Does Race Really Matter?
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Nancy Belle. I am a reader. Books have been my safe haven for a great part of my life. My children all marveled at my ability to shut everything out and escape the turmoil around me, just by picking up a book. Much of what I know about this world is from the written word. My education is much greater than what is shown on paper, simply because I can and love to read. Having come to my senior years I have stories to tell and opinions to share, hopefully for your pleasure or enlightenment. Yet, perhaps some may not be in agreement or find my stories boorish, that's alright, too. Here's to my exploring and finding my way, with words!

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Does Race Really Matter?

Transcript from Walla Walla Union Bulletin, Walla Walla, Washington
December 20, 1950

Seattle (AP) – A blow on the head with a baseball bat in a neighborhood altercation was fatal Tuesday to Merritt Scotten, 33 year old Seattle pipe fitter. He died of a skull fracture Saturday night.
Leon W. Venson 28 a neighbor has been charged in justice court with second degree assault in connection with the fight over parking of cars. He was held in jail Tuesday in lieu of $3000 bail.
Venson’s signed statement to police on the incident said Scotton had hit him first with the weapon

To date this is the only public account of the death of my father, I have found. I know of one other but it has been lost to the ages. Other than these, there was my Mother’s account of the event. They lived in an apartment complex in Tacoma, WA. Dad worked for Boeing. She told of an evening out with friends that ended with my Father dying three days later. He and two colored (her word) brothers ended up fighting due to my Father’s request, “move your car” it was blocking him from getting to and parking in front of their apartment. According to Mom, it was pretty vicious and she left my sister and me in the car and tried to help her husband. She was hit in the knee with the same bat. I was just a bit over two years, but vaguely remember crying for my Mother and hysterically pounding on the car window. Mom was of the impression that both brothers were put in jail and that they disappeared after posting bail.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as an indoctrination into racism or not. It’s just the first place I can recall personally. Between there and my first encounter at school when desegregation began, there were the innuendos. Children are really unclean beasts and in need of guidance. I’m not sure that, while picking up and inserting some ABC gum in one’s mouth is pretty messed up, the need to imply it may have been in some “n***er’s mouth, was necessarily called for.

Looking back, my sister and I started going to Savannah Avenue Baptist church around the ages of five and four years. An elderly woman came by every Sunday and picked us up. I asked Mom why she didn’t go with us and she blamed it on hypocrites, but failed to let me know what hypocrites were. She went on to say she went to the “White Baptist” church as a child and had been baptized. It was many years before I realized that wasn’t the name of the church and that it meant only for “white people”. I was also instructed not to be taking up with any n***er boys and how careful I should be, because sometimes you couldn’t tell if they were “n***ers or not.

As Mom came nearer the end of her reign here on earth, she revealed some surprising things. The big shocker, for me, was when she talked of picking up, what she thought was, a balloon. She was younger than six she said. She attempted to blow up the balloon before her Mother discovered the event. It was not a balloon, it was a used condom. That statement alone sent my mind reeling. The narrative continues that she had contracted “Black Syphilis”. Once again I was floored. She didn’t reveal anything more. Like how was she treated medically or if at all. I suppose she realized how much she had just blown up my Rainbows and Unicorns world. I started ‘Googling’ for a special kind of Syphilis, Black Syphilis, that is. Didn’t find it and one day I realized that it wasn’t the name of the disease, but who the donor was. Only an irresponsible and immoral black man would dispose a used condom where a child could find it.

I, like many white children of the era, was educated in racism supposedly for our protection. I had an extra healthy dose, as because of ‘n***ers’ I was without a Father. Fortunately for some unfortunately for others, the sixties came about. Civil rights were in the forefront for all. I married in 1966 and moved from St. Joseph, MO to St. Louis County, MO. Unlike my hometown, St. Louis was made up with many desegregated neighborhoods. I soon learned that these black men and women were much like me and just wanted to raise their families in peaceful and safe neighborhoods.

I tried very hard to raise my children to be kind to everyone, we didn’t use the race words. My Daughter came running in the house one day, she was around four years old, she was excited and asked if she could go play with the brown people. The brown people were right there and heard. I was beet red with embarrassment and apologized. Their response was so kind, “it’s alright, she just calls it the way she see’s it” and so she went to play with the brown people and we all had good friends from the incident.

Over the years I came to learn that racism is a ‘two way’ street. On the very same street where my daughter gained new brown friends, my six-year-old son was tormented every day by an eleven year old black boy. Everyday I had to retrieve my son’s bike or some other toy. The young black boy was making a point to aggravate every child in the neighborhood, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Finally I confronted him and asked where might his mother be. He answered “she is at work and she wouldn’t talk to a fat ass, white, honky bitch like you, anyway”.

Looking back, I really did do the wrong thing. I went home and told my sweet little boy, that if the other boy came down to steal his bike or anything else, he should pick up a stick or whatever and make sure the other boy felt the end of that stick. He cried, he really didn’t want to fight anyone. Yet, he did as I told him just a few days later, the young black kid ran home and got his 13-year-old sister and they beat my son unmercifully. I called the law made a report and the black female Juvenile officer tried to get me to change my mind, I wouldn’t. Since it was a juvenile matter I was not given any information on the outcome. I only know the family soon moved elsewhere. By the way, in case anyone is curious. This was 1974 Ferguson, MO.

Another example of how crazy racism can get. My husband and I managed and coached a boys baseball team. We had thirteen young men. The race broke down like this; eight black boys, four white boys and one Hispanic boy. One of the black boy’s Mother assisted us and another black boy’s Father assisted us as well. Khoury League rules were that every boy played at least once every game. Our thirteen major league hopefuls, really consisted of about nine (four white, four black and one Hispanic) who were all about the game and good to go full force every practice and every game. The others were three black boys who just wanted something to do and have fun and one black boy who absolutely did not want to play and told us he would rather sit on the bench and let the team win. He was only there because his mother insisted on it. Although, she was rarely seen at the games.

Rules are Rules and we told him that he was required to play at least once a game and we preferred he make an effort to learn and be part of the team. About mid-season, his mother came to a game. Her son was used in the lineup twice that day. The second time up was crucial. Three on base and two outs. A good hit would help even up the score. He begged to be skipped, we couldn’t do that. The boy feared failing the team and indeed struck out. After the game was over, the young man’s Mother came up and accused us of discrimination against her black son. We were chins dropped to chest amazed. What?! Thank goodness our two assistants took the woman aside and handled the matter. They also came back and apologized to us and thanked us as they always did for taking on the responsibility for all the boys.

I have other tales of the bumpy road I traveled regarding race relations. I truly believe that too many people who have never experienced face to face, daily, hands on racial interaction, can’t begin to tell others how it should be done. I was compelled to once again share my personal experiences, because we are going backwards. No matter who is to blame from top to bottom, it needs to cease. Today’s headline that jumped out to me, tells of years of ground work by myself and many of my peers and leaders is being lost. “Is racism on the rise? More in U.S. say it’s a ‘big problem” from CNN. From where I stand on the issue, it seems as if our youngsters both white and black are not happy. They love the fight more than living in a raceless society.

It’s alright to proudly stand up and say “I am white”, “I am black”, “I am Hispanic”, “I am Asian” or “I am Native American”. It’s OK to be proud of your heritage. Knowing your true heritage is not so simplistic. Here in the USA anyone who has ancestry back to ‘Columbus’ or ‘the Mayflower’, can be assured their heritage is not so cut and dried as being black, white, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. I personally can claim Scottish, French, English, Irish, Italian, Native American, Amish(Pennsylvania Dutch) and who knows what else may be in the mix. As my mother used to say “Heinz 57” that’s what we are. I certainly hope, that if not in my lifetime, that at least in my Grandchildren’s, this regression into wrongness stops and peace will prevail in our American borders and elsewhere.

There Is 1 Response So Far. »

  1. Powerful – There are so many of us ‘senior citizens’ with stories of racial inequality, racism – both ways – and on-the-street struggles. You have done a service by telling of some of your experiences – the solution is for all us to be honest and recognize that nothing is about skin color. As Dr. King said – it is about character.

    Thank you Nancy for your courage and your skill at telling the story.

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