On August 13, 2007, I officially started working for Sprinkler Fitters Local 483. I started out as an apprentice, a person who learns a job or skill by working for a fixed period of time under someone who specializes in his or her trade of choice. My apprenticeship was for five years, I was also required to fully complete eight hours of mandatory classroom work per week, and tests were given at the end of each month. My goal was to become a journeyman, an individual who has completed his or her apprenticeship. As my apprenticeship began I was truly overwhelmed at first, but the Lord puts the right people, in the right places, at the right time for me. Rick Woods, a balding, obnoxious, overweight white man was my first blessing, for he took me under his wing. Rick was one of the few people in the trade that was patient with me, he taught me everything he knew, and the belief that Rick had in me was overwhelming. I do not want to get to ahead of myself, for there is another side to Rick, it is his excuse making, non-liable, close minded, inherited white side. Can you imagine some of the colorful conversations that Rick and I had? As a matter of fact, I think this would be an appropriate time to share with you our first conversation as it pertains to our getting to know each other. Before I can begin a working relationship with any white male, I have one question that I need answered, so I asked Rick…
Me: Do you have a problem working with a Black man?
I asked Rick that question to see how quick he was mentally, for his response will tell all. Does he take time to think before he speaks? Does he take my questioning him defensively, or does he tell me what he thinks I want to hear? When I asked Rick that question his response was quick, but not rushed…..
“I am a white republican married to a woman of Asian descent, and I have no problem working with a Black man. But what I do have a problem with is your inquiry, as I now feel the need to ask you the same question.”
He then proceeded to ask without hesitation….
“Do you have a problem working with a white republican that is married to a woman of Asian descent?”
My reply was quick and to the point….
“No, but I would like to state for the record that counter questions are mainly used for investigation or interrogation purposes, which of the two are you using, or is it both?”
We both looked at each other and laughed, we then proceeded to introduce ourselves in a more traditional manner…..
My name is Damon O’Bannon, and it is truly a pleasure meeting you.
“My name is Rick Woods, and it is truly a pleasure meeting you as well.”
Rick and I have been friends for over twelve years, and if I ever needed this “white man” for anything, I can call on him.
“Just like all Blacks are not criminals, all white people are not racist.”
Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.