My mother died on Winter Solstice. Months later, the family gathered to go through her remaining things. Some costume jewelry, old mementos and the like.
Among her things were some photographs from my father. Photos from his enlisted days. World War Two. Men on military equipment. Men climbing palm trees. Hanging out. Friends at beaches.
Photos I’d never seen before.
My siblings were around me, looking through the assorted objects set out on long tables, going through my mother’s other things. In that moment, it was as if I was alone in the room, surrounded by the detritus of a life lived long, lived well. Surrounded by some things that would be treasured, and others that would be thrown away.
Because that’s what life is: an odd collection. An assortment of things, only some of which have value to the living. Some of which had value only to yourself. And you’re gone now.
Flipping through these photographs, one startled me so much I almost dropped it. It wasn’t my father. It wasn’t anyone I knew. But it was one of the photos from World War Two. From the Pacific theater.
The fading black and white picture clearly illustrated some military talent show. A thing to entertain the soldiers in their free time in the midst of a harrowing war. A war that would leave some of them, like my father, alcoholics, not quite recovering from all that they had seen or done.
But I’m dancing around this thing held in my hands. This photograph.
The person on the makeshift stage was a white man. Wearing black face. [Read more…] about The Photograph: On the Banality of Racism