By: Sage Thyme, A Senior Citizen
Think About It. Sal. On the Ides of March which this year we celebrated as Pi day, in an attempt to launch the long-promised “conversation” on race relations in America, the anchor had an identity crisis. It was not about her identity. It was her guests’. So right there on network television she bravely went where no man had gone before, announcing she never knows for sure what to call people with the coloring of those beside her at the desk. Not taking a pure Caucasian breath , the question posed was, “Should it be African-American, black, ……., ……, …. or what?”
In 1999 at the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation, I heard one of the women mention that several of the colored classmates were at a table there. She seemed to have no problem summoning the word. Others today still seem to have equal facility with significantly less benign identifications.
When the Weavers arrived on the sunny south/central California coast fifty years ago, we couldn’t help but notice the largest variety of cultures we had ever known. At the wharf or other public places, you could hear languages of many countries and see enough skin hues to make a sepia mosaic for the ages. A few years later I was asked by an occasional newly arrived home shopper where they could find a neighborhood without any (fill in your favorite bigotry target). My happy response was they would be pleased with the completely cosmopolitan nature of our multi-cultural community. Sadly some property deeds did still have conditions, covenants and restrictions that would keep almost everyone from buying. This is a condition I’ve been known to ungrammatically call, “Everyone has to have someone to feel better than”. Fortunately, they were no longer enforceable.
By then I had learned that seven generations of Spanish families, coming by way of Mexico had provided the backbone of this extraordinary environment. The fact is they were there first, sharing land grants from Spain and Mexico until 1848 when California became a Territory of the United States and the recently minted American immigrants from the east made the long trek west and took control.
Fast forward to the mid 1970s when I was shopping in my favorite men’s store on State Street in Santa Barbara. Salvador Cordero was the manager and frequently helped with my wardrobe. I listened when a new shopper came in clearly confused about what to call people of his apparent background. A justifiably proud Senor Cordero, without a single salsa beat, simply said, “I prefer to be called Sal.” Hmmmm! Sal. Think About It.