I was thinking the other morning about how much had changed in my lifetime. I grew up in an atmosphere of racism and intolerance. Didn't know it then, but I look back and think, OMG, how could we be like that?
The kids in my neighborhood, myself included, used to play a game called "Smear the Queer". Do you remember that one? Whoever was the queer, caught the football and was then jumped on by everyone else in the game. Nice values.
When it got hot in the summer, and you would get all sweaty, a grownup would wipe the "nigger babies" off your neck (the black grime that would collect in the folds of your neck). Our version of "eenie meenie" included "catch a nigger by his toe". Really. Pretty awful when you think about it.
We did not play with black children. We were not allowed to invite them home or to sleepovers. I didn't have a sleepover in 4th grade, because I could not invite Janet Pulley, along with all the other girls. Didn't seem right to me, although I think it was more about friendship than about any budding social conscience on my part.
Our neighborhood was completely white. 100%. When we went to sell our house there, another three houses were for sale. The neighbors agreed to not sell to anyone black, so that the neighborhood wouldn't be ruined.
Yet I did not grow up to be a bigot. I did not grow up to be a racist. Why? Because I learned to read when I was six. And I got a library card. And an education.
I am so glad that my world opened up -- I would hate to still be in the same place I was then.