2009.08.22: August 22, 2009: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Journalism: Black Issues: COS - Sierra Leone: Speaking Out: DesMoinesRegister.com: Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes: Making room for each other

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Liberia: Peace Corps Liberia : Peace Corps Liberia: Newest Stories: 2009.08.22: August 22, 2009: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Journalism: Black Issues: COS - Sierra Leone: Speaking Out: DesMoinesRegister.com: Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes: Making room for each other

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Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes: Making room for each other

Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes: Making room for each other

All the picnic tables were taken, so we headed to the grass. My wife and I aren't spring chickens. We are on the difficult side of 65, so lowering the bones to the ground isn't as easy as it once was. But we persevered, and were just digging in, when a black woman was in my face. An aside: My wife and I are white. The black woman had an unusual offer: Would we like to join her, her husband and their child at their nearby picnic table? These were small, four-person picnic tables, but she said her family could bunch up to make room for us. We accepted in the blink of an eye, not only because the table looked more accommodating than the ground, but also because this was such a kind, pure gesture. We spent the next hour eating and talking. We learned that 6-year-old Isaiah wasn't all that keen on changing elementary schools. He wanted to stay where he had gone to kindergarten. We learned that the woman's husband liked to hunt, that he'd been to Canada looking for bear. And that the woman had grown up in Sierra Leone, where my wife was in the Peace Corps. They learned about us also: that we were from Iowa, that we have three grandchildren, that we both are retired. There was virtually no mention of race. It was just a young family and an old couple swapping conversation.

Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes: Making room for each other

Guest column: Making room for each other

DICK HAWS is a retired Iowa State University journalism professor, who lives in Ames. Contact: dhaws@iastate.edu

August 22, 2009

I'm not naive enough to believe that race no longer matters in these United States, what with a black professor recently squaring off against a white police officer in Harvard environs, and what with some people in several Iowa communities reportedly worried about an influx of blacks from Chicago.

But I'm here to suggest those headlines might not be telling the whole story. Something may be changing with President Barack Obama's election. My wife and I think we may have witnessed a bit of it firsthand.
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We were on our way to Toronto two weeks ago, and stopped for the night at a motel right off the interstate in Kalamazoo, Mich. The desk clerk told us the best place to get something to eat was downtown, so we headed there and quickly found ourselves in the middle of a barbeque festival in a park. There was live music and beer, plus tent after tent selling barbeque and all the accessories. We each got a sandwich and beer, some coleslaw and baked beans, then looked around for a place to sit.

All the picnic tables were taken, so we headed to the grass. My wife and I aren't spring chickens. We are on the difficult side of 65, so lowering the bones to the ground isn't as easy as it once was. But we persevered, and were just digging in, when a black woman was in my face. An aside: My wife and I are white. The black woman had an unusual offer: Would we like to join her, her husband and their child at their nearby picnic table? These were small, four-person picnic tables, but she said her family could bunch up to make room for us. We accepted in the blink of an eye, not only because the table looked more accommodating than the ground, but also because this was such a kind, pure gesture.

We spent the next hour eating and talking. We learned that 6-year-old Isaiah wasn't all that keen on changing elementary schools. He wanted to stay where he had gone to kindergarten. We learned that the woman's husband liked to hunt, that he'd been to Canada looking for bear. And that the woman had grown up in Sierra Leone, where my wife was in the Peace Corps. They learned about us also: that we were from Iowa, that we have three grandchildren, that we both are retired. There was virtually no mention of race. It was just a young family and an old couple swapping conversation.

I know it would be a mistake to make too much of this interaction in Kalamazoo, but, amid all the headlines, I do think it's important to note such happenings.





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Headlines: August, 2009; Peace Corps Liberia; Directory of Liberia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Liberia RPCVs; Journalism; African American Issues; Peace Corps Sierra Leone; Directory of Sierra Leone RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Sierra Leone RPCVs; Speaking Out; Iowa





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Story Source: DesMoinesRegister.com

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Journalism; Black Issues; COS - Sierra Leone; Speaking Out

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