In the segregated area of the city where we lived, we could only socialize with other people of color. We couldn't sit beside whites at movies or eat with them in restaurants. We couldn't use public transportation, and it was so bad that just chatting with white people could get us in trouble, so we avoided it.

When we spent time on base, however, our best friends were both black and white kids. We were invited to join them in the sandboxes, in the swimming pool, and on the bike trails. Some bases were more liberal than others, and at our base, the military complex worked hard at creating the "look" of equality. That meant we were allowed to enjoy the company of color-blind friends who accepted us just the way we were. It was an important lesson to learn that not all white people hated us for being different.

Mom went through nursing school during that time so she would have an occupation that felt worthwhile and would help her pick up the financial slack if it was necessary. She believed very strongly that women needed to know they could fend for themselves if push came to shove, such as in case of a death, disablement, or illness. And she could add income to the family coffers. Dad loved his Air Force work, where he focused on aviation, which was his calling. He was an NCO, which meant he had enlisted. He held on to his dream of becoming an officer, but he was holding out until "things" got better. That was the African American mantra—"Waiting for times to get better"—as we tried to envision a world with fewer obstacles, apprehensions, and hostility.

FROM: The Bravest Families in America
Published on February 03, 2011


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