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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Irvington, NJ: 1959

What was the first message about race you recall ever receiving?

I've largely avoided this on my blog, mostly because three or four brief paragraphs risks trivializing such an important subject. But close on the heels of the Trayvon Martin verdict was all that media coverage about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and ML King's seminal speech. Then last night I saw "The Butler".

I was about ten years old. My mother and I were buying milk from a street vending machine near my childhood home. Standing about 10 yards away was a black man; I recall that him standing nearby made me nervous. After the machine discharged our milk, my mother and the man exchanged a polite hello. As we walked away the man approached the machine to make his purchase.

The very brief conversation my Mother and I had following that innocuous encounter went something like this: "Mom, that colored man was not bad".  "No, Patrick, not all of them are bad". Although this is the first conversation I recall ever having about race, it was not my first message - my nervousness standing at that milk machine points to earlier messages received. I'm still unsure what my ten year old mind took away from that conversation with my mother.    


  1. It always amazes me how much racism there was in our early years without knowing it. How WHITE our world was. I remember going to the world's fair and staring at the Hispanic girls who had their ears pierced at 4 or 5 years old. Unheard of in my world!

    1. Anonymous; Thanks for your comment. Yes, our (i.e the baby boomer's) world was a great deal more narrow then. I'm glad that has not been the case for my daughter.

      Look forward to seeing more from you.