"All White"

I went to our most frequented park recently for a rare afternoon playtime with the girls. A different crowd populates the park in the early evening, so I was seeing another side of our all-too-familiar play place. Most notable was a boy on a massive electric four-wheeler and his dad on a smaller scooter, zipping in like a tiny gang of cowboys. The girls kept playing, but eventually caught sight of the vehicles and came over to ask, "Daddy, can I see that boys truck?"

I had an immediate flash-forward to a teenage Ellie asking to go for a ride in an unknown adolescent boy's giant pickup truck, and suddenly broke out into a cold sweat. The idea of her hanging with boys is a strange one, but something I must get used to nonetheless, and so I said, "Sure." Like a good father, though, I went over to meet the boy behind the truck, and his father who obviously paid for it.

The kid ended up being super nice, and let Ellie and Waverly ride around in the Home Depot dump truck for a long time; long enough to probably kill the battery (I hope they made it home). Meanwhile, the boy showed off on his super cool powerslide trike, kicking around grass like it ain't no thang. I talked with the dad and he was a nice guy about the same age as me. The conversation turned to where we lived, housing and his neighborhood verses mine. "We love our neighborhood," he said, "Nice, quiet, safe...all white." He leaned in a little and got quieter for that last part.

I didn't quite know how to react or respond. My eyes probably got wide as I tilted my head back in a little gesture of surprise. He quickly moved on, probably gathering that I didn't exactly share his views. The rest of the conversation went pretty normal, but as the evening progressed I couldn't stop thinking about that phrase, "All white."

That night Katie and I watched Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which is a show on Netflix we've been getting into that I just love. The episode we watched had Trevor Noah, and in it he described what it was like growing up in Apartheid. Not that long ago (within my lifetime) he suffered under extreme racial segregation, to the point that his parents (a biracial couple) had to hide their love for each other from the government. As we watched, I couldn't believe that something like that existed in recent history (though I'm sure it still exists in many parts of the world). But then I thought back to the "all white" guy I had just met, and decided that as long as people maintain ideas like that, racism will inevitably carry on.

During our conversation, as he and I had compared neighborhoods, mine having gone through some gentrification over the past fifteen years or so, he told me a story of how he used to lifeguard at the public pool on my road, a "black" park in a "black" neighborhood. He told me that in his first week of working there as an impressionable teenager, he had two stabbings come into the pool from the locals on the adjacent basketball court. I'm sure this experience of seeing what happens in such a neighborhood, coupled with some familial imposition, helped to solidify his current racist views. Having grown up seeing some of the same things, I can understand where it comes from.

But as long as this segregation exists in our minds, atrocities like Apartheid are totally feasible realities that will continue to plague humanity. Racism is certainly a hot topic lately, having been brought into the light in the last year in a new way. I'm glad all of this is happening though, as we are being shown that there is a lot more muck going on under the surface than we realized. And when I see the same thing at a local church park, talking to a seemingly reasonable contemporary, I have to conclude that we still have a long way to go...