Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Change is good
One of the deep and abiding memories of my youth is the move from upstate New York to southern Alabama over the holidays of my fifth grade year. The climate, the lifestyle, the culture were all radical changes for me. The four years I lived there were rich and joyful, but I saw the realities of segregation on the Cenntenial of the fighting of the Civil War. Two sides of town, two school districts, two shopping areas, white diners, white swimming pools, white little league and sports, white bowling alleys, white bands, white friends, and of course...white churches.
Racial slurs, racial jokes, racial hatred, combined with a strange affection for the black maids who served in our homes and helped raise us. We borrowed Ula to help mom with the wash and she may have been my first black acquaintance. She had developed a subservient manner that was charming and enabled her to serve as a racial bridge.
We slipped easily into this lifesytle, but even then, something bothered me deeply about it. It would be in that Jr. High and in that home I would witness the assasination of President Kennedy and the harsh entrance into a spiritual shift into an adult world that would include questioning the core values of segregation. Even then I knew this needed to change.