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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,314

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I was born in Washington, DC in 1950. My mother was ill and wanted to move back home to be near her family. She had two children, and a heart condition threatened her life. My father, a young man who had done the unthinkable to try to make a living for his family, had relocated from Tennessee to Washington, DC and had obtained a job working for the IRS. But he listened to his wife’s concerns and agreed to move the family back to Tennessee. There he make his living driving a milk truck.

They were a remarkable couple. She was a beautiful woman with auburn hair, beautiful green eyes, very petite and with an Irish ancestry. My father was six foot 3 inches tall, and the Cherokee blood in his genes perhaps five generations preceding his birth were very evident. He had hair so dark brown many called it black, large brown eyes that also looked black and very dark skin. They both loved music, and enjoyed playing the piano and singing together. They adored each other.

My mother passed away a few years after she had moved back home. Despite her condition, she had become pregnant twice again, and left my 28 year-old father alone to raise four young children ranging in age from 9 months to seven years of age. In order to keep the family together, we subsequently all moved in with my grandparents. My father made too little money to pay anyone to take care of his children while he worked his route as a milk man. Living with his parents was the only way he could find to keep his family together.

All of this is to explain how and why by the time I was around 8 years old, I believed African-Americans hated white people and would kill us if the opportunity arose, all Jewish people didn’t believe Jesus Christ was the son of God and were destined to go to hell upon their passing, and Catholics and Baptists held each other in utter contempt. This type of information was in the conversations of older people who were my grandmother’s friends.

Upon my father’s remarriage, again he did the unthinkable, moved from a very red, conservative state to the heart of the Nation’s capital. When I was enrolled in the nearby school in DC, upon observing I was the only Caucasian child in that school, I became literally chronically petrified someone there would kill me if given the opportunity.

Why in the world had my father moved me to a city among all the people I had been taught (not by him but through hearing the conversations of my grandmother’s friends) would try to hurt me or even kill me?

My first day as I was walking toward my classroom, a smiling, handsome young African-American boy started walking toward me. I froze in fear. What was he going to do? He stopped right in front of me and smiled even more broadly. “Can I carry your books, he asked?” Quietly, I handed him my books and as I continued to walk towards my classroom, he walked by my side, smiling all the while, and waving at his friends we passed along the way. Once we arrived at the classroom doorway, he handed me the books, smiled and said goodbye.

Everyday I went to school, Tyrone waited for me, carried my books, and said very nice things to me. He had never met a girl with white skin and reddish hair, and that was what made him walk my way to begin with.

Tyrone was very popular in the elementary school, so easy-going and always smiling. After he befriended me, some of the girls invited me at recess to jump double-dutch jump rope. “But I don’t know how,” I said. “We will show you.” Soon, I was loving the art of double-dutch and the sweet girls who also befriended me. If I was okay with Tyrone, I was okay with them. And so all of my fears and the things I had learned as a youngster growing up in a very conservative state melted away.

My family moved to another location in the Washington, D.C. area at the end of the school year, and thus I had to leave my newly-found friends. I have never though forgotten Tyrone and the friendship he gave me when I first entered school here in the East.

So many times since I have been at DU, I have thought when reading threads about prejudice of whites against blacks, I felt ashamed that I had been one to harbor these prejudices as a young child. I always thought one day I would write a thread to talk about it and what influences changed me as a young person. Today is that day.

I do realize though that there are many young children like the one I used to be who are raised in environments where they are taught many untruths. Some will be fortunate enough to broaden their horizons and open their eyes to the equality of all men and women, regardless of skin color, regardless of nationality, regardless of sexual preferences, regardless of religious beliefs -- but sadly many will not.

Approximately five years after I met Tyrone, I was walking through the living room of my parents house when I heard the voice of a man named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, “I have a dream…." That speech mesmerized me. I listened in rapt attention.

Through that speech, I really understood what was going on in this Country. While it has always been acknowledged how much this man did for the advancement of African-American civil rights, I would like to personally acknowledge how much he also did for young people as I was then who had never fully and truly understood what had been going on between the different people of African-Americans and Caucasian communities in these United States for decades.

But I personally also feel so indebted to a young African-American boy who befriended me, a transplanted child from the south, and through that friendship made me belong. I have always had a special place in my heart for Tyrone for the life lessons he taught me not in words but in actions. So it seems very appropriate on this day to write this thread I have been meaning to write for so long now to say one thing.

Tyrone, I don’t know where you are today, but I have never forgotten you and I never thanked you for being my friend. You taught me more than you will ever know. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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