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by Michael Morse, contributing writer
August 28, 1963. I was a little over a year
old. A man made a speech; and they talk about it still.
I need to reflect now and then, and keep in
mind how things were then. My parents were alive and thriving when black
people, or “coloreds” had their own bathrooms, sometimes a plank over
a creek, surrounded by poison ivy, and had their own entrances to movie
theaters, their own restaurants and their own place. My parents’ parents called
black people the “n” word, and nobody cared.
Had I not worked in the inner city for a few
decades, I might feel differently about race relations. I have a better
understanding of the rage and indignation felt by
my “colored” friends now, simply because my life experience allowed
me to get know them, and find out just how equal we are, and how badly their
family members were treated.
have changed, and everybody uses the same doors now does not change the fact
that it was their parents and grandparents who felt the brunt of a racist
culture, and their experiences growing up in the sixties were a far cry from
mine, where I sat in the backseat and listened to the adults talk about
equality, and how the country was going to hell on the coattails of a visionary
named Martin Luther King, Jr.
They felt hope. We felt fear. They and We have
managed to survive, but I think it will be generations before true equality
exists, and the ghosts of past injustices can be forgotten. All I can do is
continue to fight back when bias enters my consciousness, and remember that
life experience is far different for all of us, and try and understand that
when people cry out about racism, equality of opportunity and privilege they
have earned every right to do so.
It is my hope that my daughters understand
this, and that their children will not have to.
Michael Morse spent 23 years as a
firefighter/EMT with the Providence Fire Department before retiring in 2013 as
Captain, Rescue Co. 5. He is an author of several books, most offering fellow
firefighter/EMTs and the general population alike a poignant glimpse into one
person’s journey through life, work and hope for the future. He is a Warwick