Havelock News
  • Growing up, I was clueless about segregation

  • Iíve lived through a lot of history. That doesnít make me special ó just old.
  • Iíve lived through a lot of history. That doesnít make me special ó just old.
    Iím fortunate my years havenít yet gotten too heavy to comfortably carry. So far I can pack them up and trundle off to about anywhere.
    Why Iíve been so blessed is a mystery to me. It must be genetics and blind luck because I can assure you it isnít something I especially deserve.
    What germinated this train of thought about the passing of history was last weekís celebration of Martin Luther Kingís ďI Have a DreamĒ speech. At the time it simply came over news outlets as an impressive moment.
    I was born in 1941 so grew through my teens and into young adulthood during the desegregation battles. My television and I lived through the events as they flowed.
    Iíd be lying if I said I took positions or participated in any manner from any perspective. Looking back Iím amazed I was as totally clueless about the import of what was going on around me in those times.
    I was just a passive, disinterested white kid ambling through the segregated world, which was all I had ever known so it seemed perfectly normal. But it was far from ďnormal,Ē and had I actually thought about people being excluded from restaurants, hotels, schools and even bathrooms, perhaps I wouldíve figured a few things out.
    But I didnít have any of those thoughts as I was way too busy being the center of the universe. My life consisted of girls, jukeboxes, dancing, guns and fishing poles, which left little room for much else, certainly nobodyís lack of rights.
    Note that cars werenít on my list of priorities. Wheels were surely necessary to get me from A to B and back, but I couldnít care less what they were rolling under. I still donít care a whit about what I drive, which is obvious to anybody who sees me driving around in my dirty í98 325,000-mile Isuzu.
    But giving tiny credit to my self-absorbed brain, I finally begin developing a conscience about the denial of basic rights based purely upon color. Those analytical brain cells first woke up in 1959 when I went off to Chapel Hill.
    Until then Iíd never attended an integrated school, never even thought about it one way or another. UNC at Chapel Hill was my first racially integrated school experience, and I didnít even notice. Black, white, yellow, brown, everybody read from the same textbooks, heard the same lectures and took the same tests.
    Iíd like to say I put deep thought into it back then, but thatíd be a lie. There simply wasnít anything to ponder. Going to school with other races was just going to school.
    Page 2 of 2 - Martin Luther King had the right message and came along at precisely the right time and molded the country. And, as many great leaders, left all too soon.
    Now snake oil salesmen are peddling racial strife in his shadow. I can almost visualize Roman soldiers and a pair of dice.
    Otis Gardnerís column appears here weekly. He can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.
Terms of Service

    Events Calendar