Last week, we all heard about the young Anglo-American girl who wrote her African-American girl friend a letter to explain that her father would not allow her to attend her birthday party/sleepover because she was Black. This incident was really disheartening to everyone I spoke with about it because it was clearly a destruction of these young girls’ innocence and their friendship. As an African-American, this subject brought back memories of my own loss of innocence when I experienced prejudice for the first time.
Imagine the plight of minority parents. They have to find a way to prepare their child for this type of experience because they know one day they WILL encounter it in our society. In my home, my mother told us that there would be some people who would not like us because of the “color of our skin” but she told us that it was their problem. She assured us there was nothing wrong with the color our skin and we were made as God wanted us to be. Of course, I was very young and did not fully understand but I was comforted by the way my mother presented it to me and my siblings. When the experiences started to occur I was equipped to handle it. It was their problem, not mine. However, it was still painful.
As I reflect back, I realize that my earliest experience happened when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It was very subtle but very real. When I was that age Houston was segregated and I lived in a community of hard-working African-Americans. My mother was the African-American version of June Cleaver and my father was among the first African-American workers to integrate what is now known as the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority. Across the street from our home lived a Polish family. They were one of the few Anglo families in our community and they were very nice to my family. Every summer, a young relative would come to visit. She was my age and we loved to play together. They would invite me over and I would play with her all day. I wanted her to come to my house to play and she wanted to come, too, but her aunt always said “No.” I asked my mother about it and all she said was Kitty was welcomed if her aunt allowed her to come. Kitty asked everyday and the answer was always the same. It was many years later that I realized the true reason Kitty could not come to my home to play. I always wondered if she came to realize the true reason, too. I guess we both were blessed that no one said it aloud.
It is a terrible thing when an adult teaches a child to hate. For some families, it is like a generational curse that is passed on. My family did not teach us to hate but they did teach us to be wary and to stand up against prejudice behavior.
I said a prayer for the African-American girl and her Anglo-American girl friend. I hope they are resilient and will bounce back from this situation. Children are truly colorblind and that is how friendship should be. We all should be led by them. We should look at each other and only see our friend.
Did you know about this incident in the news?
If so, how do you feel about it?
Have you ever experienced prejudice?
If friendship was a color, what color do you think it would be?