Today’s news is full of thoughts and comments about “discrimination.” The current squad, for instance, uses freely “women of color,” the term “racist,” “white privilege,” etc. It is all full of hate. No effort is made to build bridges to each other. The rhetoric is designed to gain power or privilege, not understanding. From almost a century perspective, let me share some of my experiences. Discrimination feels the same no matter what the species, but it doesn’t make it necessarily racist.
Let me tell you what my heart has endured…
I was called a “hayseed,” a kid from the country, which was meant to be a put down from town kids. Yet, I excelled in sports and academics in high school.
I was just 21 when I was told that I was too young to be an officer in the U.S. Navy. I proudly served as a Naval officer in World War II.
I was told that I was too honest to be a politician when I ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in California in 1970.
I was told that I was “too old” to start a doctoral program in psychology at UCLA when I was just 40. I finished my Doctorate in education in 1964.
I was told that I couldn’t be a Dean of Students at UC Riverside (I was only allowed to be Dean of Women) in the mid-sixties because I was a woman.
I was told that I couldn’t be a Director of Upward Bound and work with black students because, “I was not only a woman but also white.” I was then the Director at UC Riverside.
I was told, sometimes subtly and sometimes blatantly, that I could not be a Dean of Graduate Studies in response to several applications that I made for that job because I was a woman. At the time, I was Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Cincinnati.
At a school board meeting I was told, “You are old. You forget things, and can’t talk.” I served on a local school board for 22 years until I was 97. It was a pure, unadulterated case of age discrimination. It had all the earmarks of discrimination.
I am so blessed to be able to write, speak, read, and most of all think. For their own reasons, the person tries to put you in their mind-box. When you refuse to crawl in with them, their anger and efforts to make you fit the stereotype they have assigned is palpable.
I have been fortunate to live in USA where arrows to the heart do not have to destroy who you have been created to be. Yes, even at 98, discriminatory arrows of being Old in Age still feel the same as any other discrimination I’ve experienced.
In spite of arrows of discrimination, I can look at the rainbows on my ceiling and see the promise of tomorrow. I can walk by the orange trees and cherish the fragrance and know what those blossoms will become. I can check out the dome of blue above, the songs of the birds, the breezes in the palms and go on serving and trying to make a difference in someone’s life. I am grateful for it all.