Even a poor conversation beats silence.

Nicholas Howe,
Northhampton, MA.
Smith College

I attended a mixed-race suburban public high school in Connecticut, where I competed on both the swim team and the track team in the late 80’s. Only one member of the swim team was African American, and his race was the elephant in the room that nobody would talk about. As a result, while I recall no overtly racist incidents, a feeling of suspended tension always hung about his interactions with the rest of the team. By contrast, the track team was more racially balanced and issues of race were unavoidable. The conversation wasn’t always pretty, with plenty of teasing on all sides and probably a good deal of stereotyping as well. But the atmosphere was good-natured for the most part and certainly felt to me a whole lot more healthy than the nervous silence in the locker room by the pool.


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