Today’s guest column is by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele. She is a multimedia journalist specializing in politics, popular culture and race relations. Ozemebhoya Eromosele is the creator and executive producer of “Lectures to Beats,” the first-of-its-kind web show that builds a bridge between the cerebral and creative worlds.
After speaking on a panel about how race has played a role in a few highly publicized scandals, I stood in the DC Jewish Community Center’s foyer to wait for the next city bus.
It was freezing outside and I glanced at my smartphone every few minutes to see when I needed to make the 10-second dash to the bus stop out front. Theater goers were pouring out of the building after having just watched the Center’s production of David Mamet’s “Race” a few hours earlier.
I never boarded a bus. A black woman — impressed by my contributions to the discussion — offered to give me a ride home since my apartment building was on her way. During the drive, she told me about the good ol’ times as a young girl growing up in the 1960s.
She would go to a local theater with her aunts and uncles as a child and dress up in beautiful fur coats, pristine dresses and matching elbow-length gloves. She missed those days, and longed for the time when décor, tea time and other festivities associated with that sort of pomp and circumstance were appreciated.
She even remembered how she and her family members would always sit up in the theater’s balcony. An older cousin later revealed to her that they had sit in the balcony. You see, that was the only place in the theater reserved for colored folk.
I was shocked. She looked much younger than how old she must have been in order to remember that kind of America. Moments earlier I watched her make a pretty difficult U-turn on 16th Street’s two lanes, and she did not miss a beat. This lady was in her prime, but her demeanor masked her true age.
She revealed more about those times, particularly harrowing incidents when she and other family members were bullied or harassed because of their skin color. Her anecdotes got me thinking about the opening scene from “Race” when a black male attorney tells a white man who is accused of sexually assaulting a black woman that there is nothing a white person can say to a black person on the subject of race.
But that can’t be true. If this woman is alive and well, then some of her former bullies must be too. And if there is anyone who could tell us if we are living in post-racial times (whatever post-racial means) would it not be those who were on the other side of the fence during the Civil Rights Movement?
Those who opposed the efforts of the Dr. Martin Luther Kings and the Malcolm Xs and the Medgar Evers? Where are they now? How have their views changed, if at all? What could they tell America about the evolution of their ideas towards black Americans and equality?
These are the sort of voices that are missing and underrepresented in this ongoing conversation about race, and the perennial question of How far have we come? I hope these individuals come to understand the significance of contributing their perspectives to this conversation, and if we promised to withhold judgment, I’m sure they could tell us mounds.