Bruce Kravitz is the Community Education Director at AGE. In addition to helping caregivers find resources and information in the Caregiver Resource Center, each Monday and Friday, he facilitates meetings for men who attend Elderhaven of Travis County, our Adult Day Program. During the hour long sessions, they have serious as well as humorous discussions about aging, romance, health, politics, religion, sports, and whatever strikes their fancy that day.
In today’s meeting of the men of Elderhaven Adult Day Program, we discussed racism and how it has affected them personally over the years. Our Latino and African-American men told first-hand stories of how they personally experienced direct discrimination in being denied jobs, promotions, or were given the most difficult or mind-numbing tasks to perform. They had to sit at the back of the bus, sometimes were denied service in restaurants, or weren’t allowed to stay at certain hotels. Dating somebody in a different race was not allowed, or at least wasn’t worth the risk of almost certain harassment. Most of these incidents happened long ago and most of the men agreed that the situation these days in the United States has improved greatly for minorities and people of color. However, a majority of the men of color in our group still believes that discrimination exists today, but that it has become less obvious and usually occurs in isolated, low-profile incidents. The Caucasian men in the group had seen discrimination become less obvious over the years and did agree that it probably still existed. However, they were quick to point out that we now have an African-American President as our leader and that was solid proof of how long we’ve come as a culture towards allowing anybody to ascend to positions of power. Throughout the meeting, the discussions were polite and the men seemed especially willing to allow others to finish speaking before sharing their feelings. However, there were a few times of silence when somebody finished recounting a particularly painful incident. Near the end of the meeting, friendships between the men were still solid but I could tell that the issue of racism was still a touchy and sometimes, uncomfortable, subject. We finished the day’s discussion talking about sports, a much lighter subject.