I was raised in Ross County Ohio, in a small community where I was taught that all people are equal. I can honestly say that my experience with racism was limited, I witnessed it, expressed my opposition to it, but it was mainly quiet where I grew up. This was my experience, and I doubt it was accurate from my view point, but because of how I grew up, my friends were simply my friends, neighbors were neighbors, and we were all Ross Countians no matter our little hub of the county.
When I was in my late teens/early 20s. I moved to Wooster, Ohio. Some people will tell you that all Ohioans are the same, this is simply not true. They all sounded like they were from Michigan, and they claimed I must be from Kentucky because of my accent. I always wondered what accent?! My experience with a lot of northerners was that they were rude, entitled, snobby and superior in their minds. Now, that is not to say all people were that way, because that just isn’t true. I had so many co-workers and friends that were good and kind to me, treated me like they knew me their whole lives, being an outsider not from there, I appreciated those people and were thankful to have them in my life!
One lady in particular that I felt so close to, her name was Sharon. She was such an amazing, loving lady, she was calm and tranquil to be around, just all around awesome. Everyone told me that her husband was more amazing, and Sharon even said he was the kinder of the two, the funny thing is he was a prison guard in Mansfield, so I thought this guy had to be pretty tough as well, being as it was maximum security at that time. When I met Robert, Sharon’s husband, I could see why they were together. He was a huge mountain of a man, but a gentle giant, such a sweetheart, a teddy bear. I felt even calmer in his presence, safe and secure. I could see what everyone had been telling me about him.
I got to know Sharon and Robert pretty well, and was always happy to be around them. One day, I was in Akron, my friend and I were going to eat at a restaurant called Shells, I had heard such great things about it! Imagine my surprise when I walk in and Sharon and Robert were there! I asked them how long they had been waiting, they said 20 minutes. The host told us it would be 20 minutes from our arrival. After 5 minutes, they said our table was ready. I looked at Sharon and Robert, asked how many were in their party, they said 2. It was just my friend and me in our party. I explained to the host that Sharon and Robert were there first, that it was their turn to be seated. The host said it was not their turn. I was still not getting it. I looked at Sharon and Robert, who is black, Sharon shrugged with a sad smile on her face, Robert was quietly infuriated. I said to the host more forcefully, it is their turn. The host said, no, we have your table ready. I said to my friend that I was uncomfortable, that I didn’t think I wanted to eat there, and Sharon pleaded with me to take the table. “This happens all the time.” I told her that I did not like this, she asked me again to please just take the table. I was not making a scene, but I was outraged. This naive, young girl from Southern Ohio was disgusted and sad, and now aware.
We went to the table, I did not want to embarrass Sharon and Robert, nor cause them any more issues with my words or actions. That meal might have been excellent, but it was the worst meal I ever had. I did not enjoy it, I did not eat much. In fact, I never went to another Shells restaurant again after that. I can see this memory like it was yesterday, I can still feel the disgust and hatred I felt for that host, and for that situation, even for Sharon’s words, “This happens all the time.”.
I always thought I was doing my part for injustices my friends felt and experienced, speaking out when warranted, and to this day, I wish I had walked out of that restaurant. I wish I had been my 43 year old self, and done something different. I told Sharon and Robert I was sorry several times. I am still sorry to this day.
We can do better. We must do better. ALL of us. We ALL must heal this divide, let no one come between us, let no one go without feeling or being equal. Race, gender, hetero/homosexual, whatever distinguishing factors we all are, we must stand together, United as Americans, brothers and sisters alike. When we allow our nation to be divided, we will surely fall. I stand with my fellow Americans, ALL of YOU. I am outraged.