Our youngest child went off to college in 2002. As a result, I had a lot of time on my hands and, so I began running marathons and going to movies?#34;lots of movies. Ninety three last year, but who's counting?
These new obsessions recently came together to provide me with a personal insight into race.
One Saturday evening last month Marsha and I went to see the movie "Crash" at The Lake. Following the traditional negotiation of what show (I'm early, she's late) and where to sit (I'm front, she's middle) we settled in to watch this movie that tells connected stories of whites, blacks, Latinos, Koreans and Iranians living in L.A. The people have stereotypical expectations that cause them to say and do things that are mistaken?#34;even tragic. The wealthy white couple thinks that the Latino locksmith is a gang banger, but we know he is a dedicated father. The white traffic cop humiliates a black woman, but we know he is tenderly caring for his sick father. All in all "Crash" was a really good movie if for no other reason that it forced Marsha and I to think about and talk about race. But it was only a movie set in Los Angeles.
The next morning I got up early for my Sunday morning long run. One of my loops takes me to the Shell station at Austin and Harrison where I stop for Gatorade. For some reason I decided to continue my run into Columbus Park. Although I have played golf a few times there, I had never run there. When we first moved to Oak Park we were told that Austin wasn't safe and so for all these years I had pretty much avoided it other than to drive through it when the Eisenhower backed up. Austin was more or less Terra Incognita. The place on the ancient maps were there was a drawing of a gigantic sea serpent.
I began my run through Columbus Park with some concern that something bad might happen to me. I did see some scary things. Two black men fishing in the lagoon. A black father playing with his black son on the swings. I even saw a black woman walking her brown dog. Some of these people waved or nodded at me and some didn't. It was pretty much like running in Oak Park albeit in a much more beautiful setting. Columbus Park it turns out is wonderful.
Eventually, I looped out of the park and crossed back into Oak Park safe and sound. I have lived in Oak Park since 1976 and had never set foot in Columbus Park (other than to play golf a few times) because I was afraid that black people would hurt me. I was wrong. All of these years I could have enjoyed this lovely pastoral piece of real estate right next door to me, but my own ignorance and fear confined me to a smaller space.
Some prisons don't have bars.