I wanted to find a place with televisions and to be among some African Americans. From a recent lunch meeting there, I recalled that young black women made up most of the wait staff.
Arriving just past 11:30 AM, I found a corner stool at the bar with a good viewing angle of the inauguration. Customers were scattered about other parts of the restaurant, but only a half dozen young African-American women and I watched the historic event in our corner.
I paid attention to their reactions — especially the emotions expressed on their faces. The smallest among them gave hearty “Amens” throughout Rick Warren’s invocation.
We laughed together when the eloquent-speaking new president and the Chief Justice stumbled through the oath of office. First-time jitters for both, we agreed.
We talked about change and hope and possibilities. And I kept wondering how this historic event was being viewed through our very different lenses.
I was a white child of the ’60s. School integration gave me my first daily contact with African Americans who lived close by but much very separated.
Influential adults in my life interpreted the civil rights movement in terms of “trouble-making.” The most I suffered personally for the noble cause of human equality was having to go home ahead of curfews when the possibility of rioting was heightened.
For these younger African-American women, the civil rights struggle was something they heard or read about from others. Yet, surely, they too have experienced firsthand discrimination or racism to varying degrees.
Having a man of color in the nation’s highest office said something to them that I don’t believe I am capable of fully hearing.
Looking back on various historic events in my lifetime from the moon landing to 9/11, it is easy to recall where I was at those exact moments. Now I add to that list the good memories of having lunch and conversations at Applebee’s when the first African-American president was sworn into office — something no one in my little world would have believed in 1968.
Building meaningful, trusting relationships across racial lines is not easy. The struggle for racial equality is not over. And, honestly, the church has done more harm than good over the past many decades.
But the starting place always seems to a willingness to simply talk with one another. Yes, more talking with one another and less talking about one another.