I just picked up a book to read. It had a long preface, so I paged past it. Then there was a foreword, another preface, and then an introduction.
Seriously? Chapter One didn’t start until page 25.
I set that book down and picked up another one. The introduction ended on page 11, and the first chapter started on page 13. A little bit better. It is called How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
I tend to start books somewhere in the middle, mostly because I can’t take all the filler up front. Give me the meat and potatoes. I don’t need round after round of appetizer.
I read half the book last night. It was interesting, a book about anti-racism, written by a black man.
When I got to a slow spot today, a thought popped into my head, back when I ‘d been living in Omaha. This was my green-carpet apartment period, where I went off to the gym to play racquetball with my friend, Peg. I don’t remember how I met her, only that she and I were in our mid-twenties, hadn’t found the right guy yet, and were always looking for something to do on the weekends.
We decided to go on a long bike ride one Sunday afternoon. I pulled out the paper map of Omaha, pointed to a street that I’d never been on before, and said, “How about we ride here and follow this looping road to 72nd street and then back home?”
“Sure,” Peg said.
It must’ve been summer, because I remember wearing short shorts and a tank top. Biking clothes weren’t in style yet. Peg and I were good-looking gals, even though we were singletons.
I lived on 34th street and she must’ve been my neighbor. We met up on our bikes and headed downtown and turned north onto 13th street. Then we turned onto Florence Blvd.
We rode and rode, stopping at lights to grab some water and to straighten our tank tops that kept slipping off our shoulders, since we had low handlebars for aerodynamics.
We went north and ended up in a black part of town where we stood out like what we were, a couple of white girls.
People were staring at us while we waited for the light to change. People in cars, people on sidewalks, people who were surprised to see us. We didn’t look or wave or anything, just stared straight ahead, acting indifferent to our situation. Yes, we were uncomfortable.
Peg and I pedaled on and found a long stretch of road with no stop lights. We laughed and sighed as we pedaled past corn fields. The map hadn’t told us much, only that we would end up back at 72nd street, where we would ride down to Dodge and then back home to 34th.
I am sure I did other things with Peg but only remember racquetball and the bike ride.
Peg met a medical student and married him. The last I heard she had four kids. The Christmas cards stopped coming one year, and I lost track of her. Everyone was switching to digital.
I wonder if she remembers that bike ride, where we let it all hang out as we rode through the blackest part of Omaha. Does it make me a racist that I felt out of place? I don’t know. Does it make me an anti-racist that I rode through the neighborhood? I don’t think so.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
I hadn’t thought of that bike ride in decades. Funny how the anti-racist book brought it back to me.
One thought on “Antiracist (Racist?) Memory”
I believe that you are philosophically more empathetic toward Blacks when you start to wonder about your own behavior toward them. You are engaged and interested in accepting them as your equal, no matter how you felt before. Yay!
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