My History of Racial Relations

As I spend the day after a presidential election of a black man as President of the United States, I am proud of my country that it has grown to the extent that it has.  I can remember as a child accidently going to get a drink from a water fountain marked, “Colored” and not realizing that it was and drinking out of it and nothing happening to me.

My father was in the United States Army and we were Southern born.  Our roots were from Southwest Georgia.  My first interracial interactions were with black baby sitters, when I was about 4 going on 5.  I would witness them stealing from savings my mother had in the house. Later I was ritually abused in a voodoo ritual.  Chicken and goat blood were spread over as drums were beating.  I remember them dancing wilding and to a frenzy and I was frightened. 

My father was transferred to Germany to an all Black Army post as the US Army began its integration of the Army.  My father was in Military Police and the Deputy Police.

When I went to Dependent’s School, there a lot of classmates that were black when I was in kindergarten, but when I came home I played with little German boys.

We were transferred to Bremerhaven.  I mostly played with little German boys.  I don’t remember having blacks.  As we returned back to Georgia, after I had lived in South Germany for a year, my mother hired a black maid, Mattie Lou who was a like a second mother to me.  I remember her singing spiritual songs as she pressed our clothes and did the laundry.  She was there for me when I had a skinned knee or elbow, etc. and would talk to me and encourage me.

As I went to the stores with my mother, I had a hard time figuring out why there was a different entrance marked “Colored.”  That was the time I drank out of the water fountain.  I can remember talking to others a school how if the schools were inter-grated we wanted to go to Lucy Laney because we thought it was a better school.

We saw black soldiers marching in the  same parades that my father was in, but in general most of our life was spent going to the stores, eating in restaurants all at places that other white people where.

My father was transferred to New Orleans.  When I got there, I marched in a Mardi Gras parade.  In the parade there were black men carrying kerosene lamps and flares called flambeaus.  I marched as a Boy Scout carrying the United States Flag in Mardi Gras parades and got to know somewhat the black men flambeau carriers.

After we had been in New Orleans for a while, I had learned to take the bus and street car.  I found out that there was separation of races with a marker that got moved for “Colored.”  One day I sat down at a seat just behind the sign and received all sorts of looks by everybody.  I just did not want to stand all the way.

One Wednesday night, my sister and I went down to a coffee house in the French Quarter.  There were both black and white, male and female there and Chinese man, Doctor of Sociology.  There was a black man, Babe Stovall, playing blues.

All of sudden a black man stood up and an said, “Nobody move, this is a raid,” “Women on this side, Men on this side.” Some else said, “Were did you get the badge, Joe?”  I wound up at the police station and then everybody was separated, white men into one cell, black men into another.  Then white women were put into another cell and black women were put into another cell.  The Chinese man was decided to be put with the  white men.

I called my father to bail me out.

There was a big TV hullabaloo and it turned out that 73 were arrested as there was a party going on upstairs from the coffee house.

I began to party and associate more into the French Quarter and there were more black men and women throughout.

Later, I wound up going back to live with my mother and my sister went to the French Quarter and saw a friend marching in the Selma, Alabama association parade.  Three weeks later my mothers house and car was bombed by the KKK.  By that time I was in the Navy at Bellechase, La.

When I was in the Navy, there were black men in the Navy and were worked together, lived in the same barracked, used the same open showers, toilets, and ate together at the mess hall, but for we were off duty, we spent time with white buddies for the most part.

It was not until I wound up in Southeast Asia that memories of a black man dying in my arms come in. 

I came back home and was out the Navy in New Orleans.  I got married and went to Washington, DC.  I had a job with a stock broker right around the corner from the White House and lived about 8 blocks up street in an apartment on 15th Street NW. 14th Street NW had been burned in riots just a block away.  And as I went to work I found myself with black men asking me for food.  It was a contrast from where I worked and the White House and Capitol.

We returned to New Orleans and I wound up getting a job in Illinois and finally moving to Champaign, IL.  It was not until I lived in various apartments that I found myself living in the same places as black people.  I worked in industry and some positions were filled by black men.  Finally there was a temporary position that was filled by both black and white.  It was interesting that the blacks seemed to want to drag the job out and whites wanted to do the best they could.

I used public transportation as did the students which were mostly white from Chicago.  There were some black who rode the bus, but there was a certain area and it was a certain bus.  Ironically, Illinois was more segregated than the South.  So I did not take the bus to the “North end.”

As I worked in industry, I began to see how various people worked up North. I decided I needed to go back to school. 

I wound going back to school in Springfield at University of Illinois.  After I graduated, I took a job as Radio Engineer  for KILI Radio which is located in Porcupine, SD.  It is owned by the  Oglala Lakota Sioux.  Not too far away from the station is Wounded Knee, SD.  I found myself being the only white man at an all Native American Radio Station and at a meeting having them say, “If we can’t find a brother, then we will have to hire a white man.

It was the Lakota who got me to go to AA after I spent time out with a Viet Nam Veteran drinking and left my family by themselves.  It turned out that the Radio Station had a war on alcoholism.

Later, when I going through marital problems and being arrested on the Reservation and placed into the local jail, I was able to see the difference between the jail on the reservation and the jail in the county as I was transferred to Hot Springs, SD., some 80 miles away.  I was impressed that the Lakota Indians drove 80 miles and bailed me out without me even calling them. (Chastising me for not trying to figure out how to do so myself.)  The difference of jails was the poverty.  It was obvious that there was more money at the white man’s jail.

There was a time when I had pulled into a gas station and the attendant said they had just run out of gas.  I had a Native American riding with me.  I noticed that gas station then filled someone up as I left. 

I struggled with being the object of prejudice because of my job.

I went back to Champaign, IL and then after a divorce decided to relocate to Florida.

I have seen that mostly Blacks take the bus and train in traveling and Whites, fly. While traveling, pretty much everybody is the same, however, black people tend to be louder in public. 

I relocated to Florida and became a patient in Miami VA Hospital.  The staff was made of Haitian Black and Cuban.  When I was discharged, I became a client of Faith Farm, a Christian recovery program.  There were many black men there.  But, drugs and alcohol knows no racial barriers.  And the men who were serious about recovery did. 

I had gone through another in house program which helped me, remember some of the Viet Nam memories.

There are also good memories of black men and white men and me singing our hearts at Faith Farm Church Services.  I became the Canteen manager.  Each man had to come to me to get his chit for $$ when he first came in.  So I basically met the men after they had first come in.  We were working for $1 a day, room and board and a recovery program and church.  I saw black men come beat down and it was like I was their best friend because I had just given them $3 to get a haircut.  Before it was over after they had networked with another black man, he and his buddy would try to con me for $$$ at the Canteen window.

The black men would take the position of clothing disbursal for themselves. By the time I went to get my own cloths, they were not there, but I left with enough suit coats. 

It was living in a institutional setting with black men that gave me a negative feeling.

I found that a black man will be a white man’s friend on a one on one setting, but add another black man, then the white man is no longer a friend.  Up North there seems to be more segregation in neighborhoods than down South.  Because I have struggled with jobs and money, I have found myself buying some of the same things that black people buy. 

But, for the most part, I noticed it is still a segregated life.  It is the younger groups who have just elected a black President and I hope that he does not do what most black men do when in a position of power and that is to connect of with other black men and start tearing down the what has been built already out of rebellion.

Finally, the last race that I had experience with was the Oriental:

Other than in combat in Southeast Asia, I have had some experience Viet Namese in various work settings.  It was a strange feeling to have a little Viet Namese man working along side me.  I had to set aside any feelings I had and realize that He was trying to make a living also.

Most recently, in retail I have had various customers that were Japanese, Chinese, Viet Namese, Korean and various others come into the store.  Since I has worked through a lot of my issues, it was delightful to talk to some of them.

Finally, most recently, when I had needed a place to live, about 3 years ago, I found myself asking a young Chinese man if I could rent from him.  He was Chinese, the other man was Polish, and I am Irish.   I got to enjoy the Chinese food, the fact that he is bright in computers and computer games.  But I noticed he seemed to be reserved.

So I feel that when I started my course in Intercultural Communication during my Bachelor’s degree it was just a small piece of all the reality of Inter-culture that exists in the world around me.  This is just a small history of my Racial Relation.


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