I grew up in Greenville South Carolina. I lived there 22 years of my life. Our parents were good loving people. When I was a child my family lived on the corner of an active street and an area designated for “colored” people to live. We had a very nice older, African American couple who lived behind us. We all spoke to him and found him to be a kind, gentle gardener.
I grew up in the 50’s about the time Reverend Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement was beginning. Desegregation in schools began in 1954 when I was only 3 years old.
I did not understand what was going on afterwards because I was only 5 or there about when the movement was beginning to make the newspapers. I remember riding the bus with my mother and the dark skinned people sat in the back. I just accepted that was the way it was, since I was so young.
There were no black kids in school until I started junior high school in the 1960’s after desegregation. Our high school was Wade Hampton High School, named after a Confederate Lieutenant General. There were a few more black students in my class and one was a well liked young man who was the team mascot, the “General.”
Only recently did I learn that this general was one of the largest slave holders in the Southeast. Curiously that bit of information was never mentioned. But our school mascot was “The General.” Interestingly I remember only a few black students there through my sophomore, junior and senior years.
So you can see my life was still quite segregated from African Americans. At the time I didn’t think anything about it. But thankfully in church Sunday School we sang the song, “Jesus loves the little children.”
Jesus loves the little children; All the children of the world. Red and yellow, Black and white. They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
I grew up embracing that song, and with the upbringing of love and acceptance of other people, no matter where they came from or what race they were. Because I knew God loved everyone no matter who they were, what color their skin, hair or eyes were. He loves everyone.
I learned the song’s lesson well and took it to my heart. My mother told me a story about when I was 4 or 5 years old. There was a parade passing by on on the street. I found myself standing in front of Moma beside a little black girl. I guess we had been talking or enjoying the parade together. But Mother told me we two little girls were both excited about a float or something coming down the street. In the excitement that we shared I put my arm around her shoulders as we jumped up and down in excitement. I did not stop to think she was different or had dark skin. She was just another little girl like me.
I still remember the hope and joy I felt in the 1980’s when as I rode by a picnic table, I saw two couples who were obviously friends, having a picnic. The black lady was holding the white woman’s baby as she talked to the white lady. I will never forget that scene. I thought to myself how wonderful to see two couples with no prejudice, enjoying each other’s company.
I have seen precious pictures recently of black and white kids playing together, leaning on each other. My heart swells with hope that this young generation will be the ones who grow up with less, or hopefully, no prejudice. The children of today are tomorrow’s adults. They are our future as long as the parents don’t teach them to hate or fear people who are different from them.
I lived in New Orleans for 8 years. There no one cared what race you were, or even what you did for a living because there were many black, white, Asian, Italian and all other races there. I saw African American business men and women dressed handsomely. Nobody looked twice at them because it was a common sight! Bi-racial marriages were also accepted from what I could tell in the late 1970’s.
In 1980-1981 my husband and I moved from New Orleans to a little town in Mississippi where my husband taught at a small junior college. I was standing in line at a grocery store behind an elderly black lady. She turned around and saw me and moved aside for me to get ahead of her. Only then did I see what was going on. I thanked her and told her she was fine where she was. “Go ahead and stand where you were. It’s okay.”
I saw a movie theater that was closed but had entrances marked White and Colored, one door for each race. These two instances were culture shock to me after living in New Orleans!
I want to love everyone. I can not fathom white people treating African Americans or any people like that. I was not raised like that. After all God made us, whatever method He used. He doesn’t see skin color. He cares about the heart of each person. I doubt that God ever said, “You White people are the only people who are special!” If God loves everyone then we should too.
An acquaintance of mine kept asking me, “Why do they have to keep bringing up the past all the time!?” I think I know now! I hope she knows too. I wanted to believe that racism was gone. That all the hatred would be gone since the Civil Rights Movement. Even though some things may have changed; racism still exists. I just pray that it really will continue to get better!
We should all remember too that our ancestors: Scottish, Irish, Chinese; Italian, and/or Native American and others. Each was persecuted because of religious beliefs, their differences, their religion, their culture or inability to “conform” to the cultural expectations of those who came from the other side of the world!
Let’s try to learn something from all of this. Let’s hope and pray that the hate, prejudice, fear and misunderstanding will dissolve so we can see each other as human beings with the same challenges, education, same kinds of jobs, and have the same kind of compassion for everyone that we should be have now.