Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maybe...Just MAYBE...She'll Understand

I felt stung over a question that was posed of me this past Tuesday.

As I was getting ready to leave the apartment building I live in to go off to my factory job, a young woman who came to visit the family living in the apartment across from mine saw me head out the door.

After I said "Hi" and asked her how she was doing, the visitor asked me: "One bedroom or two?"

She was a young mother; her infant child was in her arms. And I thought she wanted to ask about renting one of these apartments.

So I answered: "Two."

I wasn't ready for the next question: "And only one living there?"

"Yes. I live here."

"A two-bedroom apartment, and only you living there."

I just wasn't very happy about where this was going...and I realized that if the conversation continued, I'd be late for work.

So I told the young visitor: "I'm okay with it."

As I hurried out to my car and drove off to my job, I felt stung. (Let's face it...I felt insulted.)

In fourteen years of living where I presently do, I'd never been asked to defend living single in a two-bedroom apartment.

Until 10-18-2011, that is.

I feel comfortable living in an apartment of that size. (Why shouldn't a person feel comfortable where he or she lives?) What's more, this two-bedroomer gives me all the space I need at the present time.

For the next nine hours, I couldn't help thinking about whether the questioner came from a country where housing laws- if housing laws exist in that kind of a nation- are harsher than they are here in the United States.

And then I got to thinking about the millions of Americans who put their lives on the line so that the nation could finally, in 1968, put a fair-housing act on the books.

I thought about how some of those millions of Americans were forced to face firehoses and barking dogs...firehoses and barking dogs unleashed by officials bent on keeping apartheid (okay, segregation) alive and legal in this country.

In addition, I remembered how some people were put to death because they wanted these Jim Crow laws overturned for good.

To top it all off, I thought about a 1965 headline in The Omaha Star (the legendary newspaper started in the 1930s by Mildred Brown): "Omaha and Birmingham Run Neck and Neck in Housing Discrimination."

That's right. Birmingham, AL...where, two years before that headline, police chief Eugene "Bull" Connor ordered barking dogs and powerful firehoses to be trained on people seeking their BASIC human rights.

Thinking about all these things made a young mother's question hard for me to take.

You see, as long as I'm still able to get my rent paid (and paid on time), and as long as I enjoy living where I do, what's the problem?

I don't know if that visitor has access to a computer; don't know if she's ever come across this blog (or anybody else's blog) before.

But if she EVER reads this post, I sincerely hope she understands why I feel uncomfortable having to explain and defend living single in a two-bedroom apartment.

Either the United States of America is a free country or it isn't.

No buts.

And I'd like to ask this young mom- if I ever see her again- this: "Which country is this- a free one or not? WHICH??"

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