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.
December 6, 2014 at 8:23 am
Well said! I’m living abroad now (an American in the U.K.), so I’m following the news from a long way away, but it heartens me to read about the demonstrations sweeping the country in response to the killings of young black men and the refusals to indict the policemen who killed them.
December 6, 2014 at 8:31 am
I have a friend who is living in Croatia and she had missed some of this news. Her comment: There may be times when she is frustrated by what she calls the “1950s mentality” in Croatia where women are definitely second class people but she does not miss this kind of turmoil. In the UK you have other issues; I was startled on our last visit how many cameras were poised above the street watching It seems we all have concerns in our locations where somehow the rights of the individual vs society’s safety at large has become ugly.
December 7, 2014 at 6:05 am
December 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm
December 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm
It appalls me how people have NOT spoken about the child that was shot, and blame the other two by their illegal actions for their own demise. The have not yet made the connection that there own kith and kin who are in prison were not murdered by the police for crimes of more consequence. Not me, not mine, not my (what’s the new expression now?’ monkey.
December 5, 2014 at 9:04 am
Great post, Beth. You’d think things might have improved by now, but we seem to be going backward.
December 5, 2014 at 9:13 am
I don’t know about backward….What I think is we now have laws that acknowledge equal rights under the law, but people in power have always kept “different” people out and in recent years a lot of effort has been made to give a “us versus them” spin to news stories. People tend to be confused that I can be angry at the way people demonstrate (the looting for example is NOT a demonstration) but understand it.