I was born in December of 1961. Sort of between two eras. The wholesome 50’s and the tumultuous 60’s. I started kindergarten at Riverside Elementary in September of 1966. The Vietnam War was still in full swing as well as the Cold War with the Russians. There were people protesting against the war in Vietnam and people protesting for basic civil rights. I was too young at that time to understand or even realize what was going on in the world around me. My parents talked to me later in life about what they were feeling. Mainly about the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis. My dad wanted to move our family to Australia. But my mom who was from a large close knit family didn’t want to go. So in Texas we stayed and I’m glad we did.
I don’t remember any civil rights protests. I’ve read about them in newspapers, books, and online. I’m most interested in what went on in my own town, Fort Worth. I do remember the summer of 1971, I think it was 1971. It was the summer before I started the fourth grade. It was the year the schools, my school was to be integrated or desegregated.
People were in an uproar. The talk was “Why should we put our children on a bus and send them across town to school when there is a school right up the street?” In my heart I would like to believe that this was the reason most adults were against desegregation. But in my head I know that there were many, probably more than I would like to admit, that just didn’t want their precious little child to have to sit next to “them”.
I remember that the second grade was bused out to a black school and the black school bused their other grades into our school. My sister was starting the third grade and I was starting the fourth. So we never had to climb on a bus and go across town. We did sit home that first week of school. It was a boycott, my first encounter with the word.
Before integration my class looked like this:
After integration my class looked like this:
When Monday came and it was time to go to school, we were told that there would be a lot of new friends and we should make them feel welcomed. My parents did not use racial slurs. Even as an adult, I have never heard either of my parents use a racial slur.
When I was thinking back on this time I wondered what the new students felt that first couple of weeks. I would like to talk to them and see what their memories are. After all no matter how we turned out, we are products of our parents upbringing.
Later in the 70’s there were the refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. These families assimilated into our neighborhoods and schools. They not only looked different from us, they also spoke another language. They faced their own bigotry and ostracization in the beginning.
But all in all I think we adapted pretty well to each other. Growing up in Riverside we had all different kinds of people and all different kinds of religions. Somehow we managed to accept each other and become friends. I don’t remember any name calling or ugliness. Maybe there was, but I don’t remember it.
There is still plenty of bigotry and ugliness in the world. I see examples of it nearly every day. It makes me sad. I see young black men being watched closely at department stores and places. I was at Walmart where two women were speaking to each other in Vietnamese and another white shopper looked at me and rolled her eyes. That’s one thing that really bothers me. People who think just because I’m white I feel the same way as they do.
There are still people who look at interracial couples twice. A gay couple out in public really has to be careful. I just don’t get why other people even care. What business is it of theirs? How does it even impact them personally? The things that people will do in the name of God constantly amazes me. I say shame on them! They are just mean spirited bullies.
One day maybe we will live in a world peacefully. But probably not. As long as people look different, act different, or believe different, there will always be someone around trying to tear them down.
In Ronnie Dunn’s new single he says “We live this life, breath to breath, we’re all the same; we all bleed red.