My father put what he wanted to buy on the drugstore counter and said a polite
“Good Afternoon” to the young white clerk, who didn’t return the greeting or meet his eye,
just stared at the items as if Father had dumped a bucket of kitchen scraps,
and then with exquisite slowness that dripped contempt, began to ring them up.
It was an ordinary day in Indiana in the early sixties. Everywhere a black man went
he had to bite his tongue. Looking back over the years, I wish I could go back to that afternoon when my father stood quiet and still while that punk tried to put him in his place. I wish I could have caught his eye, delivered the silent message that I understood what he had to go through every day to keep the peace, to raise his family.
I wish I’d held my father’s hand.