When James and I were first together we celebrated our anniversary every month . Over time it became years and now we've come to talking about decades.
When we first met I was attracted to his gorgeous eyes and his wonderful curls. He told me he found me somewhat exotic. I had trouble embracing that idea. Having grown up in East Los and not the East Coast I found my looks anything but exotic. I think at that time I was still a bit disappointed that I looked neither like Linda Ronstadt or Marilyn Monroe. In any case, we were smitten with each other.
We've always been aware of spf variances, but have been most in love with who the other is and truly enjoy the places where our interests diverge and intersect. We are each proud of our cultural and ethnic heritage. We tend to be a bit ivory tower in looking at a lot of things because there are usually a lot of books in those sorts of towers and we love books.
In 1992 James had to go to Germany for some work. He wondered what it would be like to visit Poland. Since I'd had a chance to visit my family's Motherland, it was easy for me to encourage him to go to Poland. How often does one get a chance to go back and explore cultural roots? The trip was planned. He was due to fly out of LAX in April in the very, very early morning. He was planning to take a shuttle to the airport.
It was in the days leading up to his departure that the Rodney King decision was reached. James and I were both upset by the beating and by the jury's decision. What we had seen and the items we had read led us to those feelings and thoughts. My own experiences with some of the Sheriffs in East LA had not helped in this regard. I, and others who looked like me, had felt varying degrees of discrimination in my neighborhood. I was not black nor male, but my experience took me from compassion to empathy.
And then the smoldering of the riots and unrest which would become flashpoints began to take place. I remember seeing the images of Reginald Denny being savaged. To this day I will not deny the frustration that can lead one to want to strike out at those who are viewed as the enemy or the oppressor. But to hurt another human being and take joy in that pain, no matter who they might be, that is something I can not understand.
Philosophy and theory switched over to reality. The man I loved with all my heart and who loved me with all his heart would be going through that area. Those who had viciousness in their heart wouldn't take the time to know him. I was afraid they would look at him and only see a white man. I feared for his safety.
James humored me and we had our very large, very strong, very indigeno looking friend drive him to the airport. I was comforted in that. My comfort was based on my bias. I was hoping that the people that were rioting - folks who were primarily black and brown - would see our friend and leave them be. I remember telling James that he should duck so that he couldn't be seen if things looked really dangerous.
I can't decide what was learned by anyone else in 1992, but I know some of my lessons. Perhaps first and foremost I learned that my own biases were not always righteous. My fears were selfish. I learned that institutional bias and prejudice plays itself out in ways that are complex. And all too often they are quietly smoldering in us.