By Tanner M. George, Sr.
In the 2012 highly charged presidential campaigns, race is subtly as well as prominently featured. As a seventy three year old Medensan I have observed many of America’s racial proclivities first hand. I am the product of a closely knit Mississippi family of three light skinned and three darker hued Medensans. My first wife looked White or was White, (adopted, with no information about birth parents), while my two succeeding wives were brown skinned.
During my upbringing, I felt that my ebony hued, six foot three inches tall father ruled our family. I was a grown man over forty when I realized that my five foot tall, light complexioned mother actually controlled the essence of our home. It was also around that time that I began to reflect on my personal racial experiences.
Thoughts of my childhood home were filled with memories of love, care, tenderness and kindness. My mother was the most loving, compassionate, caring and nicest person that I have ever known. My father was a stern, but wonderful preacher-teacher who worked earnestly to support his family. Together, my mother and father fashioned a home in which my siblings and I happily flourished, unknowing of racism or of our poverty.
My ruminations led me to a first time awareness that I did not recognize skin color. I was truly unaware that my mother, sister and a brother looked white. I was equally oblivious to the fact that my father, another brother and I were brown. Incredibly, I was in my forties when I first comprehended that my first wife’s skin color was white.
Thoughts of racial experiences that I did not recognize as such when they occurred flooded my memory. A rear-ender by a white male, as my sister, her husband, my first wife, our baby and I were leaving Memphis, was one such incident. The white male got out of his car, looked into our car at my wife holding our baby and concluded that no harm was done to either car. While walking with my first wife on 14th Street in Northwest Washington, DC, a drunk (acting) white male patted my back for nearly a block while telling me how lucky I was. Thirty years later I concluded that this incident was a racial reaction to my first wife’s skin color.
I am a veteran of the civil rights movement. I am vigilant in recognizing racism and ferocious in fighting it. While my sight visualizes a person’s skin color, my mind does not register that person’s skin color as relevant when I meet or engage that person in conversation. The history and ramifications associated with that person’s skin color do not enter into my awareness. I simply communicate with the essence of that person.