Growing up racist – #4

This is not so much a memory of a racist policy but rather an example of the heartbreaking divisions that can hit us at a young age.

I was in 7th grade at Hamilton Jr. High in North Long Beach. We were a mixed race school but I don’t remember having any black friends. I actually don’t really remember having any friends. I was/am an introvert, and a painfully shy one at that. Because of moving around as a child this was already my 5th school. I wouldn’t be here long because we’d be moving again.

Physical education. These were the days we had to wear silly looking PE uniforms, with snap front blouses and elastic leg bloomers. Because of these we also had to use a locker room to change. Once dismissed from class there was usually a big rush to go change.

One day we were all sitting on the ground when this dismissal came. Lots of girls (I think we were an all girl class) started running. I was not one of them. Instead I slowly began to stand. But before I pulled my legs in another girl tripped over me. She’d been running and was now sprawled out on the ground. She was also incredibly angry because she insisted that I purposely tripped her. I apologized while also insisting that I hadn’t seen her. She didn’t believe me. She continued to insist I tripped her. She thought I did so because she was black and I was racist. I didn’t have skill to deal with this and still remember just wanting to crawl into a hole.

This incident almost led to a campus fight between black and white. I was afraid and I felt awful.

Whenever I think of this I still feel awful about it. Not just for me but for that other girl. The one who had, at her tender age, already experienced enough racist aggression that she was absolutely sure that I’d attacked her. I wonder where she is and how she is doing. I pray for her as I pray for the day when our world will be one where precious children of God are not attacked and disrespected solely for the color of their skin. And I hope that when that day comes, accidents such as the one that happened on a schoolyard so many years ago would just be experienced as accidents.

2 thoughts on “Growing up racist – #4

  1. You did leave out something that affected me. I couldn’t believe someone could hurt my sister. The violence that came because of an accident. I still believe was taught by her parents and or her surroundings. I still think racism is taught and carried on from generation to generation.
    Yes she may have been a victim of our society. But, it’s the choices she made that I don’t understand. Only that she was victim of her society. I can go on and on about this.

    You did have an African American friend. She even stayed over night for a slumber party. I remember because of an incident after everyone went home. This incident was not caused by our mom. She was the one stating the person was over reacting and needed to think about how she was acting. Maybe that is why you don’t remember or never had her over again. You really liked this girl. But, I never saw her again. Maybe you were worried she may not be welcomed in our home. Even though our mom said she was. Some people have such strong negative effects it over powers our superiors or our own parents decisions.

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    • Thanks for your comments. Racism is very complicated because it affects us all, even (especially) when we don’t recognize it. I’m reading a book titled, “Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” It’s a very good book, but not an enjoyable read. I think that progress can only be made when we all see the reality of racism, not as just words but systems that have existed from the beginning of our country and continue to exist. That’s why I’m writing this series. I don’t blame the girl who tripped over me for her reaction because based upon the tragic history of our country her reaction makes sense.
      Thanks also for remembering what I forgot. I seem to have forgotten quite a few details of my childhood.

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