Friday, January 20, 2023


By Tim Rohr

I began this post in my head on Martin Luther King Day, when, on or about the same day, a Facebook memory jumped out at me of something that happened to one of my daughters several years ago. 

In fact, here it is:

I had a good laugh at the time, but I'm glad I saved it as a memory since it is a memorial to how my wife (who is of African descent ) and I chose to raise our children. 

In fact, at least from what I can recall, it was never even a choice. We (and I am of European and Mexican descent) never thought or spoke of race. We were just people and our children were just children. 

But living and growing our family in Guam helped - where everybody is a "mix up mix up" (to quote a Bob Marley song).

Jessica's hair, like most of our six daughters (and our five sons), was like her mother's. So the "Black guy" asked "you African American?"

Knowing my daughter Jessica, I can just see her face. This was probably the first time she was asked if she was "African American" and "why your hair look like dat?" 

Jessica probably rolled her eyes in shy disbelief and discomfort before however she answered - which unfortunately was not recorded as part of the FB memory. 

I was raised in Los Angeles, which is pretty much a "mix up mix up" place, and I myself am a "mix up," the product of a German father and a Mexican mother, though both were fifth generation American and neither knew hardly a word of German or Spanish. 

My wife was raised in the Caribbean, which is probably the most "mix up" place in the world - which is why it has produced the most unique culture and some of the world's most beautiful people - not to mention the world's fastest sprinters (Jamaica!). 

Because of where we were raised, even on the opposite ends of the continent, neither of us ever really experienced hard racism, so we were in for a bit of a surprise after we married and first moved to a town in northern Florida in the mid 80's. 

It took me a while to figure out what was going on but after attempting for several days to find a home to rent after we arrived there - and being turned down several times - I finally figured out why (in that town) black people lived on one side of the (railroad) tracks and white people on the other. Literally. 

Finally, one landlady hit me over the head with the racist reality when she told me that she couldn't rent to us "because of the Klan." I don't think there was any threat from "the Klan," but she used it to scare us away because denying us a lease on the basis of race would have gotten her in legal trouble. 

We found a place about 10 miles out of town and we were somewhat happy - even though it meant I had to ride my bicycle 10 miles to work every day since I had no money to gas up the little Datsun truck that had gotten us to that town from the opposite coast. 

While living there, I recall a couple of fun "racist" facts. 

My wife was attending school in that town and one day when I went to pick her up I heard one of her fellow students shout: "You married to a WHITE MAN?!!!!" LOL. Yes. She was. 

But my wife was from the Caribbean where everybody was married to everybody and where white people and black people did not live on opposite sides of the "tracks" as they did in that north Florida town. In fact, in those islands, there were no "tracks." We had a good laugh and went home.

Sometime later I was at a laundromat in that same town. I was folding diapers on a table and my very black first-born son was sitting on the same table. As I was in the black part of town (the other side of the tracks) and obviously a white man (though I'm a bit brown) with a black baby (my one year old son), we were an object of suspicion and one of the black ladies watching me apparently called the cops. 

The cops showed up and wanted to know what I was doing with this black boy (Timmy).  I explained that my wife was black, that this "black boy" was my son, and that these were his diapers. The cops smiled and went away. 

Anyway, within a few months, I got a job offer in Guam and we packed up and moved to literally the other side of the world where we lived for THIRTY-FIVE YEARS and raised TEN more children after "Timmy."

Thank you Guam for giving my family the opportunity to just be...well, Guamanians, and not black, white, or whatever. 

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