Thursday, July 14, 2011

Leaves and Racism

Originally appeared on RafterJumpOn

Every autumn when I see someone raking leaves, or I step on the claw part of a rake and smash myself in the face like Tom from Tom & Jerry, I think of this one advertisement from my childhood.

It wasn't an advertisement, per se. It was more of a public service announcement. The PSA began with a man, a white man (this is important) raking leaves in his front yard. After a couple of seconds, we see his neighbor come out from his front door, also to rake some leaves. The neighbor is black.

Upon seeing his black neighbor, the white man, looking disgusted, drops his rake and storms back into his house. "I ain't rakin' along side a Negro. It’s bad enough the property value around here has plummeted thanks to him," he seemed to say.

Then there was a caption and voice over that said something like, "Stop racism," or whatever. Well, this PSA came on during cartoons, and I was a mere tot. I didn't know what racism was. I seriously thought racism had something to do with rakes. I thought this was an anti-leaf raking PSA. What do these people have against raking leaves? I used to wonder. What are we supposed to do with all these leaves?

My dad would go out to the yard on an October Saturday afternoon and I'd say, "I don't know, Dad. The same cartoon that told me to give a hoot and not pollute and to 'do a flip for breakfast' told me what you're doing is bad. When has anything aired during The Banana Splits or Top Cat stirred me wrong?"

I don't know what this says about my upbringing. Shortly after this my dad slapped the taste out of my mouth because I said the word “nigger,” again after hearing it in a commercial and not knowing the connotations of the word. It was another damn anti-racism PSA in which someone could be heard shouting, “Nigger lover! Nigger lover!” So I said it, and lied to my dad, telling him I actually said, “Nugget lovers!” and was having a basketball game inside my head. He didn’t buy it.
I also equated atheism with devil worship, mainly because I saw an MTV interview with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, in which he said he was an atheist. Well, people equated Megadeth with Satan worship, so I thought Satanism and atheism went hand-in-hand. So in my world everyone loved each other and believed in Christ, or they were just evil. Especially if they raked their leaves in the fall.

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