This week, like some of the posts already up, I want to talk about my upbringing. Of those I read, they mentioned private schools and predominantly white schools and/or areas. My experience was the quite the opposite.
I went to public schools all my life, until coming here. I grew up in Pottstown, which is a relatively small town in south-eastern PA. Pottstown is a diverse town. There is a main street that runs through the town, “High Street.” People would associate each side with “the bad side” and “the good side” of High Street. I lived on Cherry Street which happened to be on the “good side”. Thinking back, the majority of my neighbors and my area were predominantly white. The “bad side” of Pottstown was primarily black. Further down certain areas were also bad areas I was told not to go to at night with friends. I never thought of it in racial terms when I was younger.
I attended Edgewood Elementary School from k-almost all of 6th grade. Mod’s were built at the elementary school temporarily as the middle school underwent construction. This school was very mixed in terms of race and ethnicity. Some of my closest friends were other races than my own. As I mentioned in one of my comments, I believe to Dana, I actually was envious of having such pale skin and freckles (I don’t ever tan- I burn) compared to the bronze skin of some of my friends. Having friends with darker skin tones than I had never bothered me. I can’t recall ever having an issue having them at my birthday parties or over at the house for sleepovers. All of my teachers I can remember were white, and that never had prompted any ideas in my head either. I embraced my friends and those around me regardless of color, because that’s the environment I was surrounded by. We did have assemblies in school regarding discrimination and race, but they were part of larger programs that usually ran every year. I can’t remember any incidents that were specifically race related. Now, as I grew older and made the realizations of comments from the “good side” and “bad side” of High Street, I made the connection between the “white side” and the “black side.” Shootings and gang violence were not new nuisances.
In the beginning of February of my 6th grade year, my family moved to Douglassville, PA, not far from Pottstown. On arriving to school it was such a different experience than Pottstown. I literally said to one of the first friends I made “Why is everyone white?” There were maybe ten people that I knew of in my grade that were of a different race. I met another girl from Pottstown, luckily, and we exchanged the same thoughts of the new atmosphere. As the years went on, my high school became a more mixed population. Though, I’ll never forget my initial reaction.
I keep in contact with friends from my old town and frequently visit. My best friend actually lives there. Let’s say, for discretionary purposes, her name is Abigail. Abigail and I have been friends since the third grade and have stayed close over all these years. I attend tons of her family functions and know her relatives very well. She currently lives with her grandparents, who have lived in Pottstown the majority of their lives. Her grandmother is known to say some pretty blunt things, but I’m used to her cynicism. This past weekend though, she said something that relates directly to the issue of racism and the blog post of if everything is really OK. Abigail’s grandparents have two cars: one older that is used frequently, used for transporting things – basically their junk car – and a nicer and newer SUV. Abigail’s parents borrowed the nicer SUV. A few hours later Abigail’s grandfather game home from work. Immediately her grandmother yelled at the grandfather to go switch the cars. He didn’t get what the fuss was about and fought with her about it for probably ten minutes. Then, she yelled “I don’t want the colored getting at it!” My eyes lit up so big I couldn’t believe what just came out of her mouth. She assumed that because the nice SUV was in the “bad” part of town that it gave her reason to believe black people would say break into her car, steal her car, whatever. From that one statement, my own perception built of up of so many years of knowing this women, changed in an instant.
I’d like to believe there isn’t much racism in America anymore. I agree we are taught this, but it could be a way to just suppress the fact that there is still an issue at hand. I’d argue that racism is still at least a medium-sized part of American society.