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Recognizing American racist attitudes in Florence, Italy

Recognizing American racist attitudes in Florence, Italy
Photo by Studio Berneis, Munich, Germany

Photo by Studio Berneis, Munich, Germany

 

In writing my recent book, Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity (Kindle) or Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity, I tell the story of growing up within a culture and a race that was different to my own. Here’s an excerpt:

When insulting situations happened, which was seldom, it took time before I realized what was going on; that is if I became aware it was directed at me in the first place. As was the case one early evening when Fred and I were vacationing in Florence. We had finished sipping espressos at a Café on the Piazza della Signora and were strolling arm in arm along a narrow medieval street. We noticed two American couples on the other side of the alley. They were looking in our direction and seemed to be talking about us. We were accustomed to people finding us interesting and sometimes recognizing us because of our professions.

This time Fred was unusually aware of the foursome whose curiosity we had aroused. When one of the men crossed the street and came toward us, Fred left me and began to walk in his direction. Then I heard him say: “Mind your goddamn business, buster! This is Europe!” As if zapped by lightning, the man stopped in his sneakers. His chalky face, including his big ears, turned crimson. He spun around on his heels and quickly rejoined his companions. They exchanged a few huddled words and left in the opposite direction to where we were going.

“What, for heaven’s sake, was that?” I demanded of Fred.

“I was aware of those Southerners eyeing us and commenting about us in the Café,” Fred said seething under his breath. “They’ve been following us, and that particular jerk was up to no good.”

“I don’t think they meant anything,” I said, shrugging.

“Nope,” Fred countered, gently placing his arm around my shoulder. “I actually overheard those miserable redneck bastards!”

“Don’t get all worked up about it,” I looked at him and noticed how his eyes turned gray when he was angry.

“It’s okay now,” Fred said as we watched them walk away. We turned, and arm in arm resumed our stroll and our romantic evening. Years later I learned what redneck meant.

There was much laughter in our seemingly carefree view of the world, and have gathered a collection of stories we call ‘remember whens.’ Our many separations – a feature in the life of performers – kept us in the state of honeymooners when we were together.

Read more: Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity (Kindle) or the book Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity.

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