Racism in the 1960s

My father spent most of his adult life serving the United States Air Force.  Even though he spent most of his teen years living in Washington, D,C, he ran across racism quite frequently.  My mother is from West Texas and she also experienced racism first hand throughout her life.  Both were determined that their children would be raised that their character should matter more than the color of their skin and not to see skin color when interacting with people.  In the mid 1960 we relocated from Andrews Air Force Base to MacDill Air Force Base.  Andrews AFB is on the outskirts of Washington, D,C, and MacDill is located in Tampa Florida.  When I started grade school I attended school on base,  It was in the second grade that I experienced racism for the first time.  My teacher was teaching social studies and was discussing race.  Although I didn’t think it was her intention to make me feel uncomfortable but she did.  She made a matter of fact comment that the whole class was white except for me, I was black.  My parents had never explained race to me and I was taken aback as I really didn’t know exactly what she meant only at that point did I feel different from my classmates.  I went home and told my parents,  At six years old in the second grade, how do you explain that the color of  your skin is different?  I don’t remember exactly how my parents explained it to me, but I do know that I’ve always judged people by content and character and not the color of their skin.  I don’t make pre-judged conceptions at first glance.  It generally takes two to three conversations before I make a general opinion about someone.  I hope that I have instilled these same principles in my son.

I recently read an article that even though we’ve made great strides in integrating our public schools through redistricting, racism still exists and occurs on the most “subtle levels” (Kuznia 2009). As educators we cannot afford to pre-judge or stereotype our children based on race, economic means or gender. We must instill pride and nurture our children to know that each is important and has something to contribute to our society.

Kuznia, R.(2009). Racism in Schools: Unintentional But No Less Damaging. Pacific Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/racism-in-schools-unintentional-3821/

3 thoughts on “Racism in the 1960s

  1. Thanks for sharing your parents and your experience with racism. I grew up in a neighborhood where racism was an issue. There was a bridge that separate two neighborhoods. In our neighborhood which were the projects we were not allow to cross the bridge which were the private homes and where the white families live. It was also where are the stores and bus stations were located. I remember going to the store and two white men were leaving out the store one had a cigarette.. As they were leaving out one threw a cigarette in the hood of my jacket. I did had no knowledge of it until I got to the top of the hill heading home. When some one said, “Honey your hood is on fire”. I knew right then and there what had happened and who did it.

  2. I agree that racism still exists. What we do as early childhood professionals can greatly impact the future of the next generation. I think it’s important that we start with teaching young children the importance of diversity and acceptance. I strongly believe this is the one way to combat racism. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Hi Lisa, I want to thank you for speaking up about an issue that we don’t like to discuss. It seems that we are always trying to find ways to tip around it or be overtly “politically correct.” It is real, and still exists whether people want to face it or not. My husband and I took extra steps to put our children in diverse social environments, from our neighborhood to their schools, to even our church. We don’t like the idea of making them closed to just their race or judgemental about another. We desire for them to realize that their are many different people in this world, and although we look different, some speak different and even believe in different things culturally and religiously, we all deserve the right to know one another before making an assumption about the way we are or what opportunities we do or do not deserve to have. It is just unfortunate that because racism still exists, they will one day have to face this awful truth as I did later in my teen years. I pray that all we teach them will prep them for that encounter and that they will be strong enough to handle it no matter what.

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