My Open Letter to Conservatives
Conservative Black Man

I am a dear sweet little old (white) lady. Burned into my brain is the memory of a dark night sixty-three years ago….around ten pm. Cleveland Ohio. I’m downtown at a bus stop, having just left a night-school class. Off to my left an older man (black) is crossing the street. Out of nowhere two young men (white) dash out into the street, laughing and shouting. They begin to kick and beat the poor old man, forcing him to his knees. He scrambles, scrambles to get away, but they keep knocking him down. The shouts and evil laughter echo around the empty street…I cannot forget that hideous sound. He crawls away from them, desperately grabbing at his hat. They keep kicking it away. Finally, the poor man gets to the curb, and they let him stagger to his feet and escape. I stand at the bus stop. Terrified, not knowing if I’m next, hating myself for being so afraid I didn’t do anything but watch. I should have tried to stop them. But I was so fearful of being next I let those animals have their fun. While I watched. I knew that poor old beaten man, broken and bleeding, would stagger home to tell his sons and younger friends what had happened to him. And then, clearly, I understood why “they” hated “us.” But understanding the pain and struggles of someone else’s life isn’t the same as every day living it, is it? I am, according to my conservative son, a Wild-eyed, Tree-huggin’ Commie-Pinko Liberal (and cannot imagine being any other way.) Maybe we are at the starting gate…but it’s crowded and noisy and nobody is noticing. Yet.

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