Election day musing — Who did he think I saw?
I have often thought of him since that day in 1962. Does he remember? Has he ever thought of me?
Who did he think he saw that day? Who did he think I saw?
Sitting in the Registrar’s office in Front Royal, VA across the desk from a man whose expression was at best skeptical. Answering his queries concerning who I was, where I lived, how old I was and how could I prove these things. All good questions needed for registration a voter in Warren County, VA.
Then there were questions about where I worked.
“A. S. Rhodes Elementary School”
Where I was from
“Born in Harrisonburg, VA”
These and other non-necessary quizzing that seemed aimed at knowing if I was the ‘right’ kind of person to vote there in that county which had fully embraced “massive resistance” to Brown vs. Board of Education.
Obviously Rhodes Elementary a public school scored low compared to John Mosby Academy where white children had been educated while black children left the county for other states or grew up without formal education. That alone was a ‘suspicious’ mark on my qualifications I am sure.
It was unpleasant but not threatening with my 22 year old bravado assuming that I knew everything and could do anything. After all, hadn’t I graduated just weeks before with my Bachelor of Arts?
I walked out of that office, registration card in hand to see in the waiting room a man about my age waiting to be the next to claim his right to choose those who represented him. Our eyes met and my whole mind shifted. I had only squirmed at the audacity of my minor interrogation and here was a man who perhaps held his life in his hands as he approached this same room.
Who did he see?
Was I another face of those who had forbad those in his family from entering school for the past years? Did I look like the face of someone who would say ‘no’ to him?
Did he ever imagine that I wanted to rush to him and encourage him with the words, “They didn’t want me either, but I got my card. Go for it! I am behind you all the way.” Did he know that if I did that it was possible he would have an even harder time than if I merely nodded and walked out the door?
Who did he think I saw as our eyes met?
I saw the future filled with hope. I saw bravery far beyond any I have ever exhibited in my life. I wish he could know. I wish we could talk.
Today standing in line with many whose enfranchisement he may have helped make possible, I wanted to thank him and say with words what I saw that day and that I will never forget him.