Sunday, April 24, 2016

any colour you like

Earlier this week, the United States Treasury Department announced plans to remove the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, from the twenty-dollar bill and replace it with the image of Harriet Tubman, the courageous and defiant freedom fighter and fierce proponent of the Underground Railroad. Andrew Jackson, who has only graced the monetary note since 1928, was the owner of over 500 slaves. He fought and won the bloody Battle of New Orleans in which 285 British troops were killed and nearly 500 hundred were captured. Unfortunately, The Treaty of Ghent — that ended the War of 1812 — had been signed several weeks earlier. He started wars with many tribes of Native Americans and, as President, he signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forcing tens of thousands of Native Americans off of their land.

When the news of the redesigned twenty-dollar bill was made public, Twitter and other media outlets lit up like a bunch of racists igniting Southern-purchased fireworks on the Fourth of July. I could not believe the amount of blatant, unbridled bigotry I was seeing in my Twitter feed. There were feeble references to "tradition" and "respect" regarding Andrew Jackson coupled with flat out insults and historical unfamiliarity and misinformation in reference to Harriet Tubman. It made me think that all of the talk of "equality" and "opportunity" and "inclusion" and "freedoms" are just bullshit as far as a lot of people in this country are concerned. I see textbook examples of those types of people during highlights of every "Donald Trump for President" campaign rally. Those people, waving their flags and throwing punches at anyone who doesn't look like they do, are the voice of the racism and prejudice that exists in our great nation.

The thought of bigotry makes me nauseous. Partly because it's just wrong to arbitrarily discriminate against people because of their skin color, national heritage or religious beliefs. Partly because my father and grandmother regularly discriminated against people because of their skin color, national heritage or religious beliefs. It was something I grew up with, something I knew was wrong and something from which I promised to distance myself.

So, after a full day of monitoring my little corner of the internet spew its racist opinions about something as insignificant as whose picture is on money, as though a change will disrupt the delicate balance of..... whatever,* my work day ended. I boarded my train and came home. My wife met me at the train station. As I got into her car, she told me that she had sold a large Little Tykes climbing structure that my nieces had outgrown. Mrs. P had listed the piece on a local Facebook "yard sale" page and it sold almost immediately. The toy was in my in-laws' backyard and a couple were coming to pick it up shortly.  She needed some help maneuvering the awkward and bulky piece to a more convenient spot near the driveway. Once we got to the yard, we decided to take a shot at disassembling the structure and we were successful. When the buyers showed up — right on schedule — they were happy to fit each piece in the back of their SUV.

The toy had, in reality, belonged to a friend of my mother-in-law. A very nice woman that I know well. At least I thought I knew her well. After the transaction was completed and the happy buyers were on their way, my mother-in-law called her friend as were gathered around the kitchen table for a quick dinner. Although the phone was cradled and pressed close to my mother-in-law's ear, we easily heard both sides of the conversation. My mother-in-law explained that Mrs. P has sold the piece and the method through which the sale was made. We could hear squeals of approval and a few questions about the condition of the piece and the about the buyers  — including one question that made me bristle.

"Were they white?," she asked. We heard it clear as crystal.

I was dumbfounded. The purchase was made and the buyers were happy. I couldn't understand what their race could possibly have to do with.... with..... anything. The only color that mattered was that their money was green.

That's really the only concern that anyone should have with whose picture is on it.

*Hey! Remember when quarters began sporting different state imagery for over a decade? Didn't destroy us, did it?

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