Thoughts Rising from Tucson’s Flowers of Spring

by on July 19, 2010 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, From the Soul

Tucson Flowers in Spring

As a child growing up in Tucson I would sometimes, on a comfortable April day, ride my beat up blue Schwinn out to the foothills – and just soak in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert’s flowers of spring as they danced in the warm breezes, showing off their brilliant yellow and purple and orange and red and blue petals that cling to their striking green stems like lovers on a honeymoon.

Such moments soothed my young soul, making all the world feel like a lilting melody sung in perfect harmony. And to stay with this idea of music as a metaphor for “good feelings,” the world’s music, at the time, did make everything seem “copacetic” as the devotees of jazz and swing used to say in their cool ness.

I mean Duke and Count and Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman jammed like there was no tomorrow with the “hep cats” jumping to the jive, throwing their “broads” over their shoulders and through their legs like dancing was why they were alive.

The Nat King Cole Trio had us swaying to “Straighten up and Fly right.” Ella wooed and cooed. Sarah kept it brassy and sassy and Peggy Lee played it leggy and sultry while Lena rhapsodized and tantalized and the Andrew Sisters harmonized to happy peppy beats. Women swooned at Frank Sinatra and Billy Eckstine’s feet.

But already at a tender age I understood that this wasn’t the way the earth turned. I knew that no matter how many times I’d go to that cafe on 4th Avenue with my meager earnings of the day, the man would say: “We don’t serve Negroes,” as though I was there for some Leg of Bubba or a slab of African American ribs.

I knew that if I was to sit on the main floor in the movie theater I would have to move in the darkness with the ease of a cat burglar.

I knew that getting water beyond a trickle out of a Colored Only water fountain was about as likely as hitting the numbers.

I knew, soon after innocently passing a white man on a sidewalk in Union, Mississippi, that I had committed a mortal sin because my cousin said to me: “Fool, you go’ mess ’round and git kilt.” And he was serious as a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As I would gaze upon the flowers I would wonder how such hatefulness could exist in a world where there’s so much startling beauty. How could there be limits to harmony?

How could the world look so down on me when I was but an innocent child and meant no one or anything any harm?

I would stand there and dream of a better world and, although I was too young to fully express what I was feeling, if someone had introduced me to the concept of “racial profiling” the term would have resonated with me, no matter my age, because it says it all.

Racial profiling aka “class” profiling was then and before then going back to the beginning of humankind and remains to this day the crux of the problem when it comes to people living in harmony. Somebody’s got to be “those” people. So when I hear the folks in my home state, where the beautiful desert flowers of spring grow, say in defense of their hateful anti-immigration attitudes: “Oh, there won’t be a problem because SB1070 makes it against the law to engage in racial profiling” – well, I say these words ring as hollow as the insides of a Jack o Lantern.

Hey, come on. Are we saying that if a cop’s neighbors are prancing around all caught up in their open carry dreams and anti-Latino schemes, he or she is not likely to think and act as they do? In today’s world?

Let’s tell this thing like it is: if this law passes we’ll see racial profiling at it’s pinnacle as the bill, in and of itself, is a poster child for racial profiling as it is directed at millions of “illegals” and what skin color do all of us see in our heads when we envision such “aliens?” “Brown.” Right. And we ain’t prejudiced (wink) . Oh, hysteria is such an ugly emotion.

And so here I am today, in the 21st Century, more than 60 years since the days I would look out at the fields of remarkably colored flowers, still questioning humanity’s reluctance to match the harmony that exists in the natural world, still wondering how we can lump people in “less than” human categories and look down on them – especially when they simply are striving to survive, meaning nobody any harm.

Oh, well, I think I’ll play a little “Take the A Train” or “One O’ Clock Jump” to kind of lighten my mood and get me up on my feet to move to a big band groove, kind of swing with images in my mind of beautiful flowers of spring. I can further pursue human understanding tomorrow as the quest never ends.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Brown July 19, 2010 at 11:11 am

what a beautiful and insightful way to explore the unique legal injustices of arizona today… please keep writing ernie, your words are delightful.


Shirley Sprinkles July 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

MAGNIFICENT, Charlie Mack! You do me proud as a fellow desert rat, and traveler through the space of humanity and dignity. I send you bouquets of beautiful wildflowers for this piece!



Ernie McCray July 19, 2010 at 11:46 am

And I accept in honor of all we’ve gone through from those “Good Old Days” up to these “Good Old Days.”


Willie J. Horton July 20, 2010 at 7:49 am

I truly understand your reason for going to the mountains to enjoy the outdoor education experiences with your formal students.
Willie Horton


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