Friday, March 05, 2010

Toddler Race Relations

After finishing his second tour in Vietnam, my father had been assigned to fly Marine Corps One for President Nixon.  It was a prize assignment for my father, but it meant that my mother and I would be moving out of California for the first time in our lives.  My mother was far from being a southern belle and was having a hard time adapting to being an officer's wife. Virginia in the early 1970's was culture shock to my mom, "the Orange County surfer girl".

We had only been living on base for a few weeks when I informed my mother that Englishmen were moving in next door.  First, she wondered how I knew they were English.  Second, she questioned why Britons would be living on an USMC military base. I was insistent that they were Englishmen and my mom decided to go outside and investigate.

She took one look at our new neighbors and figured it out.  The "Englishmen" moving in next door were not British they were African American.  In my short life, the only black people I had met was Mr. and Mrs. Smalley, our British neighbors. I had assumed that all black people were from England.

A few days later, I was in my kiddie pool in the front yard.  One of the new neighbor's sons came over and got into the pool with me.  I got out.  So he got out.  I got back in.  He got back in.  I got out again.  He got out, came over to me, dipped his arm in the water and wiped it against mine and matter-of-factly said; "See, it don't rub off."  After that, he and I became fast friends for the rest of our stay in Virginia.

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