The Roots

By: Adam #2

One issue that has meant a lot to me my whole life has been prejudice.  I never understood hating someone just for the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation, whatever. Sadly, in 2018, we as a nation were supposed to be past this. But when you watch the news, or more predominantly, social media, you see that it is still prevalent.  Recently, I began thinking when I first started to have these feelings.  It took me a while, but I realized it was when I was 6 years old.

In the fall of 1990, I began first grade. I was excited about the whole idea of school.  But what I was a little freaked out about, was riding the bus. I never did it before. Who would be on the bus?  What are the rules?  Will Freddy Krueger be the driver? (I saw Nightmare on Elm Street at a very young age.) My mom was single at the time so while she dropped me off at school in the morning, I would go to my grandparents after, since mom worked long hours. To get there, the bus would take me to a stop, and I would walk the 1/2 mile to my grandparents.

On the first day, I met two amazing girls: Tamara and Billie Joe. We became instant friends. we would play games on the bus, talk about school, tell stories. We became such good friends on the bus that we all became friends in the classroom, as well.  Tamara and Billie Joe lived only a few houses down from my grandparents, so we would always walk home together.

I remember getting to my grandparents’ house, and they would always ask me about my day. I would tell them what I learned, what I had for lunch, what we did for recess, everything.  They were really engaged in everything I said until I started talking about walking home with Tamara and Billie Joe.  For whatever reason, they didn’t want to hear those stories.  I never understood why. I think I figured it was because they thought I was too young to be talking to girls!

One day after school, I was outside my grandparents’ house playing. Out of nowhere, Tamara and Billie Jo showed up. We ended up playing hopscotch and swinging on the swings.  After about 5 minutes, my grandma came out and told me it was time to come inside. That’s odd.  It was only 4 and dinner was always at 6.  I told the girls goodbye and went inside.  I remember my grandma telling me that she did not want those girls coming over anymore.  I asked if it would be ok if I ever went over to their house and played. She screamed, “NO!” to me at the top of her lungs.  It scared me so much that I started to cry.

Later that night, my mom came to pick me up.  I was in the back room playing when I heard her talking to my grandmother. “It’s bad enough that he walks home with those ni****s, but I will be damned if they come to my house,” my grandma said to my mom. It was the first time I ever heard that word. I had no idea what it meant.  My mother was furious. She told her that I was allowed to be friends with whoever I wanted to be friends with.  I still had no idea what the problem even was.

On the way home, I asked my mom what the problem was. She told me that grandma and pap pap did not want me hanging out with Tamara and Billie Joe because they were black. It didn’t make sense to me.  I began to cry.  She told me to hang out with whoever I wanted to hang out with.  It made me feel a little better, but I was still hurt.  I could not believe my grandparents would say something like that.  It felt like a betrayal.

I need to make something clear, I love my grandparents.  They did everything for me and were there whenever I needed them. Both have since passed, and I was devastated by each passing.  Deep down they were good people.  However, they weren’t perfect.  None of us are.  They grew up in a time where in parts of this country black people weren’t allowed to ride on certain parts of busses, to go to good schools, to eat at certain diners, and could be lynched for whistling at a white woman. They seemed to have been taken in by this mindset.  I’m glad my mother never fell into that and that is probably a big reason why I never did, either.

Tamara, Billie Joe, and myself remained friends for 5 more years until they moved away.  I hope wherever they are they are doing well.  I searched for them a few times on Facebook but could never find them.  They don’t know this, but they gave me a great gift.  They befriended a shy, white boy when they were just six years old. They didn’t look at me as “The white kid”. They looked at me as “Adam”. And, their mother was more than happy to have me over to play whenever we wanted. For that, I am forever indebted to those two little girls that lived down the road.

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