This I Believe

Sharon - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 19, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: change, race

I believe this generation is ready for a change.

Forty years ago when I was among a busload of African American children trying to enter a predominantly white elementary school, the residents of northeastern Philadelphia weren’t ready for change. Parents greeted me and the other children on the two yellow school buses with picket signs and protests.

In the late 1970s, I hired at a small community Savings and Loan in State College–presumably because I was the best applicant for the position. The first African American person ever hired there, I was fired from my front desk position within a year. No reason or warning was given. I was told,” we love you, but it’s just not working out.” The now-dissolved company still wasn’t ready for a change.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Hired for a temporary faculty position at a state university in Pennsylvania, I was quickly identified as the quota hire. I was told by a colleague that I was certain to get hired full-time position because the University was looking for people like me. Such comments put voice to a rural group who recently met to find ways to keep an African American faculty member from buying a home in Woolrich, Pa.

While not everything is a matter of race, these incidents suggests that race has played a key role in how my generation continues to see the World. There have been many people who have embraced me without regard to my skin color, but there have been just as many who were a lot less welcoming.

As a classroom instructor, I believe I learn as much as I teach. I believe that Millenials are a different generation. Twenty-somethings see differences through a clearer looking glass. Most seem to think, talk and relate to difference in a manner that is refreshing. Often, without hesitation, they seem to embrace what my generation wouldn’t even consider. They make friends and accept one another regardless of racial, gender, or sexual preferences. If anybody is going to usher an African American president into the White House, it will be they.

I believe 20-somethings are ready for change. I believe that the Millenials will look racism in its ugly face and truly despise it for the monster it is.