Shedding Color BarriersA Story by Marie Harrison
In honor of Martin Luther Kind Day
Shedding Color Barriers
Martin Luther King Day is a big deal in Atlanta! As it should be, Atlanta was King’s home and where his final resting place is. I moved here with my ex years ago. I was fresh out of college, ready to tackle the world. You have no idea what it is like living in a city like Atlanta, where white people are the minority with a racist husband.
I never truly considered my husband to be a racist until we moved to Atlanta together, then his extreme views escalated. All through school and in his first years of work in architecture, he had close friends of all different races. But while eating out in crowded Atlanta restaurants with him making rude references about "n*****s", "spics" and "chinks", the problem became very hairy, green and unavoidable. Some nights when I didn’t want to crawl under the table with shame, I was truly terrified for my life!
We were always very different souls my husband and I. Suppose another case of opposite attraction. I wasn’t raised as a racist and frankly never saw life that way. I thought people of all colors should be treated the same. I didn’t pay that much attention to a person’s color when I met them before.
But my ex-husband was raised to be an extreme racist, his parents were also. Since he always seemed to have multi-racial friends from work, I thought this was something that he would outgrow as his career blossomed and had more distance from the encouragement of his family. But as his job grew stressful and his payscale rose, he seemed to develop more and more hostility to other races. Things were getting much worse!
One night we were at the movie, he told me of how he fired the Ethiopian temp worker at work that day. He was laughing about it too. Because I ate lunch with him the previous day and heard his friend talking about this man. I asked my ex-husband, “Is this the same guy that started working for you yesterday, the man who has a family to support?” I told him, “You can’t fire people because of the color of their skin. It’s wrong! That man had a family to support and you just took food out of their mouths today when you fired him. He hadn’t even had time for you to properly examine his skills and work yet. This is going to catch up with you!” I was afraid that I would be around to experience the aftermath of his obnoxious behavior. His bad karma would eventually burn me too.
My husband really thought that the white race was the superior race, yet he believed in God and was a practicing Christian too. As time passed, he would make fun of our multi-racial friends when their backs were turned.
One summer, we were desperate to rent one of our rental properties and he refused to rent the property to any of the nice families that came to see the property, unless they were white. I told him, he was crazy and hurting himself for acting that way. He ended up renting to a few white students instead. Unfortunately after living in the house only a week, these students had a huge party in the house, where one of them died from smoking too much meth. We found out later that at they decided to redecorate by tearing a whole wall between two bedrooms down!
My husband was out of control with his extreme racist views and actions; he was just bringing me down my synergy. He was sucking the marrow of my bones. You just can’t imagine what it is like being around such an energy sucker full time. I’m so glad that we are apart now and that he is now legally my ex. It was difficult for me to establish friendships with a lot of people in Atlanta outside of work, for fear my husband possibly offending them.
We’ve been apart for almost six years now. It’s so nice to be free of the negativity. To be able to freely enjoy the friendships and the company of anyone without a second thought, it’s been a blessing for me. I’ve not only shed the color of my skin, I’ve embraced my own values and mores. I hold my values and beliefs higher than I did before. I learned a valuable lesson in protecting and honoring my personal views of life. To choose wisely who I want to spend my time with, not based on their skin but how open their minds are. How they perceive the world around them.
It takes too much energy to isolate yourselves from society based on the color of your skin. Life is richer and more enjoyable with those color barriers down. I love living in Atlanta. I embrace the diversity of our culture in the city.
Looking back, I can’t believe I lived like that for so long. It was a waste of time for me, but I thought I was in love. I was never racist at all but I did compromise my values to be with the one that I loved. In the end he degraded me too, not for the color of my skin but for my values.
© 2011 Marie Harrison
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