With M.L. King’s birthday, I found myself in an introspective mood. And after considerable self-criticism and analysis, I still feel I’m a relatively unprejudiced fellow. (I say “relatively” because I’m sure some can detect biases I’m not aware of.)
Given the background in which I was raised, this seems unlikely. It’s not that my parents were especially bigoted. They weren’t. But rural, small-town Enumclaw was. In the late 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan marched down Cole Street and perhaps half the town’s population fell in lock-step behind them. During World War II, our tiny Japanese community in the Selleck area was rounded up and shipped off to God only knows where. While growing up, I frequently heard adults denounce the “damned” Jews. But perhaps the most vile hatred and violence was directed at homosexuals.
Nevertheless, I somehow emerged from that intolerant, jaundiced nonsense unscathed. Consequently, during my undergraduate days I dated a black lady. She was the first African-American I ever knew. That there was anything wrong with our dating never entered my mind. Not for a second.
Since than, I’ve known many blacks. For some uncanny and unfathomable reason, it seems like I’ve never fully realized they have dark skin and dark eyes; that is, I realize it on a superficial level, but not on a concrete, existential level. Does that make sense? Probably not. (It’s something I’ve never been able to adequately explain to myself or anyone else.)
Today, Enumclaw isn’t nearly as bigoted as it used to be. Not by any stretch. There are few blacks in our region, but the Hispanic population has grown. There are gays and Jews. All are blending into the fabric of our general community and no one seems overly concerned. That’s a progressive and admirable characteristic of most suburban enclaves.