Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Racial Relations-Just My Own Little Memory

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jan 20, 2014 5:15 PM

When I was growing up, there were few African Americans in my life and we called them Negros. I remember being a preschool girl in Philadelphia, arguing with my friend that our housekeeper/nanny was "not a Negro" (she was a light-skinned Black person, really light brown).

Then, we moved to York, PA in the mid-1950's, a very bad time, indeed, for people of color, especially in the South and industrial towns like York with its plentiful prejudices. My mother was embarrassed to admit her Russian birth, her German upbringing, and her Jewish heritage. My father never pretended being other than he was. The whole atmosphere was confusing. As far as I knew, all Negros were maids or garbage collectors. Once I got to high school, there was one Black girl in our class, the daughter of the owners of the garbage collection company. I wonder how many friends she had. I wish I had talked to her. Our Jewish youth group did a play at the Black community center about Nazi times. Something resonated among us. We were learning about civil rights, the inhumanity of Jim Crow and the evils of segregation. I felt the slight essence of segregation personally knowing that my family would not be welcome at the Country Club, though I went as a guest of a friendly WASP.

Fast forward to the 1980's, raising my son in Lewisburg, PA, a little central PA college town in which the Black population consisted of deans and professors. His good friend was multi-racial, gifted and cultured; the mom was an African-American dean and the dad a Swedish, White teacher. He really wasn't aware of the plight of lower socioeconomic class people of any color until doing some traveling to the little working class town a few miles away and to DC, Philadelphia and Harlem. He didn't believe in race, just class, poverty-influenced, education-deprived, family structure-differentiated, mistreated social class. Not surprising that he majored in sociology (and East Asian studies) undergrad.

My, how things have changed! And, yet, lots of people are still underprivileged and we have a long way to go. Thank you, Mr. King, and let us continue your work.

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