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My experience of racism and prejudice in school at earl warren

My experience of racism and prejudice in school at earl warren

Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education dramatically changed American society. The Court reversed the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that racially segregated public facilities were not inherently discriminatory. My wife and I were not ready for this. We had wondered when and how our son would first express his awareness of color differences. We knew, of course, that it would come, just as surely as sex awareness. Well, here it was, and my first play was a fumble.

A colored person is a Negro. So began our discussion of color almost two years ago. Today, we encourage discussion, on the level Jamie can manage. Our concern is to keep him from embracing uncritically the familiar rationalizations based on color. All Negroes drive second-hand convertibles.

That one is from the playground. One evening at supper, however, I decided to bring up the subject. Why do they have to come to ours? I heard them on TV. It was well to remind him; but we were close to argument, and argument, we should have known, does not help. Jamie was prepared to surrender, but not yet with conviction. So I did not press the point. Our own attitudes tell more than our moral lectures. We do want him to be spared some of the emotional excess baggage we have lugged about.

But we do not have all the answers.

We want him to learn to find answers for himself. Jamie, now a seven-year-old, learns about people and issues from the feelings we express. He appreciates the people that we appreciate. This is where he gets his principles of sportsmanship and citizenship. Of course, the ideas and phrases that Jamie picks up from his playmates are just as superficial as his pontifications on jet planes and Navy frogmen. Yet there is a difference. Whereas his everyday experiences will correct many of these other misconceptions, he has no normal contacts to correct his prejudices about color.

If Jamie had Negro playmates, he might react as he did when he met the Korean chaplain in the university cafeteria line. For a week afterward, he was parading his three-word Korean vocabulary before the kids on our block and explaining how he gained such proficiency. So our next step, already overdue, is to provide normal boyhood experiences shared with Negro children.

Racism, Discrimination, and the Law

How do we arrange it? Will Jamie like it? My first impulse was to snatch him away from the fountain and proceed without an answer. My son Bill Jr. Our neighborhood is all-Negro, but still there are many children of varied shades.

Finally, he slowly walked away to join his friends at play again. My wife and I looked at each other. The problem had finally come. And now, our task was to teach the child how to have respect for himself, how to mingle with others, how to account for human differences without developing a complex; in short, to guide him through the maze of race relations in the Deep South and, at the same time, give him a healthy outlook on life. Very few whites realize the trouble to which some Negro families go to avoid hurting their children.

Others, who can afford it, send their youngsters off to the North or East to visit with friends at vacation time. I always had to make excuses to my kid and I feel ashamed of it to this day. He was nicer than the man behind the counter. We realize that all his questions pertaining to race have not been asked; that there are many situations he has not encountered.

And we hope that when we are asked additional questions, we can answer in such a way as not to destroy his confidence. For almost every day now, we get the feeling that more humane elements are at work, all over the South. For example, at the big supermarket near the state capitol, the young white boys who assist us with our groceries are courteous to all.