The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington, DC, is coming up in September and Carole Boston Weatherford is going to be my guest blogger to promote her latest book. This spurred me to think about the changes I’ve seen in our society.
Social justice has changed significantly since I was young. Maryland schools weren’t integrated until 1958, when I was a junior in high school. And then we only had two very brave African-American boys join our midst, plus my homeroom teacher was black.
I remember having arguments with prejudiced kids in my school about whether it was okay for black and white kids to mix. I argued that it was okay and, indeed it did turn out to be okay. Mainly the white kids with an attitude stayed away from the black kids. I invited the two boys to join the Library Club as their extracurricular activity–we all had to have one. They accepted my invitation, though I don’t know if was because of a general interest in libraries or because no other club was inviting them. They were nice boys, understandably quiet, but I don’t know what they did after high school.
I grew up having black maids who were all very kind, although the one we had in California when I was 4 or so, scared the bejeesus out of me. My three siblings and I did what ever she wanted us to do. She wasn’t mean to us, just stern and very tall in my 4-year-old eyes.
After California, we moved east to the Washington, DC, area and I spent most of my childhood in a charming little town that is now surrounded by suburban sprawl. Until the middle 60s the town was pretty much lily white, expect for Guy who lived catty corner to our house.
Back in the 1930s, there was an encampment of Negros at the base of our town’s big hill. Guy, who wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, wandered up and was befriended by the Defendorf family. They gave him a place to live on their property and cared for him as long as he lived. In exchange, he did chores for them. He was always nice to us kids, though he could talk your ear off.
My mother tried to raise us to treat everyone fairly. At that she did a good job, but even so, bias does creep in. I tend to go over backward to take African-Americans’ side in contentious issues. But some black people are up to no good, just as are some white people or Asian people. We all need to recognize and see people for who they really are, not by the color of their skin.
So have we reached racial equality in this country, or is it still to come? Things are better now, I think, but until we have equal pay, equal schools and equal justice for all our citizens, I don’t think we there yet.
Please let me know what you think. And may life treat you fairly. Sarah