Fiction: The Gray Scare (Pt. 4)

April 5, 1968

Randall Thomas was allowed his freedom.  He hadn’t realized how far from home he was.  The first thing he did was rush to the bus station and before he bought his ticket he found a pay phone.  His wallet had been returned to him, all of crisp bills in place and unmolested.  He stopped a stranger to get change for the pay phone.  Sallie answered on the first ring.  She was frantic and cried at the sound of his voice.

“I’ll explain everything, honey.  I have to get in line for the tickets for the next bus, though.  I don’t have time.  If I miss that one the next bus doesn’t arrive until morning.”

“I’m so glad you’re safe.  I was worried sick.  I’ve been a wreck,” she said.  “Especially after what just happened.”

Randall saw the driver of the single Greyhound in its terminal climb on board and fire up the engine.  He frantically rifled through his wallet to get his money ready for the ticket counter.

“I’ve got to run, honey.  I’ll see you soon.  I should be there at noon tomorrow.  Meet me at the station.  I love you,”  he said.  He hung up the phone and ran to the counter.

Having purchased his ticket he bustled to the bus, buying a newspaper from a stand and tucking it under his arm as he boarded.  Once he was aboard and was assured that he was on his way home he settled snugly into a seat by the window.  He unfolded the paper and read the headline:  “Johnson Proclaims Day of Mourning”.

Randall closed his eyes tight.  He swooned there in his seat.  His heart pounded and he could feel the pressure in his temples.  He opened his eyes and read the headline again and read further:  “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Assassinated”.  He cried, quietly but openly.  He stood and looked around.  Nearly everyone had newspapers in their hands.  He thought to himself that he was the only negro on that bus and felt a sense of excruciating isolation.  Then he noticed his reflection in the window and a strangled, glottal cry stuck half way in this throat.

The other passengers looked at him with mild concern.

“Hey, bub.  Relax.  You motion sick or something?”

“Dr. King,” Randall said in a near whisper.

“Yeh, that’s a shame,” another passenger replied.  “But I tell you this.  If any of those Negroes try to raise Cain on our side of the tracks, I’ll be standing there with a Bible in one hand and a Smith & Wesson in the other.”

Randall slumped back down into his seat, suddenly feeling ill.  He breathed deeply until a wave of nausea passed.  He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and fixated on his hand — his white hand.  He rested his head against the window and slept, dreaming of his parents and his children.

—————–

July 26, 1972 – Transcript: ABC Evening News Hour Round Table Discussion

Host (Jennings):  And here with us this evening we have Randall Thomas.  A very interesting guest with an even more interesting story.  Thank you for joining us Mr. Thomas.
Thomas:  Thank you, Mr. Jennings.

Host:  Also with us is the president of the American Family Institute, Dr. Jim Hanson.  Thank you, Dr. Hanson.

Hanson:  Thank you, Mr. Jennings.

Host:  Gentlemen, let’s cut to the chase.

Hanson:  Let’s.

Host:  Interracial marriage, otherwise known as miscegenation.  Thirty eight states still have laws outlawing interracial marriage.  Five of those states have passed state constitution amendments to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman of the same racial lineage, to paraphrase.  Let’s start with you, Mr. Hanson.  Is that constitutional?

Hanson:  Of course.  Of course, it is.  The states maintain their right to define laws as they see fit and nowhere in the Constitution does it provide, much less address, the so-called right for individuals to marry outside of their race.

Host:  And why, to your organization, is that important?  Why is that an issue?

Hanson:  Well, for a number of reasons.  But first I’d like to say this is not necessarily about race.  I, personally, have many Negro friends even a neighbor.  Our children play together.  They attend the same school.  I’m deeply offended when I’m labed a racist.

Host:  And yet your organization exists for the purpose of keeping the races separate.

Hanson:  In marriage, yes, and romantic socializing.  Look, the Bible clearly states in Exodus, “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee.”  And there are other passages where the Israelites were commanded to not intermingle with the other cultures they encountered.  Clearly, we are intended to procreate within our own race for cultural reasons, and hygiene and health and social order.

Thomas:  Hygiene and health?

[crosstalk]

Host:  Hold on.  One second, Mr. Thomas.  Let Dr. Hanson finish.

Hanson:  Thank you.  The other point I wanted to make is that blacks and whites come from very different cultures and backgrounds.  The divorce rate for interracial marriages is far greater than pure marriages.  The last figure I’ve read was 63% as opposed to 42%.

Thomas:  Can I jump in here?

Host:  Absolutely, Mr. Thomas.  Go ahead.

Thomas:  Dr. Hanson, assuming your statistics are accurate, might that elevated divorce rate be a product of social stress and stigma?  The pressures on interracial couples is a great strain on a family.

Hanson:  That may be, but it doesn’t change the facts.  Interracial unions are weakening the very institution of marriage.  If those who insist on cross breeding are so keen on marriage, then why do they insist on policies that threaten–

Thomas:  The divorce rate for segregated marriages has been on the rise for years.

Host:  That is true, Dr. Hanson.  According to the Census Bureau–

Hanson:  Well, I believe that’s because marriage is being attacked on all sides.  I mean, what comes next?  Look, so-called integrated marriages, as you call them, are a dangerous precedent.  What’s next?  A man marrying another man?  Two women?  A man and a child?

Host:  The slippery slope.

Hanson:  Absolutely.

Host:  So let’s move on to another aspect of this topic, gentlemen.  Mr. Thomas, you were the first successful subject of the Josephson Procedure?

Thomas:  That’s correct.

Hanson:  Playing God.

Host:  One moment, Dr. Hanson.  Mr. Thomas, why did you choose to undergo such a radical and experimental, not to mention highly controversial, medical procedure?

Thomas:  That’s a good question.  I suppose we don’t have time for the long answer.

Host:  Unfortunately, we do not.

Thomas:  Well, the short version is that at the time I believed it would provide me with more opportunity and more license.  Advantages that would allow me to be more successful and to take advantage of privilege that caucasians have enjoyed for centuries.

Host:  You believe that caucasians receive preferential treatment?

Thomas:  Yes.  I do.

Hanson:  That’s poppycock.  I’d like to say that it offends me to hear that.  Our great nation, although not perfect, is founded on equality and equal opportunity.  A true patriot recognizes and takes advantage of — only in America could we even be having this conversation.

Thomas:  Dr. Hanson, with all due respect, I speak from personal experience and that of my friends and family.

Hanson:  Purely anecdotal.

Thomas:  Dr. Hanson, I’m prevented by law from being legally married to my wife of six years.  Even now!  We are still pariahs in so many plaes in this country.  We’ve been kicked out of restaurants, refused treatment at hospitals.  We can’t take advantage of tax benefits and health care for our children–

Hanson:  There are legal means–

[crosstalk]

Host:  Gentlemen, if I may.  One at a time, please.   Dr. Hanson, obviously Mr. Thomas and many others who have even chosen to undergo this genetic transformation to be caucasian are still denied the right to have a white spouse.

Hanson:  As they should be.  These mad scientists are sitting around in their labs playing dangerous games with the very substance of what it means to be a human being.  These people, with all due respect to Mr. Hanson, are still negroes.  Some have chosen to reverse that procedure due to health-related issues.  I mean, hopping back and forth across racial lines doesn’t change a thing.  It’s just a mask.  Whatever whim prompted Mr. Thomas to to undergo the procedure, maybe he’ll have a whim to be a negro again.  And then we’re back at the same issue.

Thomas:  For one, the procedure is permanent.  Maybe in the future it will be possible to do a reversal.  Two, the reversals that did occur weren’t voluntary.  In those cases, the procedure didn’t take.  Three, this has nothing to do with whims.  Race and identity in our society has immense consequences.  I had a great aunt whose complexion was light enough for her to pass as white.  She actually married a white man.  When he found out, he left her.  She was pregnant at the time.  Regardless of her skin color and even white blood in her family tree she was treated as less than human.

Hanson:  Less than human?  I doubt that.  Not in this great nation.  Yes, that is a sad story, Mr. Hanson, but maybe your great aunt shouldn’t have misled her ex-husband to begin with.  You can’t have it both ways.

Thomas:  Both ways?  Here’s both ways.  As a black man, I was expected to remain inside a box.  I was told where I could go and not go, who I could associate with, who I could love, where I could eat or drink or relieve myself.  I could be mistreated and abused and finding justice was often next to impossible.  Now, with all of these technological and medical marvels, where racial identity is fluid, I’m told that even as a caucasian, I’m still a second class citizen because of my innate blackness. I’ve read in magazines and seen on the news white people being genetically altered to have a darker complexion, a permanent tan.  To get rid of freckles.  To change hair and eye color to something more ethnic because it’s exotic or even out of boredom or rebellion.  And yet they are afforded all of the privileges of the caucasian majority.

Host:  What do you have to say to that, Dr. Hanson?

Hanson:  Well, with all of this craziness going on, we have to fall back on our common sense.  You are what you’re born as.  Period.  And marriage and procreation should be intra-racial.  That should be the law of the land.

Host:  And if you’re born interracial?

Hanson:  Well, with the laws on the books as we intend, that won’t be an issue for–

Thomas:  Oh, for the love of– do you honestly believe that your laws are going to prevent people from being with the person they love?  My children are interracial, by your definition.  What kind of world will they live in?  Are they expected to only mate with other interracial children?  Do you intend that they be sterilized like in Nazi Germany?

Hanson:  I said nothing of the sort and I’m offended at the comparison.

Thomas:  How is your organization different from any other eugenics movement?

[crosstalk]

Host:  I’m afraid that’s all we have time for.  Thank you again, gentlemen, for joining us and providing a lively debate.

[end transcript]

—————–

August 2, 1978

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Sallie Mae asked Randall.  “Let’s think about this.”

They lay in bed as the morning sun shone through the southern window and the shadows of the partially closed blinds painted stripes across the bed sheets.

“Yes.  I’m sure.”

“It will be like — how is this different than running away?”

Randall sat up.  “I’m not running away!”

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it that way.”  She massaged his shoulders.

“I just want to be in a place where we’re free.  Where you, me, Jerry and Sue can live our lives in peace.  Away from the media and TV and everything else.  A place where our marriage is recognized.  We’re human beings, goddamnit.”

Sally Mae didn’t say anything.  She rested her head against the back of Randall’s neck.

After a moment passed she said, “We could move to California.  Interracial marriage is legal there.”

“For now.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’ll be on the ballot again.  And again.  I don’t want to have to fight like hell for something that’s ours.  And if we do have to fight I want to do it from the outside in, not from the inside out.  Besides, we’d still be recognized.  A little anonymity wouldn’t be a bad thing right about now.  No more threats.  No rocks through the window.”

There was a rumble in the hallway outside of their bedroom.  The sound of little feet.  Their door swung open, banged against the dresser and Jerry stood there with a mischievous grin.  Sue toddled beside him.

“What’s the rule about closed doors?” Sue Mae asked.

Jerry answered sheepishly, “Always knock first.”

“Well,” Randall said.

Jerry closed the door slowly.  Sue Mae peeked in through the crack the whole way.  “Bye, Mommy and Daddy,” she waved goodbye.

Randall and Sally stifled their laughter as Jerry knocked on the door with his little fist.

Sue Mae shouted, “Can we come in?”

“Come in here, you two,” Randall said.

The children burst into the room and jumped up on the bed between Randall and Sally, jumping up and down and singing “goooood mooooorning”.

Sally looked at Randall, hugged Jerry and Sue tight, and nodded as she kissed each of them on the head.

—————–

January 15, 1984

This is Randall Thomas aka Dad and someday aka Grandpa.  Jerry, I made this video tape for you for when you leave for college.  If you’re seeing this and you’re not in your dorm room on campus somewhere, I’ve either passed on or you snuck into our bedroom and rummaged around in the closet until you found a copy.  In which case, you’re grounded.There are some things I want to explain.  Your mom and I discussed it for years, it seems like, and in the end we decided to do it this way.  We’d like to explain a little about our family tree and why we made some of the decisions we made.  Why we’ve lived in Canada, France, and so many other places.  Why you’ve never met my parents, your grandparents.  Why you have heard rumors about — well, about me and our family.  I’m sorry that we — that I — didn’t tell you this sooner.  I want you to know, though, before I say anything that I love you.  With all my heart.  You’re my — I was about to say “my little man” but you really are a man now.  And taller than me.

Okay.  Here goes. In life, son, you have choices.  You choose what to believe, who to be and how to be.  And there are consequences to those choices.

My real name, my birth name, is Randolph Thomas Jefferson…

the end

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