Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Across the Tracks

I grew up in segregation. The particularly unusual thing is that I was a child and teen in the 1970s and 80s. I didn't know segregation in school and school-sponsored events, because that was illegal. But the segregation I knew was in everything else, in so-called "community."

The Texas Panhandle town in which I spent my childhood was a sweet little hamlet, with a perfect townsquare surrounding the county courthouse, and with streets like red-brick arteries flowing outward to commerce and cotton and churches and pre-War houses filled with post-War promise. It was simply a nice place to grow up.

But what I didn't really notice until later was that, after school, all my black friends went to their homes literally across the tracks, in the run-down community on the other side of the highway, just before the cemetery. We never played together, though I occasionally saw them in summertime at the city swimming pool. I never saw them at the "Private Skate and Swim Club," because we all know what "private" means. Again, this was the 1980s.

Today is a great day for our country. I hope and pray for Barack Obama's administration. I hope and pray for these people called Americans living under Obama's watch. I want this to prove to be an even more positively historic presidency in four or eight years than it is today. But no matter what happens, today is a great day.

After today, Jeff and Paul and Johnny and Wallace and all the other black guys I went to school with and played football with--but never rode bikes with or skated with--those guys and girls can look their children in the eyes and tell them truthfully that there is somewhere else for them, somewhere besides "across the tracks." After today, I can look at my own beloved daughter--the offspring of a black biological father--and I can tell my beautiful child that in America, it is really possible that people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. After today, the obligation of history rests not on the unspoken evils of unjust belief systems, but squarely on the shoulders of the people--all the people.


knhamilton87 said...

Amen! I worked for and donated to Obama's campaign -- a first for this 40-something mom and wife. My first presidential election was when Ronald Reagan ran in 1984 for re-election. A very unexciting initiation to the world of suffrage.

Not until last year, the first time my eldest child voted in a presidential election, was I sufficiently moved to actively participate.

Unlike you, Robert, I grew up in Dayton, Ohio in the '70's and my dad taught public school. He stood on play grounds while pop bottles and other objects flew around him as race riots raged. It was an angry time and I have vivid memories of those days, even though I was very young. My dad coached inner city kids (black and white) and taught them sports not usually practiced by kids of that income class -- fencing, tennis, chess. . . the stuff of the leisure classes.

To this day, people approach him no matter where he is and thank him for the work he did . . .and today we both wept as we watched history be made. He was in Florida and I was here in Kentucky. But our gratitude and awe brought us close together . . . with so many others in our country on this auspicious day!

Praying for our new president, his family and all of our leaders as we head into an unknown and scary time. . .wisdom and discernment and God's Grace be with them!

robert c. pelfrey said...

Your dad sounds like a special guy. Amazing how this evil (and, hopefully, its demise) touches each of us. I would never compare my privileged experience with that of those from "across the tracks," but the entire nation suffers from such destructive ideologies. Here's to the dawning of a new day. (Also, I can't believe your eldest is old enough to vote. Time flies!)

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch anything, when i got home i put in Top Gun. It wasn't out of anger or dislike for Obama... i guess it was all that surrounded this election... i think alot of people voted for Obama because they didn't want to vote for a republican because of the failings of our former president. now, here is what i am most aggravated at... $180 million dollars of mine and your money was spent yesterday for what i hear was a 25 minute ceremony... WHERE IS THE CHANGE?

robert c. pelfrey said...

Yo, Crabb, "the change" was standing up there getting sworn in. And "the change" was stretched out from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. And "the change" was sitting in front of TVs around the world watching history. And MAYBE "the change" was even sitting home watching...Top Gun ;>) Love you, buddy.

Unknown said...

Aw. Robert. This one made me cry. I love those guys too.

NEW BOOK--An Untold Story: Heroism, Mysticism, and the Quest for the True Self

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings About the Boo...