Tina: I grew up in the sixties when racial discrimination was a spotlighted issue in a turbulent time of national change. Martin Luther King and his supporters proclaimed their mission for racial equality from the airwaves of television. Probably as a result of being raised in a small southern community that based its values on the Bible, I never saw gross injustices committed against another race. When I started the first grade in 1966, our school was already integrated. In fact, I had an African American teacher who I believe all the children loved. Before we started class each day she would play the piano and sometimes sing. I remember two songs that she played regularly-‘Battle Hymn of The Republic’ and ‘Jimmie Crack Corn’ (or ‘The Blue Tail Fly’).
Listening to the history of racial segregation made me sensitive to the great harm done by prejudices of varying kinds. As I’ve progressed through life I have discovered the many ways we can pre-judge people just because they may act or look a little different than us. The following excerpt from my book ‘Keeper of the Stars’ is a expression of that realization.
On the ride home, a jumble of voices blurted out their insights and opinions of the movie they'd watched for almost two hours. "You know the part where the reporter broke the story about the racist congressman that got the black singer pregnant?" Sheena asked.
"Yes I know. I loved the scene where..." Arizona interjected but was interrupted as Sheena spoke again.
"That reporter reminded me of my Uncle Buster. He's got the biggest nose and neck of anyone I've ever seen. And he's the most racist person I know."
"I don't see how they could live through all the prejudice that happened back then," Julie said with bewildered eyes. Sometimes it makes me ashamed to have white skin."
From the back seat, Arizona told her, "You're not exactly white skinned. You're darker than me or Sheena and we're not pale. Besides, we didn't live in slavery times or the sixties or earlier, so we can't be blamed for people's prejudices back then---or for them now as far as that goes. Anyway the movie was called "Unsung Heroes" because it was about people of all races who fought against racial injustice. And some of them had to pay a big price for it too."
She continued thoughtfully, "Just look at Grandma, Reba and Joseph. They've been friends for about half a century and they lived through the sixties."
Julie pondered a moment, and said, "I've thought about that before too. Mom told me that Mamaw had to hide their friendship from her mother and other people too. And the weird or ironic thing is that our great grandmother had Indian and Melungeon blood herself. And she knew what it was like to be treated like she was no good because of the color of her skin."
Dean spoke next, "Don't forget us Spanish speaking people, especially Mexicans like me." He paused and grinned comically at each girl. "We're accused of being lazy, drunken thieves."
"Let's see...ummm, lazy. Well your mother would probably agree. Drunken. You have hung out with Kyle some. So that's likely. Now, the one that's left---thief. Yep to that too. I'm a witness. Remember when you stole my answers during a History quiz in Mr. Cooper’s class?" Arizona finished speaking with a twinkle in her eyes.
Suddenly the car filled up with chortling, giggling, and snickering. "Good one Zoni. I'll get my revenge though."
"Speaking of revenge, I've got some things I need to discuss with you and Sheena." Then she began to explain her plan to get back at her ex-boyfriend.
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