In these trying times of indifference, I hear my Dad reminding me once again how history repeats itself. But more than that it reminded me of the first time in my life that I actually saw someone who wasn’t like me or anyone else I’d known. Through the eyes of my own innocent childhood I brought the question why into the equation of indifference.
I was 7 yrs old in 1960, and lived in California. I took a bus ride with my Dad into the city of Los Angeles. I remember wearing a nice pink dress with white patent leather shoes. I was holding my Dad’s hand, and I couldn’t take my eyes off my shoes as they click clacked along the sidewalk. When I looked up I saw the strangest looking man I’d ever seen in my short life. He was very thin, tall and so dark his skin had a purple glow. I couldn’t stop looking at him.
“Why is that man so dark Daddy?’ I asked.
“He’s a colored man,” my Dad said.
“What’s a colored man?” I asked.
“He’s from a very hot place called Africa. Their skin gets dark just like ours does when we’re in the sun too long,” he said.
“He must have really been in the sun a long time to be that dark,” I said.
As we went on walking I got thirsty and ran up to a water fountain for a drink. My Dad jerked me away saying, “That’s for the colored people. We don’t drink from the same fountain as them or go to the same bathrooms.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that’s just the way it is,” he said to me.
“But I don’t understand why Daddy.”
“Because that’s just the way it is,” he said again.
“But that’s no reason,” I said.
“They’re just not like us. That’s all,” he went on.
“But they look like they have everything the same as we do, except their skin is darker. That’s all,” I said.
My Dad looked at me and opened his mouth as if to say something, but couldn’t find the words to respond back. He bent down and swooped me up in his arms giving me a hug.
“You know what Connie? I never thought of it quit that way, but you’re right.”