Independence, equality important values

By Judy Brandon

On this Independence Day weekend, it is good to think again about freedom. What is a deposit in freedom?

A student told me about his mother while we were standing in the parking lot one day discussing a class assignment.

That inquiry led to a conversation on the essence of freedom and the opposing forces of oppression and prejudice.

He was in the Air Force and he told me about his childhood. His father had died, which left his mother with no education and four children. They all lived in a two-room lean-to on the mother’s salary of $15 a week. When their kitchen stove quit working, their landlord came and took it. Their mother had to find another way to prepare meals for her family. She found the solution.

On some days after work, she would stop by the only cafe in town where she would buy the leftovers — hamburgers for 5¢ each, a sack of partially eaten French fries for 25¢, and half-used ketchup packages for a nickel. Combining ketchup with water, she made cold soup.

When she went into the cafe for the first time after work, she learned early on exactly what her place was. She ordered, and then rested her hands on the counter. The woman owner glared at her and said: “We don’t let (black people) put their hands on our counter. It dirties it up! Get those hands off!” Embarrassed and belittled, his mother fumbled for the correct money, paid for her food and left. The next time she went into the cafe, a hand painted sign hung over the cash register that reminded her of the restrictions for “her kind” not to put hands on the counter.

The woman who owned the restaurant was quite the town citizen. She gave large sums of money to her church and the community. People praised her for her generosity. There was even a sign with her name on it that named the fellowship wing at the church downtown because she had given the money to build it.

As a little boy, my friend didn’t understand how this “fine lady” had treated his mother. Every time he would walk past that church with the woman’s name on the fellowship hall, he thought that their Jesus was someone different than the Jesus his mother had told him about.

For a country that was founded on principles of freedom, it seems a bit ironic. A deposit in freedom means that we provide equal opportunities for all people and we live that philosophy out on a daily basis by treating others with respect and kindness.

What could make for a more meaningful Independence Day or life?

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at:
cbrandon@plateautel.net