Why Can’t We Just Be?

Why can’t we just be?

When I was a teenager, I wanted to do one thing most teens do, date. Now, with dating, particularly in high school with all the cliques and such, it’s always difficult. In the 80s in a small Midwestern town, it was even more challenging.

First, there was the covert prejudice between Protestants and Catholics, or as was commonly said, “Christians and Catholics.” I went through that issue for three years, but that’s a different issue.

Next, there was the issue of race, particularly with parents as old as mine. Now, my mother used to tell me race didn’t matter. She’d add how everyone deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. She also used an old line how people were different colours because “God left some people in the oven longer than others.” (How horrible that image is on so many levels, but I honestly believe she never meant anything bad about it).

As it would have it, I really came to like a girl at school who I wanted to ask out for a date. That’s where this issue came into play because she happened to be Black. I already had a hard enough time trying to ask a girl out and I just had this feeling my parents would have a problem with it. I asked my mom about it. Unfortunately, my father heard and commented that no N- would ever be welcomed in his house, let alone have his kid date one.

I saw this girl as my friend. She was funny, smart, and pretty. Sure, she was Black, but that didn’t matter to me. I liked her and wanted to get to know her, spend time with her. Yet, I couldn’t because of my parents. I often wondered if Black kids got the same thing from their parents if they wanted to date White kids. Would her parents have reacted the same way? Obviously, I’ll never know. What I did learn was the hypocrisy of my parents and that I’d not be that way when I grew up.

Even in my adult life, I’ve had acquaintances comment negatively if I said I found a non-Caucasian person attractive. I just don’t understand it. If I find someone attractive, why should skin colour even matter? If I want to be friends with someone who is a different skin colour or religion or whatever, why should it matter?

Seriously, why can’t we just be?

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