I don’t recall seeing a person of color until I was riding the school bus one day. A black family had moved into town and several of their children rode that bus.

I don’t remember anyone saying anything specific to me, but I knew that I was not to talk to these children.

So I kept my face straight ahead and only occasionally did I allow myself a sideways glance at them.

Because I have never socialized much, somehow I have managed to get to this age without having a black friend. Until the woman moved in next door. I consider her a friend.

It isn’t that I took what I heard as a child to heart. Not at all. I simply was never around all that many people to begin with.

I have eschewed social activities, stayed to myself and kept my own counsel. Never wanting to be in the limelight or any light really, I always chose the shadows as my safe place.

I chose animals over people every time I had the chance.

Now as an adult I wonder how those children felt, riding the bus with the white children, knowing they were being looked at and talked about. I know they must have felt uncomfortable.

As for me, I never really knew who I was. So how could I begin to understand who they were?

When I was in elementary school, I was pulled aside one day and told that I could no longer use my granny’s last name. I couldn’t understand why.

I was told it was not my legal name, not the name on my birth certificate. So I had to start using the name on my birth certificate.

But who were those people with that last name? I didn’t know them. And I surely didn’t want their name. I felt a sense of belonging with my granny’s name.

I felt kind of betrayed. I felt like the person I was becoming had been eliminated and now I had to be someone else. I never really had a good sense of identity in the first place, not knowing my background or how I got to be where I was. So this hit me hard.

I know what it feels like to be different. I never quite matched up with my peers at any age. I would always rather watch than mingle.

No one should feel pre-judged.

Even pets are affected. In a survey, Petfinder member shelter and rescue groups reported that most pets are listed for 12.5 weeks on Petfinder. Whereas, less-adoptable pets (such as black, senior, and special needs pets) spend almost four times as long on Petfinder.

Black cats are associated with witches, superstition, and bad luck.

It is hard to be different. But never should it be considered wrong.

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10 Comments

  1. Hi, I’ve been wanting to comment on this post. I’m sorry that you had to go through the experience of having someone tell you that you had to use a different last name than the one you were using, which was your grandmother’s name. That person was legalistic and not showing any empathy for you and your situation. Sometimes people in positions of authority think that everything requires some of their authority when it really doesn’t. In my own family, we had a situation a little bit like yours. When my maternal grandmother began first grade way back around 1918, her teacher told her that she was using an incorrect spelling of her last name, and also pronouncing it wrong! This teacher was at a one-room school in eastern Kentucky, and teachers in such schools only had to have an eighth grade education back then, so, she probably had little knowledge on names to be making such a decision. She probably just thought my grandmother’s last name broke some phonics rules or something and she wanted to change it. The last name is Dutch and still is not a common one in Kentucky or in the entire United States for that matter. So my grandmother went home and told her parents, and for some reason they just went along with what the teacher said! They had little education and must have thought the teacher was right. And my grandmother was such a bossy person that I suspect that she might have enjoyed going home from school and telling her parents they had their last name all wrong! So, my great grandparents, my grandmother, and the couple of younger siblings who’d been born at that time all went by this new change of their name even though it was different than what was on their birth certificates. Children born after this point all got the new spelling on their birth certificates. Many years later, when some of these younger siblings who were boys reached adulthood, they had their names legally changed to the original spelling. The girls in the family all got married and took their husband’s names and didn’t worry about making any changes. So, when you go to a family reunion on that side, there are people with both spellings and pronunciations of the name. I’ve always figured that the upstart teacher in that one-room school probably changed a few other names over the years!

  2. Growing up in the South, I witnessed integration of just a handful of blacks into our all white elementary school. We had a classmate, James Henry H., and we all loved him from day one. Looking back, I fell bad for how he and others in his shoes must have felt entering this new school social setting. I grew up small town and went to church religiously each time the doors were open. Although I heard the racial “n” word, it was never in a hate type of usage, and “hate” was not a part of our vocabulary we were allowed to use in our home. I will say recently, my sis and I were talking,, and she told me a friend of hers back then was told by her Mother, not to talk to the black children entered into the school system. Sad. My sis told how she always was kind to them. There were not any issues in our school, and a few years later, a beautiful black lady was on Homecoming court and won(and she wold have been voted in by popular white vote). I agree, …God is watching, and therefore the Bible says, “Judge not that you be judged”. Brenda, your writing is so beautiful and heartfelt, and just glad you in your strength and wisdom were able to overcome or get through the childhood challenges your way, and for sharing them publicly for inspiration that we all need each day. God Bless and be with those here in our Country who are suffering as victims of evil and mental evilness.

  3. I grew up with black kids in class. We were all military brats so there was no segregation, especially overseas. Some of the nicest people I have known are black people. I am not much more sociable than you are. I am a bit of a loner but I still find no discomfort among black, asian or what ever. Military men have married all nationalities. We were taught that there is not much difference in races, just a little more coloring in some skins. But otherwise we are just the same. I believe that. What is going on is terrible. All americans are equal, all americans are good, all americans belong here.

  4. I was raised with a VERY Racist stepfather.
    When I became a adult I had many African American friends.
    My stepfather could never figured where he went wrong!
    We all have the power to be and act as we want as adults.

  5. I grew up in a suburb of New York, so I did have black friends in HS and was raised by a mother who taught us that all people are equal and that differences should be respected. I am so saddened by the state of this country and that racism has apparently been alive and well in many areas when I thought it was dying out.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, Brenda – I love truly getting to know blog friends and it’s amazing how many experiences we share or can relate to. It always helps to know you’re not alone in your thoughts and experiences.

  6. Great topic today. I grew up in Atlanta GA and have always been in the midst of those “different” from myself but my family accepted those differences and did not raise me to be prejudiced or racist. I have friends , co-workers, family members, and acquaintances who check most every box — Black, Caucasian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, gay, etc. And I do truly believe our country has made progress in accepting differences in individuals. Seems like some individuals just want to keep the pot stirred and heated about this country’s past and want us to relive some terrible times and to advertise and highlight the negative aspects of our society. Never have I experienced the labeling as racist anyone who has a differing opinion as I have in the past 12 years. It would be nice to be able to have opposing opinions and still be able to have pleasant discussions. I am just grateful that I am an American and grateful for those who came before me and made it possible for me to have the freedoms and opportunities that I do take for granted at times.

  7. Sadly it seems that only the sickest aspects of our society gets publicity, never the good people doing good things for others, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation. They are the humble ones, not seeking riches, not seeking publicity, they only want to help in whatever ways they can. There are a lot of folks out there claiming to be righteous and under the seal of this religious faith or that one – but their actions and their speech belie their words. It’s just sad. Right now, they appear to be in the ascendant, but no matter what, good always triumphs, and good will ultimately be restored to our country once again. I don’t know how, but I believe this will happen. God is watching.

  8. WONDERFUL post today, Brenda. Your writing is so moving, direct and eloquent. Thank you for sharing your wisdom through kindness and compassion.
    I hope Charlie (and you) had a more restful night.

  9. Great article, Brenda! While I grew up with mostly other white people, thankfully my parents raised us not to be racist. We moved when I was a teenager and it turned out that one of my best friends was black. Now as an adult, I have friends and neighbors of all different races and religions and am so thankful that I do.

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