Saturday, February 16, 2008


My bank, or one of them, Bank of Oklahoma which I call BOK has a new branch near my new house. Usually I just use the drive through or the ATM. But the other day I had to actually go inside.

It is a nice building and very convenient for me and I'm very happy someone put it here for me. Actually the first thing I noticed about the building was the windows from the outside because I'm buying windows for my house and I notice them right now. I thought they were pretty nice. And then when I got inside I had to look at them from the other side of course. What I noticed though was that the two offices I happened to look at the windows through both had little space heaters on the floor. It was a nice day so the heaters weren't running. But I thought it was a real shame that they spent a fortune on this office and still the offices had to have these little space heaters to keep the people inside warm. I find that irritating.

I walked up to the counter and a young woman greeted me and I handed her my deposits and told her I was to pick up a cashier's check. I noticed she was very young and very pretty and I noticed she was black. But honestly I didn't pay much attention otherwise being rather still occupied in thought about the deficiency of the building's heating system and wondering if it had anything to do with the windows.

Just then another, different young woman appeared to hand me my receipts. She was also very young and very attractive and smaller than the first. And she was also black. I thanked her for my receipts and she turned to leave and I said "wait, I need my cashier's check." She didn't know anything about that she said and would have to check and disappeared behind this screen wall. Soon she left the teller area and I watched her walk around to one of the offices I had noticed with the little heater on the floor. I heard a man say "ask him to come in" and I started towards the voice.

He was a young man but older than the young women. He was quite tall and handsome and he was also black. And we shook hands and I sat in front of his desk while glancing at the heater and then at the windows because I was still wondering about the heating problem. He checked the details of my cashier's check request and did some typing on a keyboard and then excused himself for a minute. I wondered if I could get up and walk over to the windows and then decided maybe that wasn't a good idea in a bank. I did notice the cameras and the alarms and what I figure were panic buttons and so on. I read his title on his nameplate on his desk and he was the assistant manager.

When he returned I told him I was surely happy they had opened this branch and we chatted briefly. I asked where he had been previously and he'd been at another suburban bank as a teller and this spot had opened up and he'd gotten it. I congratulated him and thanked him for his help and assured him I'd see him again which may or may not be true, the latter that is.

It was only this morning that I was thinking about the fact that in this small little branch bank that I had met three employees who happened to be black. Now I am not an ancient man by any means but I am old enough at nearly 60 to clearly remember the days of segregation and overt racism against blacks. I remember Brown vs. Board of Education and sit ins and Little Rock and a bunch of other stuff. I remember when Prentice Gautt became the first black football player at the University of Oklahoma in 1956. He just died in 2005.

I don't want to belabor the subject but I remember clearly a time when it would have been unthinkable and impossible to find three black people working at a bank in Oklahoma City much less for one of them to be the assistant manager.

What I find even more heartening though is that the significance of what I had observed from a racial integration point of view didn't occur to me until the next morning.

I had to contrast that though with a remark I heard the other day from someone who is several decades older about Barak Obama. The remark was that "I wonder if the country is ready for a black president." Never mind that Mr. Obama seems to be running away with the Democratic nomination among both blacks and whites. But I think it is more generational really than it is racist. She just meant that in her experience, in her time really, it is remarkable.

I think Mr. Obama may well be the next president. I am quite certain there will be those who vote against him based solely on race but there will probably be others who vote against him because they don't like his hair cut or his height or something else. And then there will be those who vote for him because of his color and maybe his good looks.

At any rate I think the whole country has really come a long way from where it was in the 1950's of my time and even farther from where it was in the 1920's of my friend's time.

1 comment:

~Betsy said...

Interesting thoughts, Terry. My grandfather was of the generation of your friend. He was born in 1898 and the thought of a black president would have never occurred to him. He, at times, showed a prejudiced side that I really struggled with as a teenager who was just beginning to think for herself. The funny thing - his best friend was black. I swear my grandfather never even noticed!

As for Obama, I think there will be folks who vote against him because he is a smoker. I remember early on in this race when some paparazzi photographer caught him on a beach with his family and he was *gasp* smoking! People went ballistic.

It is stupid to choose a president based on race or gender but far more ridiculous to choose based on the seating choice in a restaurant - smoking or non?