I’ll admit that sometimes I may be naive and optimistic about the state of the world out there. Then, I see something in the news that opens my eyes — an “Are You Kidding Me?” moment.” Today, it was the story about a black couple who was denied permission to marry in a church in Mississippi.
Are you kidding me? In this day and age? Have we come no farther than this? According to an article on CNN’s website, Pastor Stan Weatherford said:
“This was, had not, had never been done here before so it was setting a new (precedent) and there were those who reacted to that.”
Does the fact something has never been done before make it right?
Following a wedding that Pastor Weatherford performed at another church, Charles Wilson, the groom, said:
“If it was such a minority of people, why didn’t the majority stand up and say, ‘in God’s house we don’t do this?’
Following is an excerpt from THE RED KIMONO, where Terrence, my black teenage character, and his father experience prejudice. This scene takes place in 1942, seventy years ago. Sadly, sometimes it still happens today.
Terrence kept thinking about that Saturday when Daddy took him to a steak house to celebrate the team’s big win. He smelled smoked hickory as soon as he walked in, and his mouth watered just thinking about tasting a juicy piece of meat.
They’d waited at the hostess desk for a long time. But Terrence figured maybe they were busy. Some of the white folks sitting at white-clothed tables began to stare and whisper. Made his stomach queasy, his neck hot. But Daddy stood straight and tall. Looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.
When the hostess finally approached them, Terrence noticed her red lipstick had smudged onto her teeth. She looked real nervous, fidgeting and twisting a pen in her hands.
She stopped behind a podium that held a reservation book. “May I help you?”
“Yes,” replied Daddy. “Table for two, please.”
She tucked a white-blonde curl behind her ear and flipped a few pages of the book. “Do you have a reservation?”
“No, sorry, ma’am. We sure don’t.” Daddy smiled and looked around. “But look like you got plenty a empty tables.”
Her eyes shifted and she flipped pages back and forth. “Then, I’m afraid we can’t accommodate you.”
“But . . . you got empty tables,” Daddy said, still polite.
She rolled her eyes. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
The hostess picked up the reservation book and walked toward the kitchen, fast as her skinny high heels would carry her. She pushed through the double-swinging doors like a wide receiver headed to the goal post. The patrons’ stares followed until she disappeared, then darted back to Daddy and Terrence. The whispering got louder than the sound of silverware clanking against dishes.
Something inside Terrence rumbled, and it wasn’t his stomach anymore. He wanted to yell at the unwanted audience, maybe even turn over a table or two, especially where those puckered-up old biddies with their flowered hats and uppity stares sat.
What the fuck are you looking at?
He needed to get in their faces and change their snooty expressions, get them to show a little respect. Even if it was only ‘cause they were afraid.
How the hell could Daddy just stand there, looking so calm? Terrence was boiling inside. But somehow he knew he best settle down.
“What’s going on, Daddy?”
“Just be patient, son.”
Finally, a tall, thin man in a black suit walked up to them. “Is there a problem?”
“No sir, we just want a table for two.”
The man huffed. “Follow me.”
Daddy winked. “Let’s have us a steak, son.”
They followed the man through the restaurant. As they walked by each table, backs stiffened and gazes turned away. Yeah they were staring all right, even though they tried to look like they weren’t.
They passed the biddy with daisies on her hat. Terrence fought the urge to get in her face, though he couldn’t resist having a little fun. “Fine piece of meat you got there, ma’am,” he said, winking.
He didn’t think a white person could get whiter, but she sure did.
Have you ever experienced or seen prejudice? How did you handle it?