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Forty-seven years ago two especially young, naive white guys on their first real job got sent to Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas as civilian contractors. The army assigned a 20+ year veteran to teach us proper protocol, act as our secretary and smooth our introduction into military base work.

At the end of our initial assignment both of us - an LA WASP and a Utah Mormon who had never previously encountered an African American, segregation or even open racism - repeatedly insisted that this knowledgeable Black, Master Sergeant with chevrons from his cuff to his arm pit (soldiers get one for every tour of duty) allow us to buy him lunch as appreciation for his help and work with us.

Neither of us understood his polite refusal and kept insisting on lunch. Finally he relented and accepted our invitation knowing full well what would happen and that two young white guys were about to get a lesson that would change everything they "knew" about the real United States of America.

There was no place on the base where civilians could take a soldier, so we met at the office and the three of us, he in civies, drove to one of the nicer coffee shops in nearby El Paso.

The place was packed with people having lunch. As we walked down the counter to the cash register everything became quiet, absolutely quiet, no one moved an inch. Two young whites and a black had just invaded their world.

The waitress at the cash register asked, somewhat hostilely I thought, what we wanted. I answered, "lunch". She excused herself and went into the kitchen behind her. Instantly, it seemed, a short, fat turd dressed from head to toe in KKK white, fingering the sharp edge of a meat cleaver, came roaring out of the kitchen.

He aggressively got right in my face and spewed, "We Don't serve n*** here". No one had ever spoken to me like that in my short 20 years of life. No one had ever called me a n*** before, in fact I had rarely even heard the word.

Instantly I was consumed by a blind rage like nothing I have ever experienced before or after. Before I could attack the racist little shit my feet left the ground and the rather strong, black Sergeant hauled our two white asses back down the counter and out the door. The cook continued spewing, but the only voices I remember were the two Texas cops sitting at the counter who laughingly said, "Don't hurt'em, BillyJoe."

Until that day I had never been aware of the Civil Rights Movement or the lunch room sit-ins that had started two years earlier. Since then I have been an active, occasionally aggressive, supporter of civil rights.

Today a black man becomes President of the United States. We can change. We have changed. Today is the most incredible day in my life time.

There are still millions of bigoted, racist Americans, but the vast majority of us are decent, caring people. Today it will become much harder for racist families to pass on their sickness.

It is a great day in America.

Originally posted to MikMouse on Tue Jan 20, 2009 at 02:12 AM PST.

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