MLK Day – A Personal Story

Martin Luther King Jr.

Sharing a story from my past.

In the summer of 1980, my Dad had arranged an interview for a summer job for me.  His client was a small business owner who licensed a franchise carpet cleaning and restoration service. We’ll call him Larry.

Larry was a devout Mormon. All of his employees were members of the Mormon Church. Since I was of Hispanic descent and a Southern Baptist , that meant he was hiring someone out of his comfort zone.  He was not keen on the idea from the start, but my father had promised that I would be a good worker and would give him no trouble.

Larry also had no trouble sharing his views. He would often make bigoted comments, calling me “Mexican”, “wetback”, “spic”, and a few other phrases. I had been subjected to such comments all of my life, but I usually brushed them off knowing that, mostly, it was not intended to hurt me. Being called names has never bothered me.

So it was a warm day in July, a couple of weeks after I started, that a roll of quarters was discovered missing in petty cash. The cash box was kept in the office, and although the office was always accessible, I had no reason to be in there.  Most of the time, I was out on job sites or working contract jobs as needed.  On this particular day, I was working with a co-worker cleaning some furniture in the shop.

Larry started asking if anyone had been in the petty cash, and of course, everyone denied it.  Then he looked at me. He pulled me aside and said, “Look, you can come clean about it and I’ll just let your Dad know this just didn’t work out. Otherwise, I’m calling the police.” I was shocked and dumbfounded because I had no reason to take a roll of quarters. I expressed to him my innocence, but he remained unconvinced.

His rationalization over the next few minutes was simple: Mormons do not steal from each other. I was not Mormon, but more importantly, I was also a Mexican (I’m not Mexican, I was born in the Kansas, but that’s how he viewed me.) I hadn’t thought of him as truly bigoted until he deadpanned, “I know you people steal all the time.”  After some back and forth, he decided call my father.  Back then, there weren’t cellphones so he left a message with Dad’s secretary.

Half an hour later, Larry’s wife comes in and sees me in a panic.  Running through my mind was figuring out how I was going to come up with a roll of quarters. Back then, a roll of quarters was a good chunk of change. When she asked me what was wrong, I explained what had happened.  She was furious. She ran into the office and dragged him out to where I was waiting and demanded that he explain why he thought I had stolen the money.

Turns out, the reason the roll was missing was because their home washing machine had broken and she couldn’t go to the bank to buy a roll of quarters for the laundry mat, so she stopped by the shop on the way and took the roll out of petty cash and forgot to write a note.  After she read him the riot act on his behavior, she pulled a role of quarters out her dress pocket and demanded, “you apologize to him for your stupid behavior!”

He gave a half-hearted apology which resulted in an eyeroll from her. After a few more exchanges, she stormed out. Shortly thereafter, my Dad walked in not looking at all pleased.  The message Larry left with my Dad was that I had stolen a roll of quarters and he need him to come get me and pay back the stolen money.

Before I could say anything, Larry stepped in and explained the situation and apologized for the misunderstanding. He did manage to get a snipe in about how “Women just think they can spend all your money anytime they want!”  Of course, his wife was not there, but probably good she wasn’t.

This was my first, but not my last experience with bigotry. What made the difference for me was what I chose to do after that and future incidents, some of which were actually racist.  I could have easily said I don’t want to work for someone who thinks badly about me and “my people”.  Becoming that person would have required me to now look at others the way he did.  I wasn’t raised that way.

I worked for him for another two years – full time during the summer and part time during the school year. Part time work consisted of weekends making cold calls in the phone book and lining up work. I got a commission of 5% for every sale.  I made almost $20,000 of sales during that first year of part time work.  I was just a stupid teenager, so I ended up spending my commission like any teenager does with no financial planning experience.

For Larry, though, I had proven to him that I was not a stereotype. Towards the end of my employment, he even asked if I would be interested in becoming a Mormon.  I politely declined. Not that I have anything against Mormons, but I was at that time, like all young people, questioning everything.

The best part was that Larry had written me a very nice letter of recommendation for any future employment opportunities on my last day.  When he gave it to me, he admitted that he never thought he would do this for someone who was not a Mormon and certainly not a wetback. He apologized just as quick, letting me know he was learning that he was wrong and that I had helped him realize not to judge others by what they look like.

In today’s world, we are experiencing more bigotry and racism, but in a very different way. The left has hijacked the civil rights movement to promote social justice and, ironically, it is mostly led by anti-white white people.

Identity politics has no longer allowed individual thought and self-determination. The left has become nothing more than group think echo chambers in which your characteristics automatically determine your political and lifestyle views.  If you don’t agree, you are targeted for harassment and bullying. Unless you’re a white conservative. Then you just get the standard harassment package.

I’m always amused when the left are faced with a gay man, a black lesbian, a Hispanic transgender woman, a muslim college student,  or even an Asian woman who are Republican, conservative or even votes for Trump. The SJW’s are very unkind, resorting to bigoted slurs and shaming and threatening Stalinist approaches to get the outliers to conform.

I often wonder if Dr. King would approve of social justice considering that government, and one party in particular, has done so little for the constituency that has voted consistently and overwhelmingly for it. I would think that if King were to suddenly appear and review the events since his death, he would probably be quite disappointed.

Since his death, I believe we have come a long way towards his dream, and yet, we still have a ways to go.  Unfortunately, I think the left has done more to undo his vision for a more just and equal society than they claim to value.  Sad!

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3 thoughts on “MLK Day – A Personal Story

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