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.