Monday, September 3, 2012

Remembering Jim Crow

As a young white child growing up in New Orleans in the 50's & 60's, a surprisingly non-racist city in the South, I wasn't subjected to any racist indoctrination at home. The first experience with racism I can remember is about 4 or 5 years old, while at the J.C. Penny store downtown where my Grandmother worked security. I was thirsty, so made for the water fountains. I saw one marked "white" and the other marked "colored." Being a precocious young thing, I thought "I have 'white' water all the time at home, Ohh! Let me try some of that 'colored' water, thinking something like kool-aid was going to come!

Instead, a pinch-face, old hag of a clerk was grabbing me up by the shirt back and dragging me off to find my parents, for an offense that to this very day, I can't believe. She was adamant in her criticism of me for drinking from the "wrong," fountain, and indignant with my mother's apologies. In a departing huff, she told my mother to make sure and teach me these things, and how I'm supposed to behave in public.

Now, I'm the first to know that's not the same treatment a young black boy would have received for making the same mistake, but the opposite polarity. But it was an occasion for Mom to tell me how most of the other white people I would meet think and talk, and that I didn't have to be like them.

I thank god she did.

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