09 August 2011

Why it's good that Elliot doesn't care that he's black & I'm white

I'm working in the local historic theatre tomorrow. As much as I truly love that building, as much as I truly love her staff, sometimes it's hard to look around in there and not have a heavy heart. Every time I'm in there, I am reminded of a very shameful part of America's past.

Which is rough, because every time I look at my Mr. Sunshine, I am reminded of another very shameful part of America's past. See, my Mr. Sunshine is very much Native American. As in, he can trace his ancestry back to the people the white Europeans stole this land from. We stole their land and we killed them off. That is a tragedy.

So it weighs really heavy on my heart to go work in that beautiful theatre that I love so much and have to be reminded of the shameful way those of white European descent treated those of African descent. Slavery, and then segregation.

Yes, I am reminded of the shame of segregation every time I enter the theatre. While I can say that there is no longer any kind of segregation at our theatre, I know quite a bit of her history. I know why there is a separate staircase that leads from the street to the upper balcony. I know why there is a water fountain in the hallway just outside that stairway. There were even bathrooms up there at one time, if I remember correctly. (I could be wrong about the bathrooms.) And that stairway isn't there so that I could have an unimpeded path from the top of the house to the ground level when I needed to get somewhere in a hurry.

The upper balcony in this theatre was where the blacks were allowed to sit back in the days of segregation. There was even a separate entrance and staircase that blacks had to use. So I am reminded of this horrible thing every time I see the upper balcony, every time I see that odd little door WAY down the sidewalk from the main entrance to the grand rotunda.

As I said, our local theatre does not have any sort of segregation today, nor is any prejudice allowed to enter. She and her staff are so welcoming, so gracious, to all who enter; regardless of skin color, religious identity, sexual orientation, or past history as a drug addict with an arrest record. As the executive director once told me about my own past, "None of that matters. What matters is that you're here now." (Which is full of the awesomesauce considering he's also a retired police officer.)

That was a huge help to me in my life and in my recovery. It's also probably a huge part of why I love that theatre so much. That acceptance, that hospitality, that sense of welcome, the grace that fills the place and fills the hearts of all who are part of her permanent staff.

It is good to know that, even here in the south, people can overcome prejudice. People can set aside preconceived notions.

I'm grateful that my mother raised me to believe that ALL human beings deserved my respect unless they proved to me that they didn't.

I would be a liar if I said that I didn't see skin color. The thing about skin color is that, for me, it's just another part of someone's physical description. It has no more significance to me than hair or eye color. We all bleed the same, both physically and emotionally.

All of this is probably weighing on me so because of my post about the great air conditioner hunt from a few days ago. I talked about race a wee bit in that post. I may have come across as if I were making light of it.

I was, yet I wasn't. I do not give a shit what color someone's skin is, which is just the same as me not giving a shit about what color someone's hair and eyes are. Those things are not what's important to me about a person. Which makes me so fucking grateful that I live in a time when people of African American descent can use the same entrance & sit in the same seats as any other patron of our theatre.

Yet, when I see that upper balcony and that dark, narrow little staircase, I am reminded that there was a time when Elliot and I wouldn't have been free to give a shit about each other even though he has dark skin and I do not. And when Mr. Sunshine gets home, I will be reminded that there once was a time when I would not have been allowed to love a man with red skin.

Tomorrow, I will be faced with a reminder of why it is so unbelievably, amazingly good that Elliot doesn't give a shit that he is black and I am not.
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  1. I am kind of in love with this post. It makes me INSANE, BAT SHIT NUTS when someone says " I don't see color". Really ? You don't ? Well do you have a good HMO cuz there is something seriously wrong with you. Admit you see it. And just say it's just like hair color or eye color. Ok. actually I am now sure that I am in love with this post. and the fact that you are talking about it in context of a theatre, my first love, well that makes it extra special awesome sauce.

  2. OMG, you're funny--yes, they need a good HMO that pays for really good eye doctors if they think they don't see skin color.

    It was hard as shit for me to put this out here, because skin color/race can be such a lightening rod issue. I'm tired of not talking about it. How else can we ever heal the wounds ignorant and mean-spirited people have caused?