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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Removing barriers takes time

  • Over the years I have written a whole lot about the “Good Ole Days.” However, the so-called glory days of the late 1950s and early 1960s were not the good old days for everybody.
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  • Over the years I have written a whole lot about the “Good Ole Days.”  However, the so-called glory days of the late 1950s and early 1960s were not the good old days for everybody.
    I grew up in the comfort of a wonderful middle class home and neighborhood. We weren’t rich by any means but we never went to bed hungry and as a family we were bonded by love. Dad and Mom had to work very hard for everything we had, while my brother and I grew up in ignorant bliss, knowing all that mattered was that we were loved.
    On the “other side of the tracks” there was social unrest brewing. An American people realized there was unfair and unjust treatment in a country where that was not supposed to be. As a child I was totally unaware of what was going down at the time. I didn’t understand why young black children were sent to separate schools and signs at theaters were labeled “white” and “colored” entrances and separate water fountains were provided for other human beings.
    That was just the way it was, especially in the “Old South.”
    If you are one of those who say things haven’t changed much over the years I would have to tell you that you simply didn’t not grow up in the “segregated” 50s and 60s. I am also sure that if Dr. Martin Luther King was alive today that he would also disagree with you.
    Segregation was about to come to an end in public schools in Arkansas during my high school years. Several of Rosenwald High School’s brightest students transferred to Osceola High School in the early 1970s. The transition was tough on those students but pressure was also applied to white students who tried to befriend them. I personally witnessed bullying and other tactics and was a victim of similar oppression.
    During my junior year, I became a close friend of one of the Rosenwald transfers. I rarely talked to anyone during class time for fear of getting in trouble but Don and I had quite a bit in common – from literature to politics to sports. During the same year, I openly admitted that I had a crush on a banker’s daughter. I got teased quite a bit but at the time I believed that she was just about the prettiest girl on the planet.
    My friends began to tell me that I wouldn’t stand a chance with her if I kept talking with “that black student.” Well, reality told me that I didn’t stand a chance anyway but I let them influence me and for a time I stopped talking with Don. However, it turned out that Cathy had no problems with Don and I was taught a lesson that I will never forget and that is you never forsake a friend for whatever reason.
    Page 2 of 2 - I wish I knew what became of Don. I am almost sure he went on to become a college professor or maybe even a rocket scientist, literally.
    I’m not saying that bigotry does not exist today because I have witnessed it first hand. However as each generation passes I see more and more changes for the better.
    There are two facts that we must face about racism. It is not something that is inbred. It is learned. All children, black and white, will play together if parents will simply butt out.
    Second, racism is a two-way street. It takes two or more to produce hate. The same two can also generate love.
    We still have a long way to go to tear down the barriers that cause racism. Have we reached that point? Not by a long shot. Are we better off today than we were 50 years ago? Absolutely.
    Like all of our problems, the solution must start in the home. Parents need to stop preaching hate and ugly attitudes. We also must come to the same conclusion that we are all Americans, loved and created by the same wonderful God.

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