I have been deeply affected by anecdotes that readers left in response to my last piece, Black Like Us (which, if anyone cares, I’ve rewritten numerous times since its initial post), wherein they shared moving experiences they’d had in which skin color played the salient role. Here are a few of the stories people left:
“It was summer 1975, and I was visiting a distant relative in Charlotte, NC. She was an elderly lady. One day I heard her speaking to someone at her front door. By the tone of her voice I assumed she was speaking to a small child; she was using very slow and deliberate speech, and carefully enunciating each word. I was in the living room. When their conversation ended, I looked out the front window to see an elderly black man shuffling down the path back to the sidewalk. (I’d never seen someone shuffle before.) When he got to the sidewalk, the man turned to see if anyone was looking—and then, when he thought no one was, he picked up his pace, and began walking down the sidewalk in a very normal manner.”
“I grew up in the 60’s in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and my only acquaintance with black people were those I saw on TV getting blasted by water from fire hoses. As a kid those images, which are still so clear in my mind, baffled me. And then, when I was about seven, I had the chance to ride a bicycle built for two at my Grandparents’ farm. My two older friends rode on the bike seats, and I rode on the fender. As we turned a sharp corner my foot got caught in the wheel; the bike tipped over and left me lying on the pavement with two spokes sticking out of my ankle. I was lying on my back, screaming in pain, blinded by tears, when a man shadowed by the sun picked me up into his arms. He was the first black man I ever remember seeing in the flesh. As he carried me across his chest in his arms, he kept saying in a deep soothing voice, “You’re gonna be alright, honey. You’re gonna be fine.” He took me to my grandma’s house, laid me on her couch, and then left without a word. On that day I honestly thought all God’s angels had dark skin.”
“My earliest memory is of being called “nigger” by a 5 year old white boy named Chester when I was 4 years old.”
Ouch on that last one, ‘eh? Um. And also on the one with the bicycle spokes. I guess we’re just all lucky the guy on the sidewalk didn’t trip and munch up his face.
Anyway, these moving anecdotes made me want to offer a place for others to tell such stories of their own. If you’d like to share with us any experience of yours that has perhaps been particularly on your mind during this time in our history, please do so via the “comments” section of this post. If you would, also let us know your age. Thanks ahead of time, from everyone who reads this blog.