Integrate. Know me; don’t fear me.

Laurie Johns
Tuscaloosa, AL

I am white. I attended integrated public schools in Montgomery, Alabama from 1st through 12th grade graduating from Sidney Lanier High School in 1983 as part of a white minority of around 30%. I believe having an integrated school experience allowed me to know and be familiar with black people and to develop some deep friendships that continue 30 years later. We weren’t racially aware at that time. We just were. Some of us have talked about that time and have called it a golden age but we agree that it is now gone. It seems to have been replaced with fear. Fear of “other.”

In developing my six words, I first thought: Integration. Knowing you; not fearing you. Being white, that came from a white perspective about black people – but, I reminded myself, blacks fear whites too. Hispanics fear blacks. Whites fear Hispanics. And so on. Taken down to its essence we, as humans, fear the unknown. We don’t know each other. Our entire lives are lived separately. There is no opportunity to know one another. Except perhaps in an integrated school. My integrated schools were not perfect but my years in them kept me from developing this fear and for that I am grateful. We don’t fear the familiar so regardless of our race we can all say, “know me; don’t fear me.”


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