When my grandparents decided to move the family from Ohio to California, my mom was about seven years old. A family of five, they packed up the car and took a road trip to Los Angeles. My grandfather told me this story when I was eleven years old. To me road trips were – “are we there yet?”s, the license plate game, the drive thrus for filler food (where McDonalds is less of a treat and more of the norm), photo ops by signs welcoming you from one state to the next, and stops at local restaurants to stretch your legs. “Things were different then,” my grandfather said.
“Meggie, on our road trip, when we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken, we had to go to the back for ‘coloreds.’ The kitchen staff handed me the chicken from the back door and we ate in the parking lot. That’s just what it was.”
That’s just what it was.
That story still haunts me. It reminds me of how young our country is. How far we’ve come and how far we still have to come. It makes me think of the countless black jokes people have shared in front of me, not realizing I am mixed. Unaware that I am the ethnically ambiguous fly on the wall. It makes me wonder what my parents experienced as a mixed race couple. It echoes the time my mom and I were leaving a concert at The Hollywood Bowl, and a woman called her the “N” word because she was taking too long to pull out of the parking spot. I remember how hot my skin felt. How it scorched the air around me.
To Martin Luther King Jr., to Harvey Milk, to Gloria Steinem and Cesar Chavez, to my mom and dad for choosing each other not for the “color of their skin but the content of their character“…to all of you champions of change: Thank you.