Today would have been my father’s 107th birthday.
He was German.
He risked his life to leave Berlin and come to New York City during Hitler’s rise to power.
When the U.S. entered World War II, he joined the American army and was sent to the Philippines.
He always retained a slight accent though he couldn’t hear it himself. There must have been prejudice. There had to have been prejudice. And after the war, that prejudice must have carried on for decades.
Anyone who knew my father knew he was a gentle, intelligent man, but those who pre-judge by an accent or an origin would have been cruel.
I never saw prejudice, never heard stories of ill-will or bigotry. Never heard resentment in my father’s tone. But I have come to know people, how harsh they can be, and looking back as the adult I am now, I know that discrimination must have been lurking in the sidelines for most of his life.
My father raised me to judge people on their own merits, or better yet, not to judge them at all. He was always fair, kind, thoughtful, and optimistic. He would be sad that we still haven’t learned the lesson of tolerance, but he would have been hopeful – no, confident – that someday we will.