Friday, May 27, 2016

Heavy Locks

I was born in the height of segregation. Casinos in Las Vegas still had a separate entrance for black people, and black people lived in a separate part of the city.

I saw the systemic actions and language of my parents, yet I saw how kind they were to everyone regardless of color. They were more victims of early twentieth century American culture than they were of their hearts. Their good hearts. I saw this contrast even as a little girl. I saw how Dad respected his black employees and his one black friend. Louie Connor even moved into a white neighborhood and Dad went to visit him. Even I sensed the changes. But, I also saw how Grandma moved because her neighborhood culture was changing.

I was in grade school when the city introduced school integration. Either the white children would be bussed to the north or the black children would be bussed to the south. The black children lost the fight and were bussed across town.

It was apparent how different we were and how much alike we were. They were more brave. I couldn't imagine how hard it was to board a bus in the early morning and arrive at a foreign school where I could have been among only a handful of people of the same color. There were only three children in my classroom. We all got along and proved the theories were right. Then why was my integrated high school shut down for a day because of a perceived potential for a race riot?

In the early 1970s, I had two weekend visitors I'd met at tennis camp who came to play in a tennis tournament with me. One of the girls was "Red," I was "Blondie" and Dana was "Brownie." Simple descriptions of our physical presence. Mom and Dad welcomed Brownie, but it was new territory having a black guest. I would have never thought twice about her adorable self being black, except that it was a big deal to Mom and Dad. I think they were proud of me, of themselves and happy things were changing.

So when I meet my daughter's neighbors, and they are black, I realize I am still a product of my upbringing and its unique time period. My daughter didn't even think of mentioning their race and for this I am overjoyed. To further divide the generation gap, she can't believe I even think it's worth mentioning which makes me even happier. Joe and Linda will be closer to my grandchildren than I will ever be and how lucky, my grandchildren are to just love people because they are people, and not to associate them with a race. They are free.

Civil Rights fought for the freedom of black people, but the core of the fight was even greater for the freedom of whites, for prejudice is the prison with the heaviest locks.