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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Our baby is going to experience racism someday."

There weren’t many white kids in my first grade class in a California military school.

My first crush (if I may use so strong a word for the affections of a first grader) was on a black boy who was so sweet, he immediately forgave me demonstrating the mad karate skills I’d just learned from The Karate Kid . . . even though I’d demonstrated on his groin.

His sweetness went only so far. He lost my favor before the school year was done. A year is, after all, an eternity to a first grader.

My second crush was on another boy, who—like the first—I didn’t think of as “black” at the time. Just cute.

Returning to my Oregon hometown for second grade was a little jarring. To my young eyes, almost everyone’s skin was colored minor variations of the same tone.

When I was old enough to start questioning things, like whether I was really a Republican like my parents, I remember catching sight of a banner flying throughout downtown Eugene and laughing.

The banner proclaimed we ought: “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!”

“What, as long as it’s somewhere else?!” I remember thinking with equal mirth and incredulity.

I’d rant about these things to Ba.D. only to find myself flummoxed by his calm. It took me a little while and lots of patient explanation on his part to understand this was borne of decades of personal experience. What was new and pressing to me was something he’d already lived for 3.5 decades.

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