An Evening at the Rose Garden

Roger Porter

May 9, 2011

One place that I like to visit when I need to reflect is the Piedmont Rose Garden. I tend to go there in the late afternoon on days that I feel like my day job has taken up way too much of my day. I sit within close proximity of the waterfall and begin writing in my notebook. Not that I can’t write anywhere else because I definitely can. It’s just the dynamics of that place that inspire me to think deeply even when I don’t necessarily want to.

The city of Piedmont represents segregation at its finest. It is a small white affluent town that is surrounded by Oakland on all sides. If one were to look at it on a map, then one would see that technically it should be a part of Oakland. It’s a little white island in a black see, an island of sanity I suppose. Or maybe one can look at it as one of the last surviving white settlements before the Negroes ran-a-muck. No matter how you see it, every American city that has experienced white flight has one. We tend to think of racism and segregation as something relegated to the South but that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is true that when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was asked to name the most hostile place in which he had ever tried to march for desegregation he answered Chicago—not Selma, not Birmingham, and not Memphis. It is also true that the transit cop who killed Oscar Grant was found innocent on charges of manslaughter, even though the prosecution had it on tape, in Los Angeles, CA—not in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Tennessee.

So I go to the rose garden to try to put things in perspective. The same rose garden that I just learned about a few years ago after living in the general vicinity my whole life. I come cloaked in the mortal sin of envy. But I do not envy any man; instead I envy the roses that bloom every spring while the human race remains closed all year round, and I envy the water for always finding a way to flow downstream while man remains so still.

To put it simply I go to the rose garden because I am obsessed with contradictions. Contradictions like a bright sun in an otherwise dark ghetto, people who use the word justice to describe murder, and roses that grow to be so beautiful in such a hideous world. I write until the sun inexorably sets then I leave, refusing to write under the manmade lights because they are too dim.

I touch a few rose petals on my way out put I never pick one. Over the years I have learned how to show my love from a distance.

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