Thursday, October 13, 2011


Gentle Readers,

When I was in second grade in Haven, Kansas -- a town so small it had no traffic lights -- each day when we ran out to recess, Sharon and Ricky took off for the playground, shouting, Eenie Meenie Minie Mo, Catch a tiger by the toe . . . .

Except they didn't say tiger. Although I had never seen a black person face to face, I knew Sharon and Ricky were bad.

One day after recess, I raised my hand and said, Mrs. Snyder, Sharon and Ricky say nigger out on the playground.

Sharon raised her hand and countered with, Lola is a tattle tale.

Mrs. Snyder said, Yes. Lola is a tattle tale.

What? I was only in second grade but I already had a sense of justice. If someone is doing something really wrong, then aren't you supposed to tell an adult?

Sharon and Ricky kept on meenie, minie, moing every day on the playground.

Fast forward a few months and my dad was now stationed in Topeka, Kansas. Soon after we arrived we drove down the main drag in downtown Topeka.

It was the first time I saw real, live black people. And I saw that they were, indeed, people. Just people. Walking along, smiling and talking and laughing.

But my mom said, Look at the niggers walking up the street in their short pants.

I felt sick and embarrassed. This word was wrong and bad, but there was no adult to tell except the offender, and besides, I'd already been labeled tattle tale.

I am a bit ashamed to tell you this story about my mother, but fortunately, she changed for the better.

After I married and my parents moved into a townhouse community with a pool, my children and  I visited during the summer. A black woman was sitting in the shade, watching her grandsons play. When we arrived, she called them out of the pool.

After they left, my mom said, They're the only black people who live here and they always get the kids out of the pool when white people get in. I wish they wouldn't. I don't think anyone would be crude enough to say anything.

It was nice to hear that evidence of my mother's change, but perhaps it never occurred to hear that the grandmother did not get her grandsons out of the pool to avoid offending her white neighbors.

Maybe she didn't want her grandsons in a pool contaminated by white people.

Infinities of love,



  1. I'm always amazed by how old some people have to be before they ponder the truth of what they've been taught. Sadly, many never do. I'm glad your mom caught on.

  2. Yeah many never come around, at least she did.

  3. Honey, I was raised in the South during the 50's and that was the common, accepted word for a group of people. My senior year in high school, 1962 - Go Owls - was the last all-white year. It wasn't until I was in the Navy that I had any contact with blacks. It was a good feeling to have my own opinions confirmed that they were not only human, but smart as hell and excellent leaders. Though racism was rampant even in the Navy back then, I was able to have many back shipmates who I consider friends today. Actually, the movie, Mississippi Burning is so accurate that it is kinda nostalgic for me and the area I was raised in.

  4. I grew up in a small town with no black people but I was mesmerized by them. When I was 3 I told my mom that I didn't want to have white babies because white babies were ugly. I wanted to have black babies because black babies were cute! In the 5th grade, we did have 1 black girl in our school and one day when she was walking behind me some kid told me I was wearing "nigger pants". I was mortified so I told my teacher. My teacher (who had cerebral palsy) told me that if they did that again, I should say "Thank you! What a nice compliment". I didn't feel extremely satisfied with that but luckily it never happened again and the kid got talked to. I still want a black baby but since I'm married to a white husband, we may just have to adopt :)

  5. It always saddens me to hear racial comments coming from children. If they don't change their thinking, they'll most likely grow up empty...and will miss out on being able to fully embrace the world.

  6. Racism is wrong no matter what color you are. I've known so many racist in so many different colors and creed it sickens me. I'm glad your mom learned her lesson. It shows what a great person she is. And yes I am back lady. Thanks for sticking by me during my hiatus. Mom left this morning. It was tough to watch her go.

  7. What a dispute, impressive if you ask me.

  8. You inspired me to write a post. I'll publish it Monday...

  9. That word just sickens me no matter who's saying it. I find it as offensive when a black rapper says it as I do a white racist.

    My husband used to have an uncle that lived in Baton Rouge. A few years back we went to New Orleans and met them at a restaurant. While his uncle didn't use the N word, he did say something that wasn't much better about the black family eating beside us.

    We "northerners" squirmed in our chairs since he was loud enough for the family to hear. No one seemed to notice.

    Unfortunately I think some of those terms are still prevalent in the south.

  10. Rita, I'm afraid you're right, and the N-word is used in other countries too. A British woman with whom we are acquainted used it and when people expressed their shock, she said, Well isn't that what they're called? My ex-husband's great-grandfather lived in a nursing home for a while about 35 years ago. He called the black staff members darkies. Sometimes I wonder how much progress we've really made.



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