Or, perhaps, not? I was.
Hard to say. I started first grade the first year the Mexicans were integrated. I was instructed to go somewhere else if anything happened. Nothing happened that I knew of. I never heard anything said against Mexicans at home. My father spoke fluent cowboy Spanish. We didn’t have enough black people to generate much prejudice.
The first year, in the 1920s, when blacks were able to vote in the Democratic Primary in Texas, my father was chief election judge. A delegation came to him and said, “We hear the n——s are going to try to vote. What are you going to do about it?” My father replied, “The law says they can vote. We are going to vote them.” and that was the way it was.
Years ago, my mother remarked, “if a black man is working for you, he gets the same food as everyone else. Of course he eats out in the yard.” A few years later, she said it again, but the second sentence was, “Of course he eats on the porch.” Then again. a few years later, ‘Of course he eats at the table with everyone else.” Evolution, I suppose.
If I didn’t behave, the black guy who begs on the street was going to put me in his bag and run away with me. I wasn’t told what he’d do with me and I always wondered what new places I might see. The guy seemed to think it was pretty funny when I asked him if he really did put kids in his bag and run away with them.
Here in Austin, TX, I have never seen a Hispanic on a corner begging. And very few blacks. I think the percentage of female white beggars has increased in the last year or so.
As a black child, I was the recipient of mostly overt racism. My parents never gave me the tools to figure out what was happening. If it got back to them, they always put a stop to it, but I was never told WHY it was occurring. I figured it out as an adult. My parents felt that everyone should be just be raised as a human, (they used to make the doctors scratch out the word ‘negro’ in my medical charting). Therefore I was not given the tools to deal with the racism I encountered. I had to figure it out on my own.
My early childhood neighborhood was very ethnically mixed. It was as close to rural as you can get without being in the country, just off the banks of the Fraser River in South Vancouver back in the ’50s. We had Chinese truck farms, natives, East Indians, and Japanese (recently back from the Internment camps and trying to resurrect their fishing livelihoods.) There were probably more but that’s what I remember – was taught to treat all as equals.
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A novel by Greg Laden ...
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