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A Heart Problem

In Answer to Frank’s Column Prejudiced? Me?

In 1940 I was 8 years, just old enough to begin to notice that, while riding the bus to school on muddy dirt roads, the black children were walking to school. I remember complaining about the bus getting stuck in the mud so often. But our condition was so much better than those of the blacks. At least we were in an enclosed bus, away from the wind and the cold.

Also, we never knew any other way to refer to those children except ‘niggers’. It was the accepted reference. I also remember their reference to us was ‘whitey’. I do remember there was a feeling of animosity between us.

Looking back, I realize that this was actually taught to us. There were so many things we just did not do with the blacks. We didn’t eat with them; we didn’t talk and associate with them-although I do remember there were times I wished that I could. There was a certain stigma about the blacks. They were terribly poor and I can remember the odor of the black kids. I contribute this to the squalor in which they lived. We also were very, very poor. And the only bathing we had at the time was “washing off” in a foot tub (as we called it). And in the summer, after washing the clothes in large metal tubs in the back yard, we would take a ‘bath all over’ in the last rinse water. We didn’t have running water-we carried all of our water from a spring up a long hill.

My father had headaches terribly and farmed for a living which was our main source of food. My mother, at this time, worked in a cotton mill and the meager amount of money she made kept the family clothed as best she could. We sewed our own clothes and rarely had ‘store-bought’ dresses. Now the boys did wear overalls and jeans-which in those days only the poor folks wore; now, many brands are fashion statements!

I have certain feelings about this and it disturbs me how we, as a Christian country, could believe this way and mistreat people of another color this way. But the sad part of this is there are many people who still have these same beliefs. The laws may have been changed in order that blacks are given rights, but the inner feelings of many people have not changed. I believe until hearts change, this injustice will be with us forever. Sixty-three years have passed since I was 8 years old-that is a long time for so much to have remained the same.

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