See how easy it is to throw that word around? Unfortunately, discrimination and racism have been with us for a long time.

The Irish and Chinese were targets in the early 1900s. The Italians were all gangsters, Jews were money-grubbing bankers, blacks were lazy and uneducated and the Irish were all drunks. The list goes on.

Little Rock, Arkansas

In 1961 a high school classmate and I had been offered an athletic scholarship to a school in Texas. We took the train to meet the coach and decide if that’s where we wanted to go. On the way there, we had a brief stopover in Little Rock.

We went into a lunch counter to grab a sandwich and as we were eating I noticed we were the only white people in the place.

When we left there was a group of white folks waiting for us and asked us what the hell we thought we were doing eating in a “colored establishment.”

We had missed the “Colored Only” sign half hidden, either accidentally or on purpose, by a large planter at the entrance to the lunch counter.

They did take the time to point out the homemade cardboard sign to us.

All this just four short years after then President Eisenhower needed the military to escort nine black children into Central High School in Little Rock.

Were We Racist?

When we walked into that lunch counter it was obvious there were black people already in there. So that wasn’t a problem for either of us.

Blacks took our order and cooked our food. No one said you shouldn’t be here while we were eating.

Would we have been racist having seen the “Colored Only” sign and not went in? What exactly did that sign mean? Whitey keep out?

And why was such a sign even necessary to begin with? Who was the sign addressed to? Whites or blacks?

Going to school in Texas in the 60s gave me the opportunity to see real racism up close and personal: separate restrooms and drinking fountains, segregated movie theaters and drive-in’s. Even the college was segregated.

Was I racist for even considering attendance to that institution? Some people might think so.

Some Final Thoughts

The incidents above are history. I can’t change them. I have no idea if the lunch counter in the Little Rock train station is still there.

If so, should it be demolished because of its past history?

The college I attended that would not allow blacks is no longer segregated. In fact, the entire basketball team is black. I would probably have a tough time making the team today.

But I was the only white allowed to play basketball at our pickup games in Vietnam. Even in war, race played a part.

Not liking apple pie is OK — for some — but not all. I wonder if that day will ever come.

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