Tuesday evening I sat down at the bar of a nearby Chili's restaurant. I placed a "to go" order and turned my attention to the baseball game underway between the Yankees and the Rangers.
Somehow I struck up a conversation with the guy seated next to me.
We talked about the Rangers' lack of pitching and the failure of the organization to do much about it.
The guy told me he graduated from a local Dallas high school in 1978. That made him about ten years my junior. High school football came up.
He seemed a nice enough sort of fellow.
But then, he began talking about African Americans. Some of the things he said should never be repeated. Anywhere. Ever.
I was shocked, startled and amazed.
His comments were so offensive that I felt paralyzed. . .as my family and friends will tell you, a very strange feeling for me.
When my food arrived, I uttered my protest and excused myself.
"I can't believe this guy!" I said to myself as I made my way to my car.
"Where has he been for the past forty years?"
The answer hit me hard: he's been right here.
My mind moved automatically to a meeting I had attended earlier in the day. John Greenan, the leader of our community development corporation, and I met with a committee from a public entity here in Dallas that owns a piece of property we are trying to acquire for housing development.
The group had a list of questions for us as they considered our development plans.
An African American man serving on the committee pressed us hard about our policy and practices regarding discrimination in hiring, purchasing and programming. We welcomed his questions because they gave us--two white guys--the opportunity to talk more about one of our core values and objectives in Dallas: racial reconciliation and justice.
As I reflected on the comments of the guy at the bar, I realized the man on the committee had to ask the questions, not because he was being politically correct, but because of what he understood about racism and discrimination in Dallas, most likely by personal experience.
As I continued to unpack my thoughts and feelings, I realized that the most disturbing part of the experience for me was the fact that I was surprised by the guy at the bar.
Somehow I have been lulled to sleep.
I'm a white man dozing while the insanity and the hatred continue.
A trusted friend of mine put it this way, "Larry, you have to learn to live with an edge because it is not going away and you have to be prepared for battle."
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Rising from Ashes
Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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