Social: Going Along to Get Along

It’s the eve of the Fourth of July, when the Declaration of Independence is celebrated in the US. I’ve always like this holiday, but lately I find myself less enamored. This section rings hollow:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

Mostly in light of this passage: three fifths of all other Persons.

As a person growing up in the South, I had lots of friend that had Southern Pride, self-described rednecks. I also grew up in near military bases, so there were a fair amount of diverse ethnicities, but still minorities overall. In my high school of about 900, I’d guess it was 20% African American, Oriental, Hispanics, and a few people with Middle Eastern backgrounds.

I mostly had white friends, some because of academics, some because of sports, some because we lived near each other. Overall, friends treated me well.

Some of their friends, no so well. I was fortunate that I grew up on a somewhat isolated street with a couple brothers, one older, one younger. The protected me a few times in high school when some of their friends threatened and physically assaulted me in other neighborhoods. I learned very quickly in middle school that my freedom to ride my bike far from home didn’t mean the same thing as my friend’s freedom.

Later in life, I tended bar in Virginia Beach. I worked in a nightclub at one point, a place notorious for not allowing blacks or Hispanics to come in. Bouncers would find reasons to not let them in, including suddenly raising the cover charge, finding minor faults with their clothes that crossed an imaginary dress code, and flat out telling some they weren’t welcome. Police were our friends, as we gave them free meals often, and drinks on their nights off.

I got hired when the place was sold, since a friend told me the previous owner would never hire me and not to apply. I did, and didn’t get hired before the sale, but did later. Most of the staff stayed on, and I’d say that I was uncomfortable and wary of about a quarter of the bouncer staff, trying to ensure I was never alone. I laughed at their racist jokes and behavior. I sided with their disgust at the riots on Labor Day.

I didn’t make waves, instead doing a good job, making money, enjoying the beach, and getting promoted to assistant manager.

A couple years later, while working there and back in grad school, the previous owner bought the place back. We were all told to come in early one weekday and be ready for a deep clean of the nightclub and bars. As I worked along, the owner asked to seem me just before lunch and told me my services were no longer needed. No explanation, just leave.

The other assistant manager was demoted to just a bartender. I get the desire to have new management, I get the need to perhaps keep less staff. I was the only person let go.

I was the only non-white person.

I can’t prove racism and have no desire to do so. I can only speculate, and I do think that was the reason. I also accept I could be wrong.

I’ve gone along too often, but I don’t think that helps us move forward. We can all grow and change, we can all learn to treat others more fairly and fight our inherent biases, our prejudices. We can always admit we were wrong and move forward. The great thing about much of humanity, and often in US society, is that we give second chances.

I’m not condemning anyone for life, but I also don’t want to put up with discrimination, racism, sexism, and unequal treatment of other humans. You don’t have to like people, but you should treat them fairly.

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