Michael Thomason

Michael Thomason

It is the ultimate hypocrisy to shout down the voice of opposition and call such suppression ‘freedom of speech’. Whenever someone marginalizes, maligns, minimizes or attacks another culture, history, opinion or lifestyle under the guise of political correctness, that in and of itself is what they claim to oppose. Many today exhibit in themselves what they despise in others. This insanity has to stop.

For much of my life, I have believed in and practiced social and racial equality. I grew up in the 60’s, when our society went through the upheaval of the civil rights movement. I support equality for all, but some see inequality everywhere and progress nowhere. As has been often said, the closer to the endzone, the farther back the goalposts are moved. Why do some continue to foster division? My guess is they do it because they like it and will continue to do as long as they are allowed to get away with it. What is the end game? The end game is power. Black, white or brown, we are only pawns to the so called ‘enlightened class’ whose greater goal is the retention of dominance and power.

In the 70’s, I enlisted in the service of Uncle Sam, a teenager from Texas on my first venture away from home, fresh-faced and idealistic, but wholly inexperienced. As the saying goes, I didn’t know if I was washing or hanging out. Much as today, there was plenty of residual racial tension in American life then, including the military. The war in Vietnam was still raging. We were on Okinawa, the main supply base for activities in the Far East, principally Vietnam. As part of continuing education, we participated in so called ‘race relations’ classes; which to me seemed completely misguided and inept. For the most part, we sat around in groups and were urged to call each other by common racial epithets; I suppose to remove their power to hurt. It felt kind of dumb.

I knew this one guy whose name was Aubrey, a big, soft, easy going fellow from close to where I was raised back in rural East Texas. I think he was about 6’2”, fresh out of high school same as me. I didn’t see him as black, me as white. We were both green; green as gourds, both in uniform and worldly experience. He and I became friends. In our weekly race relations class, I couldn’t bring myself to call him the names they encouraged us to use and neither could he.

On Okinawa, if you were white you went to clubs and shopped in an area called ‘BC Street’. If you were black, you frequented an area called ‘The Bush’. I have no idea why we didn’t mix, or who thought this up, but it was what it was, stuck together but miles apart.

One hot August day, tensions had been simmering, probably over protests back home over race relations, Nixon, the draft, Vietnam. Two guys got into an argument on the bus that took us from our work area back to the base. They rolled off the bus fighting. At first, it was just the two of them. One was black, the other white. Before twenty minutes had transpired, the whole company was embroiled in a race riot. It just exploded. I remember GI’s running all over the place, and fighting everywhere. MPs in jeeps with loudspeakers ordered us to return to barracks. I headed for mine.

In the hallway, I passed my friend Aubrey’s room. The door was partially open and I saw him inside, sitting on his bunk, back to the wall. I stepped in to check on him.

I will never forget the look on his face as he gruffly told me to leave. There were other black GI’s in the room with him. They glared at me like I was the devil himself. Aubrey pushed me out of the room and slammed the door. We never spoke again in the same way. Looking back, maybe he acted that way to protect me and him both from the anger in the room, but it hurt my feelings and our relationship suffered. Anytime I saw him afterward, there was a wall between us, a divide that kept us from the closeness we once had as friends.

This is what racism does, it divides, it separates, it demands we choose the one and reject the other. This is not a celebration of diversity but the sin of division and a sad commentary on humanity, humanity created equal in the eyes of God but corrupted by the deceit of Satan.

I think of Aubrey now and again and hope he got home safe and happy and had a good life. Once upon a time, before we had to choose color over character, he was my friend.

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