I grew up poor in a mixed neighborhood in south Atlanta. My two best friends were white and black, and for the most part we all got along. One day my white friend was angry and called my black friend a n*****, and even though I’d never heard the word I could tell that, coming from her, it was vile. I asked my mother when I got home what the word meant, explained what happened, and was told I should probably stop seeing my white friend. I was around 6 at the time.
At about 7 years old, I was learning how to play tennis with my dad. I hated tennis, but it was one of the only times dad was happy with me. We were at a court at our local park, and it was getting late, but the park had lights you could run on a timer. I remember the lights suddenly going off, and then a group of young teenagers began shouting at us. I don’t remember what all they said, but I remember hearing “white pigs”, over and over. I asked my dad if we could turn the lights back on and keep playing, but I could tell he was angry and sad as he led me to the car and explained that the lights wouldn’t come back on after a certain hour. I never knew if that was a lie to protect my innocence, but I took it at the time.
I have more, but it’s not important. There are so many stories of racism, and they all seem to begin so early in our lives. To this day, I don’t understand what drives a person to hate another without even knowing them. I may be a bit naive, but I still hold on to hope, that every time I meet someone new, they don’t judge by anything other than character. Teach your children love, not hate. Teach them compassion, not paranoia. Teach them respect, not fear. Please, be kind to all.