Through the din of restaurant conversations while at dinner with friends the other night, a question emerged. It was offered in a hushed tone of shock and disbelief, one woman asking another: “Did you know that Donna is going to marry a Negro?”
Though muted, it rang in my head like a fire bell, first as a memory from my boyhood, and second, because only those still trapped in America’s terrible days of slavery and segregation would still use such a term to describe blacks or African Americans. The word "Negro" identifies the user more than the subject of the question in the worst possible way.
My wife glanced at me when the question was asked, fearful that I might leap on the woman’s back and beat her about the head with a T-bone steak. But I did nothing and said nothing, letting it pass — but not letting it go.
Donna is a fictitious name, not the name of the white bride-to-be about to wed a black man. The voice of the woman who was part of a group seated nearby contained wonder but not disgust or hatred. She simply needed re-education in the new way of things.
The incident at the restaurant spurred thoughts from my boyhood. When I heard the notion of interracial marriage as a kid, it meant very little. It was during the 1940s, and there was a kind of awe — “news value” you might say — in the very mention of mixed marriages. A woman next door announced that she was going to wed a black man, and there were rage and tears all up and down 64th Avenue.
Today it's no big deal. The Census Bureau reports that in 2010, 10 percent of U.S. households included interracial or interethnic opposite-sex married couples — a 28 percent increase from a decade earlier.
I might mention that among them is our granddaughter Nicole and her husband, Adam Weatherall, who's already the result of a mixed marriage. His father is white, and his mother African American. We are, I hope, becoming a culture of freethinkers, where love, not racial determinants, produce lifelong partnerships.
The term Negro is due for the scrap heap of history. So is the very idea that there is anything wrong with mixed marriages, either between earthlings or beyond.
The lady with the question might be hesitant about Donna’s choice, but it’s none of her business anyway.
I can only say to her, "Step aside, ma’am, you’re standing in the way of tomorrow."
Also of Interest
- News Flash: Great-Grandpa on the Way
- 4 Surgeries You Should Avoid
- Get Involved: Learn How You Can Give Back
- Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.