Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK musings

I was struck by the truth of this and this post about how far we have come. The changes are slow and difficult to notice day-to-day, similar to the growth of your children and the sudden awareness that you are having an adult conversation with your teenager. Sure, we have much room for improvement, but we have come so very far.

I recall my mother telling me about entering an elevator in a local department store (Patterson Fletcher) in the early 50s. The black elevator operator told a black woman she had to get off the elevator because a white woman entered. Mom said it was OK, but the operator insisted, probably for fear of her job. Mom just nodded, got off the elevator along with the black woman, and walked up the stairs. What a woman!

I grew up in a segrated northern rural community, but we went into the city several times a month. I clearly remember waiting at a cross walk and noticing a dark hand at my eye level. I was three, perhaps four years old. I reached up and rubbed the hand. A woman laughed gently and, in a kind voice, said, "Chil' that don't rub off." That was my realization that people had different skin colors.

My parents "integrated" the small country church we attended. The men sat on the right and the women sat on the left. The first time my parents, newly wed after a long separation during WWII, entered the church, they glanced around, looked at each other, marched to the front of the church and sat together. No convention was going to separate them. The next Sunday, more young couples sat together and soon the separation of sexes was eliminated without any discussion. (And Dad sat on the women's side with his beautiful wife and infant daughter.)


Carol said...

We have come a long way, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Nice story, its funny how each generation has their own integration story. My parents are in a biracial relationship, and they did the same thing in their church, with me their little daughter in toe.
And now I'm doing the same thing, with my girlfriend and I. Though, many churches wouldn't let us through the doors.