In light of the terrible company responsible for the even more terrible and vile bumper stickers seen around lately, racism rears it's ugly head once again in the Presidental election. I don't even want to search for the name of the company and give them any free publicity. Thankfully I did read this evening that they have shut down. Probably hiding out so they don't get their asses kicked down the street. F-ing cowards.
Racism always makes me think about my dad. My father was a very educated man. He had a Philosophy degree and had graduated with high honors. He had an expansive vocabulary and high ideals about life. He was also a lifelong Democrat. When the Watergate trial was on television, he was glued to the set. He was ecstatic that Nixon had finally been cornered like the rat he believed he was.
My dad taught Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. After a time he became the Chairman of the Philosophy department, and he rode to work on a bicycle like a hippie. He wore casual suit coats and let his hair grow down to his shoulders. His students loved him. At school in the confines of his area of expertise, and with the students he adored, he was wise and kind and benevolent.
At home, however, this was not the case.
My dad was cranky, out of sorts and angry. He berated my mother, made my brother cry almost every day and he'd whip his belt off and give you a licking just for talking at the dinner table. He did not interact with us like a dad. He was more like the jailer. Often he would get drunk, sometimes at parties, where he would bring my mother to tears by getting into arguments and generally being a rude jackass. The tension would come home with them and yelling would often ensue. Many times he stomped up the stairs and packed a bag to "leave for good", which we came to wish would happen.
My dad did not have a lot of redeeming qualities as far as my brother and I were concerned. Until the day the man came to the door with a clipboard.
My dad said hello and asked him what he wanted. The man said he had a petition to stop a black family from moving in down the street. My dad smiled, a tight, shark smile to this guy and said, very casually, "Oh, really?" And the guy smiled back and said, "Well, I'm so glad you understand." And then my dad lost it. He gave this dude the look we got when we were going to be taken upstairs and spanked with the belt.
He told the guy in no uncertain terms and with tight, clipped words that he had some nerve going door to door being a racist and that he (my dad) would rather die than sign his horrible, crappy petition, and that the dude better get the F off his porch before he kicked his ass down the street.
That guy left in a huge hurry.
Not that we would have been inclined to use bad words for black people before that time......as we had not grown up hearing that kind of stuff EVER....but now we understood that under no circumstances would it be cool to say something like that. Or even to think it. My dad was personally insulted that a guy would go around with a clipboard trying to stop people from living where they wanted to live.
If we had ever dared to use even a mild derogatory term around the house, he would've kicked our asses in nothing flat and we knew it. It was a very powerful lesson that has stayed with me. That being a racist is the worst. It's something you would never want to be.
So the irony is that the man who was pretty much a crap father in every other way shaped my mind in such a positive direction. I never got a chance to thank him for that.