Thursday, November 8, 2018

Election Day (Ann)

The midterm elections happened two days ago, and we've all been getting letters, ads, and text messages about how important it is to vote. For a lot of us young, privileged folks, its easy to forget that the right to vote was hard won. Women's Suffrage in the United States of America only started in 1920. Black Men were legally granted the vote in 1863, but Jim Crow laws were soon put into place to keep them from voting. These practices weren't made explicitly illegal until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During World War II, several German and Japanese Americans were stripped of their citizenship and shipped to internment camps. Even the concept of people voting for an elected official is fairly modern, considering that was one of the first rules established in the United States' government after centuries of rule under the English Royal family. Voter suppression has become more overt over the past few years as well, and permanent residents--who cannot vote--are particularly vulnerable to the whims of our government.

You may disagree on how much influence one person's vote can have, but you must always remember how hard everyone fought to get that right, and how hard we fight now to maintain it. In honor of that, I'm posting this story about an older bud's fateful meeting with a future elected official.
Ann Von Dehsen
The Summer of ‘69

In 1969, I had graduated from high school and my sister had graduated from college. My parents made the decision to downsize and move from our house to an apartment. We lived in Harrington Park, NJ, an upper middle class suburb of New York City. Harrington Park had a lot of trees, a lot of leaves, and a lot of white people. In fact, it had only white people. So the house was put on the market and sold in a matter of days. Hours after hearing the good news, my father got another call from the realtor who was close to tears. “I’m so sorry Mr. Von Dehsen,” she said, “but your house was actually sold to a black family!” She said she had told the family there had been a mistake and the house was sold.
Housing discrimination was at its worst in those days and people often worked with civil rights organizations and ACLU members. Often a white couple was sent in, to look at a house, representing a black family. This is apparently what had happened. My father was furious, but for all the right reasons. “First of all, call the family back and tell them the truth” – the house was not sold and he happily accepted their offer. At this point, he was screaming and said “Furthermore, you and your agency are fired!” I was always proud of my father but to me, that was his proudest moment.
My parents told our immediate neighbors who were supportive and looked forward to meeting them. However, word spread quickly through town and we started receiving horrible racist phone calls from unknown people. It got so bad that my sister and I were no longer allowed to answer the phone.
Meanwhile, my father invited the buyers over as well as the neighbors. They arrived with a baby and toddler in tow. Their last name was Booker and the baby’s name was Cory, the current senator of New Jersey.
Years later, my father proudly followed Cory’s career when he became Mayor of Newark and was able to right so many wrongs. At one point, my father said, “I predict Cory will be the first black president.” Of course we know that didn’t happen and my father is long gone, but I hope Cory Booker will become the next black president. When that happens, my sister and I plan on making a trip to the White House.

I hope everyone reading this went out and did their civic duty on Tuesday. And I hope you'll all continue to do so in every election to come.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri