure. We are not that different. I hear white mothers with the same concerns as black mothers. Black fathers have the same concerns as white ones. The greatest weapons we have in the battle against racism is education and exposure. I’m the only black person many of my older white friends interact with. Chris Rock had a line that I found very funny, and fit MY life. “All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. All my white friends have 1 black friend.” America is getting better with each generation as far as race goes. And it will continue to get better, but it will never go away. That’s sad, but it’s true. All we can do is pray, and try to treat everyone the way we would like to be treated. If we do that, IT WILL GET BETTER. Then maybe we can vote in some people to Washington DC that an help us with this economy. Until next time……
God bless and dress well.
William Wilson, CEO
William Wilson Clothing
Follow William on Twitter: @theclothier