Monday, January 19, 2009

Reminiscing for MLKJ day

This is really going to date me (probably not as much as it should), but I've been thinking about this with a new President being sworn in tomorrow--a black and white mixed President--an integrated President.

When I was little my dad was in the army, so we moved around a bit. I was born in Virginia, then we lived in South Carolina for about a year and then about 2 years in Germany before moving back to SC, where my parents had both grown up, to settle down. Daddy retired from the military, and we were going to stay put. At that point I was 5 and in Kindergarten. I LOVED school. I had 2 years of pre-school under my belt and part of a year of Kindergarten. I was good at it and loved the friends I made there. 

When we moved back to SC my mother registered me for school so I could complete my Kindergarten year and meet some new friends. I was excited. The world was my oyster.

Well, that year was the first year of full integration. (I'm seriously not that old. According to my kids I grew up in the stone age, but really I'm only 43. When I think about it in relation to the civil rights movement, I still can't believe it happened so recently.) It was a tough year, and I was always a sensitive kid. It tore me up. There was so much tension in the classrooms, I would come home from school crying just about every day. The adult anger permeated the seesaws and scissors and paste (yes, we used paste!). I felt strung out at the end of each day. 

It had nothing to do with school. I had never cried being dropped off or picked up at school before. It had nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin. The classes in Germany had been fully integrated schools for the american families, and I had friends of many races. It was all about the fear, the hatred, the rage and discontent of injustice. The parents' attitudes were all over the children.

I had no idea at the time, but I was living through history. 

Mama was beside herself trying to figure out what to do. She wanted to support the integration, but as she watched her confident little girl falling apart everyday, she couldn't stand it. She was a teacher by trade and decided it would be better to teach me at home until things calmed down, so she took me out.  

The next year things were better, and I started first grade in a fully integrated school that had mellowed. My mother taught Kindergarten down the hall, and my confidence with school began to come back. Integration was working. There were still moments of trouble, but we were on our way.

I could never imagine not having my black friends sitting right there learning along with me. I can't imagine not having the black teachers that I adored. I can't even begin to know what they went through, but I'm glad they did. My world is richer because of them. Thanks, Tracy and Cynthia and Althea and Anthony. Thanks, Stephanie and Renne and Greg and Elijah and Calvin. Thanks, Mrs. Burroughs! Thanks, Melissa! I love you, girl! The fact that I could keep on going here for much longer (but I won't to keep this already long post from getting completely out of hand) is a marvelous sign for our country. I can't imagine my life without having these friends along for the ride growing up.  Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr. 

And now a black President. Our country has come a long way. I'm still living through history. I guess we all are all the time.


Gottawrite Girl said...

Hey there, Lotusgirl!!! Hope you are well...

Natalie said...

Great post. I love that you can remember it, and you definitely aren't old at all! It's strange to think that it wasn't that long ago. As a "younger" person, how it went on as long as it did still baffles me.

Gottawrite Girl said...

VERY true, all of it... funny, I'm a republican, but STILL so proud of Obama and our nation for taking this step. DC is currently SNARLED with snow and inauguration traffic. It's crazy! But, perhaps I'll post about it tomorrow!

giddymomof6 said...

i have so many dear black friends as well! I love the excitement and energy and life they bring to me and my family!

Karen said...

I really enjoyed reading this. This was one of the family stories that I missed somehow. Growing up in rural Washington State, integration was something I learned about in high school. In fact, we had one black person in our entire high school. I remember when we planned our move back to S.C. with Alyssa, the school district asked me if Alyssa would mind having a black teacher. The question seemed odd; why would the skin color matter? I am so thankful that my children have had the privilege to grow up with the knowledge that skin color does not define a person. And even though I wish Obama were republican...I am excited for our country!

lotusgirl said...

Wow only one! That world is so foreign to me. My school was almost half and half. I'm glad I had a mother who taught me that skin color doesn't define a person. It's who the person is on the inside that counts.

Lauren said...

Hi! I am new to your blog. This is such an interesting post. It is funny that something doesn't have to be very long ago to be considered history. I'm sure that one day many years from now your future grandkids will be saying the same sorts of things to your kids one day about how they can't believe their parents (your kids) were alive to see this momentous event.

And I second Karen's sentiments about being a, but I do think that he is going to do a great job.

Lady Glamis said...

What a great post, Lois! We celebrated the holiday this morning by going to a huge breakfast at my sister's. They have to little adopted black boys. We love them dearly.

Our country has come SO far in such a short period of time. My brother in law said this morning that he doesn't think it was chance that MLKJ was where he was at the time he was there... that God's hand was in it for sure, and at a time that our church was making changes, too. :)

So glad I can share things with you! Thank you for a great post!

lotusgirl said...

Lauren, thanks for dropping by. It's nice to meet you.

Thanks, Glam! You've gotta check out the pictures of my niece's cute little babies on my facebook.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Terrific post!
And hey! I'm from the Stone Age too and remember the same kind of unrest. It's so true that kids don't see color--it's the adults who point it out to them!

lotusgirl said...

Thanks, Becky. So true! Glad to hear you're from the Stone Age too.

Kelly H-Y said...

Your post gave me chills ... well said!

lotusgirl said...

Thanks, Kelly. I love to give people chills.=)

Joe Iriarte said...

Great post!

You know what's weird--you're not very much older than I am, and yet I remember thinking of de jure integretion as very much a fact of life when I was a kid. (Of course, my public elementary school was in Miami, and that may have had something to do with it.) It's mind boggling to think of it being a new thing not that long before. (I do remember issues with busing hitting the news even into my teenage years, but even that seemed to be happening elsewhere, not where I lived.)

On the other hand, I find it funny or interesting to look back at what was once shocking and how quickly it stopped being shocking. Remember how much attention the movie Jungle Fever got? These days, who doesn't know a mixed-race couple, and who really even notices anymore? I remember around 1986 or so, John Mellencamp had a video where a black man danced slowly and close with a white woman, and I remember it getting a lot of attention and seeming edgy at the time.

More recently, in the nineties, the TV show Roseanne caused a stir when they had two women kiss, and then Madonna and Brittney Spears kissed at the Grammies. Would that seem nearly as edgy today?

Speaking of Madonna, remember how outraged our parents' generation was by the song "Like a Virgin"? That seems so quaint to me now, when we have songs that say a whole lot more, and a whole lot more explicitly. If my teachers in the eighties could have heard an Eminem song, they would have had seizures!

Anyway, there's no point to this rambling. That's just the mental train of thought your post sent me on.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I grew up in a town where racism hadn't died out and blacks were rare. Rednecks could write "The South Will Rise Again" on their belongings and rarely, if ever, offend a black person.

I've seen the town come a long way, though I haven't been there in a while. It's all progressing.

I'm yet to have a black professor...don't know that I've ever seen one.

lotusgirl said...

Joe, It is amazing how quickly we adapt and accept things--good and bad.

Justus, Wow, no black teachers at all? or is that only in college? For me, when I went to college (not in the south) the sea of white faces I met everyday was so strange.

It's all in what you are exposed to.