I grew up in an all-white neighborhood. It’s not that way now, but it was back in the 1950s and 1960s. My dad got our neighbors all in a tizzy when he would have meetings about civil rights in our dining room. Cars would park at our curb and “colored” people went into our house. There probably is a file in the storage area of the FBI with my dad’s name on it and that makes me proud.
Same dad: when I was selected to play violin in our all-county-orchestra, so was one of my friends. She lived in one of the 8-story apartment buildings which was the model in the 1960s for low income housing. I have to assume that phone conversations between my father and my friend’s mother occurred, because each week we would park, go into the building and up the elevator to get her, returning her a few hours later the same way. I do not remember being afraid, because I was with my dad, and after several weeks the crowd comments changed from something a bit challenging to ones of encouragement for the music.
In 1978 I moved to Memphis, Tennessee to work with an engineering/planning consulting firm. Everyone took lunch at the same time and most people used the 45 minutes to leave the building. I often brought my lunch and sat eating about once a week with three women who were my age. They were the company “gofers” and were surprised I would sit with them. I was, after all, white and they weren’t. I was, after all, educated, and they weren’t. When I found out one woman had never learned to swim we arranged for her to come home with me overnight, and I taught her in my condo complex pool. She was actually shaking before we got there. I assured her I wouldn’t let her drown. No, she was more concerned that the white people would be ugly about her getting into the pool.
In more recent years while my son Sam was running track for his high school, Graham and I enjoyed the 5-hour meets by becoming the team photographers. The other athletes got to know us and trust us over each season and as the years went on, those in Sam’s class cohort because more and more friendly with us old geezers. Two guys in particular came and spent time in our home and one even went on a road trip with us. They shared stories about their lives that opened my eyes. While Sam could go anywhere for his practice runs, these young black men had to be very careful selecting their routes if they ran alone. They were stopped just about every time. They were stopped driving their cars at least once a week. They were pushed and shoved and treated in ways that made no sense at all, especially considering the courtesy they always showed and the way they spoke.
We white people have NO idea how bigotry is so alive and well. Well, maybe you do, because you feel the hate. If you say there is no bigotry, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you can take steps to model tolerance and brotherhood. “Tis the season to start.