I am the baby of my family, by 11 years. I was born and raised in a small north Louisiana town in 1967. Suffice it to say, despite any strides that had been made, there was still a tremendous amount of racial tension in the area. There still is. Unfortunately, I believe there always will be, because there will always be someone who will carry on the virus known as racism. There was only one school in my town for all school-aged children so I was blessed to have some of my siblings with me for a while. For that, I am forever grateful. Here’s why.
Although some of the details are fuzzy, my earliest memories go back to kindergarten. I was a student in the first kindergarten class at Sarepta K-12. As a child, I suffered from paralyzing cramps and experienced one once right before we were due to take our daily nap. The teacher ignored my cries. As it happened, one of my brothers and a cousin were walking past the classroom, looked in, saw that I was crying and knocked on the door to find out why I was crying. Once she cracked the door, she whispered to them that they couldn’t come in and for them to go on to class. I remember hearing my brother ask what was wrong with me and she said nothing. He tried to explain to her that I suffered cramps but she closed the door on him. The next thing I knew, my sister, brother, some cousins and their friends were all at the door but she still would not respond. They began kicking the door, which prompted other teachers to come out. Ultimately, the principal came around, my mother was called and they were all suspended. It became a racial issue when one of the few Black teachers at the school said she believed things escalated because the students were Black. I became fully aware of the fact that I was not like the other kids that day.
The one thing that happened during elementary school that scarred me deeply and was the beginning of an introverted nature that lasted for years, seems as if it happened yesterday. I was in third grade and had a best friend. We played at every opportunity and sat by each other whenever we could. That all stopped abruptly after our parents had been invited to a class activity. I remember getting to school the next morning, walking up to her, when she said, “My daddy said I can’t play with you anymore.” I asked, “Why?” Her response: “Because you’re Black.” My heart was crushed. My spirit was destroyed. I remember telling my mom about it that evening and I will never forget her saying, “You can’t do like those White kids.” I didn’t know what she meant but she told that I would find another friend.
As with any small town, I graduated with the large majority of people I began school with. As would be expected, there were some kids left behind from classes ahead of mine and we left a few behind over the years. I am in contact via Facebook with almost all my classmates and have actual friendships with most of the ones I had in school. The girl who had been my best friend in 3rd grade was my friend on Facebook for several months until the first election that Barack Obama won. Ultimately, I unfriended her and several others from my hometown because of their blatant racist posts.
Racism is vile and it’s disgusting. It leaves scars and destroys lives. I am blessed to have friends of all races, creeds and colors. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I raised my son to understand that friends come in all colors. I also raised him to understand that there are people out that who will never see him for what’s inside because they will be blinded by his color. It is something that must be done because knowledge is key. I will always hope for a world where there is no racial bias but I’m not naive enough to believe that it will happen. Ignorance will always be present and will always find it’s way from under some rock. Meanwhile, I will continue to live and love. Life is too short to do anything but enjoy it!