This past weekend, while I was shopping at one of the big-box stores in Fargo, I noticed a young black man who appeared to be in his early 20s. This lad was helping everyone within “hello” distance and had a smile that lit up the room.
I watched him for about 10 minutes. His mood improved my own so much I walked over and struck up a conversation. He told me he was from North Carolina. I asked him how he liked our area, since he was so far from home. He replied without flinching, with that incredible smile going all the time, “I love it here.” I pressed him for his reasoning. He told me the people are warm and friendly; jobs are plentiful; and — most importantly — he loved local law enforcement because when he waves and says “hi,” they wave back.
Perhaps he exaggerated (or maybe not, since I’ve not been to North Carolina), but he implied there wasn’t much communication between the law and people of color in that state — and certainly no small talk. After listening to him, I gained a much better understanding of life in the Deep South from the viewpoint of one individual.
There are those in this community who would not have spoken to this young man under similar circumstances. The sadness of that is it’s hard to understand the lives some have to live if you don’t speak to them.
The young man did not know me from the man in the moon, yet his response was as open and friendly as those from other people of color I’ve met since retiring from the bench. But I’ve also met many young men who have felt the same type of prejudice right here in River City. That’s sad. I’m referring to Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and immigrants whose only apparent problem is that they aren’t the same color as we are.
The only color that matters is “red.” We all bleed that color. For my purpose here, that designates what it takes to be an American. What clothing we wear and how we wear our hair (or shave our heads) does not show who we are as a people — just what our individual tastes may be.
I personally don’t care if you believe in God, in Allah, in any other Creator … or don’t believe in the afterlife at all. If you are a good person, live an honest life and treat others as you wish to be treated, you are making this world a better place to live. If ever we’ve needed these types of people, it’s now more than ever.
My conversation with that young man from North Carolina piqued my interest in the state he came from. The North Carolina Legislature has been trying to set the clock back on civil rights. It is particularly active now in the time of President 45, who doesn’t recognize there are three co-equal branches of government. As he systematically tries to destroy the criminal justice system and remake it in his own image and likeness — the courts are once again reminding him and his supporters that this country is governed by the rule of law. God help us if that ever changes.
As in many states, North Carolina’s voter suppression attempts are being stomped on. That state accepted a variety of government-issued photo ID cards — drivers licenses, passports and military ID cards. However, in a not-so-subtle attempt to keep minorities from voting, this state would not accept public assistance card used disproportionately as identification by minorities in North Carolina. Legislators also tried to cut early voting days and end same-day voter registration. There was nothing subtle about their attempts to discourage and limit certain voters. Were it not for the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against them, they would have succeeded.
It’s one thing to be prosecuted because you have done something wrong. It is quite another to be persecuted because you exist.
Some might say that I take bigotry and prejudice personally because of the legacy of my father, Judge Ronald N. Davies. They’d be partially right. My father turned the spotlight on the problems of bigotry and prejudice for me, and it has never dimmed. I am so proud of that.
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When my wife went to the lake this weekend with one of my daughters, each brought a dog. I stayed home because I was going to (and did) cut and apply weed killer to the lawn. Our dog chews crabgrass like a doper smokes pot, and I didn’t want to take any chances with him getting into the treated lawn. So Maureen will be hearing about my adventures at North Fargo Hornbacher’s for the first time as she reads this column.
Apparently Saturday must have been Tattoo Day for grocery shoppers there. One young lady was showing off some writing and some kind of picture emblazoned just above her (slightly exposed) boob line. At my age, the body parts were of no interest. But as I tried to glimpse what the writing said, this lady— not a teenager, but in her 40s or 50s — looked me right in the eye and said, “Do you like what you see?”
With the speed of light. I replied, “Don’t flatter yourself, I wouldn’t have to squint if the print was as large as you-know-what.”
That was not the end of my violating social taboos. In front of me in the checkout line was another woman, a younger one, with an exposed back. I looked away at something as she stood there talking to her friend. When I glanced back, her tattoo caught my eye — it looked just like a real spider. I let out a whoop and a holler and jumped back before I realized what I was looking at. I had to explain to the startled teen how I am deathly afraid of spiders. I don’t think she, the clerk or the others who witnessed the event stopped laughing until after I’d left the store.
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Here’s a special shout-out to Justin Benson, Erik Benson and my grandson, Rhys Luger, for becoming Eagle Scouts at the Boy Scouts of America Troop 214 ceremony on Mother’s Day. Until I saw the list of accomplishments required to earn this honor, I had no idea of the dedication each of these young men demonstrated to achieve his goal.
There is no doubt in my mind these young men will succeed in life. Their achievement is also a testament to their parents who supported them. Awesome job, young men! Amen.