my “black” brother

You think I jest? I wish I were.

My brother Ed was mistaken for a black man as he earned his keep with JOB CORPS, a federally funded government program for underprivileged youth. It didn’t help that his skin had turned its deepest shade of brown while digging ditches on the island of Kauai.

Entrance sign to the Red Rock Jobs Corps Cente...

Entrance sign to the Red Rock Jobs Corps Center in Colley Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As he traveled on the mainland working temporary jobs during the 1960s, Ed was forced to sit in the back of the bus and use public restrooms designated…”blacks.”

Small wonder then, that my brother came to feel a strong kinship with African Americans. I don’t think he ever anticipated having to choose between the races, but since the choice was made for him, he embraced the black culture. And it embraced him right back.

Ed married into a black family, eventually fathering a daughter and a son. My husband and I witnessed first hand the loving warmth so readily offered by my brother’s extended family. They accepted us too as though we were…their own. I vividly recall…the laughter…the light-hearted teasing…the delicious aromas…the shared conversations of a family…not unlike the one in which I grew up. 

Some 40+ years after moving to the mainland, Ed remains loyal to folks who welcomed him with open arms, loving him as a son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle and father.

People, no matter the color of their skin, want the same thing…a job, a home, a family, and a life free of suppression. And with each new dawn…hope is rekindled that all these are possible.

Ed served in Vietnam, an experience which more than likely compounded his distrust of the status quo. Can you blame him?

You can rest assured my brother is no shrinking violet. Having earned a black belt in karate, he is as steely on the inside as he is on the outside. Like fathers everywhere however, Ed’s soft spot is his children.

Growing up black in America remains a hurdle which must be navigated with adroitness. Knowing my brother as I do, Leilani and Chris have had a determined master lead them through the thickets of racial prejudice with stealth and imagination. 

My heart swells with pride when I recall all that Ed has had to overcome to own a small piece of the American dream. He may have gone the route less traveled, but he…

…let his heart lead the way…



6 thoughts on “my “black” brother

  1. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be in the middle of prejudice. I stand on the outside, trying to tune out the negative chatter that flows everywhere about racism. I had a feeling we all are a little jaded when it comes to other races, other people, other ways. Maybe it’s the way we were brought up. Or the way our parents were brought up. Or the memory of one person who messed up our life. But I am so happy to see that there ARE those who jump those fences and show us what love is all about. You have a great brother. (And look at the family he shares!)


    • My brother and I live totally different lives. College made the difference, I think. And the fact that I’m female. Being male meant my brother had to literally pull himself up by the bootstraps, especially when he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He’s shier than I, so that probably also made a difference. He seemed to have a lot of strikes against him from the outset. The fact that he has arrived at where he is…still working at the same computer job for 45 years or so…and counting…is a tremendous credit to himself.

      I too remain on the periphery of the racist discussion, although I’m conscious that I’m brown-skinned. I must admit to being extremely hesitant about venturing too far into areas of the south for fear I’ll be badly treated, or ignored altogether. So I too feel that my world has boundaries based upon race, in addition to those everyone else shares. We all must do what we can…with what we’ve been given.


    • Insight and wisdom born of hard luck and naivete. My brother took what fate meted out and created the best life possible. He rarely, if ever, complains. He just…hunkers down. He does laugh a lot…thank goodness! 🙂


hugs for sharing some brief thoughts...and keeping them positive

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