A barely tolerable time for learning.
Friday, Apr. 04, 2003 - 8:22 a.m.
In the summer of my sixth year of life, as I said earlier, I was living at the edge of a river that led into Mobile Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
My immediate family consisted of my father, and myself, with no other family living in Alabama at that time.
Every water fountain in town had a sign attached to it that said white only, or colored only. And from what I have come to understand, the folks that did this signage considered themselves to be quite the humanitarians as there were fountains available for the coloreds.
Colored...that is what they called black people or negro. Once again, that was a time where calling this race of people was considered a nice thing, compared to what they were often openly called by some.
I usually avoid labeling a race of people unless what I am saying demands it. I know when it comes to the hmm shall I say black race, there have been a few different labels used for them in my lifetime. So I am really not quite sure what term is appropriate.
Most restaurants were white only, with a very few exceptions, and ones for non whites were usually in an area of town called the nigger district by whites.
I had feedback from one side only, and did not even know any of this was a problem for anyone. That is just the way life was, and at six, I suppose had I thought about it, I would have thought that everyone lived and felt as I did.
I was curious whenever I would see black folks, and of course I would look at the boys and girls, and usually smiles were exchanged between us, though it was never acceptable to talk with them, and so they were as curious as I.
We by law did not attend the same schools, so there was never any contact with them for me. They all lived in one area of town, and I now know that was enforced by death by hanging in the night, with no appeals. I was not aware of that at the time, and thought they were probably feeling like me, or at least I suppose I did. I don't really remember.
It was that summer that my education about this race was started. I learned that they were like a different species somewhere between apes and my kind. Not quite human, though capable of many things that humans were.
I had no reason to doubt that at the time, as they certainly looked a lot different than us, and they did not live with us, and then a strange thing happened. My father needed someone to watch me while he was at work. And someone to fix food, and take care of the house, and wash the clothes, and so on and so on.
He hired a woman to take care of me, and she was black. Very black. In skin color I mean. I was utterly fascinated by this close contact with a forbidden animalistic creature.
I do not remember her name, though I remember her asking me to read stories to her from the magazines and books that filled our home. It was the first time I was aware of an adult that could not read. I had been taught to read by my mother long before my memory is able to go back, and thought all creatures on the planet could read. Well at least the human ones. So perhaps these semi people were incapable of learning to read and write.
I felt very special that I was able to read to someone who could not. And she made me feel special in so many ways besides that.
She quickly knew my likes and dislikes, and made me little presents at her house that she would give to me.
I was shown love from her, and kindness, and I quickly forgot that she was not as human as was I.
We picked her up in the morning and dropped her off at night at her house on a dirt road in the middle of a great swamp area. Her house was on stilts, and very little around it was dry, just little bits and pieces of dry ground surrounded by water.
There seemed to be a large group of children playing outside every night when we dropped her off.
She told me how many children she had, and all their names, and birthdays. I cannot remember any of that information now.
After what must have been a few weeks, she told me of an upcoming birthday for one of her children, and I asked if I could come to the party. She told me something to the effect that my father might not approve of it. After all, it was our secret that we hugged, and held hands when we walked sometimes.
Apparently physical contact with this race of people somehow would contaminate my race. And I learned something about racial hatred and racial discrimination that summer. She did not smell bad like I had been told. And she was very clean I thought.
And she was intelligent without knowing how to read. And she knew how to comfort, and tell stories, and she valued her family. And she caved in to my begging, and she asked my father if I could come to her childs party.
And she was fired, and I never saw her again, and it seemed as if that summer was to be as the spring had been. A time of disappearances of people that felt comfortable, and good for me to be with.
A time to be hit, and questioned with an unending stream of questions about what terrible things that she had said and done to me. A time to out of desperation craft a confession that would be acceptable and yet not harmful to myself or others.
A time to make vows to never be like him, and defy in secrecy every possible demand that was placed on me. A time for me to begin learning to decide for myself what was and was not true in the world.
For the ultimate authority in my life revealed himself to be flawed in his venemous verbal attacks on a person that I witnessed with my heart to be untrue.
A time to learn tolerance by witnessing a brutal lack of it in all it's ugliness and untruths.
Eventually to even include my learning to be tolerant of authority. Ah, yes intolerance discovered in myself. How very unsettling.
Racism...intolerance...I can barely tolerate it.
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Indy - Friday, Dec. 11, 2009
ain't that a bitch - Tuesday, Apr. 07, 2009
Did I say Lapse of time? - Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009
Looks like Saskatchewan to me - Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008
- - Monday, Nov. 17, 2008