Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Remembering Dad #10: A Simple, Memorable Lesson about Racism

In the light of what has been happening lately concerning race relations in our country, I thought I'd repost this story, which I wrote about 7 years ago.  This, I think, is how parents can teach their children about any aspect of right and wrong.  It was a teachable moment.

This happened long ago, and it keeps coming to mind when I think about the social aspect of sin. During the hot, muggy summer days of my childhood in Chicago, my dad often would drive us out of the city to one of the lakes for a day of fun. This was before the days of air-conditioned cars and interstate highways. After an hour or so of driving on two lane highways we would invariably ask: "How much longer? Are we almost there?"

One time, when I was about nine years of age, dad said he would take us to a different lake. My brother, sister, and I were overjoyed when we arrived, and couldn't wait to race to the beach and jump into the refreshing water. Then suddenly Dad braked the car and said, "We can't swim here."

"Why not?" I complained.

"There's a sign that says this beach is restricted, Dad replied.

"What does that mean?" I continued.

"It means that Negro people aren't allowed to swim here."

"Well, we're not Negroes!!" I argued.

Dad insisted, "I won't support any place that puts restrictions on people because of their skin color." And off he drove with three wailing children in the back seat.

Happily, Dad did drive us to a different lake.  One that was open to all.

All of this happened in the early 1950s, well before the Civil Rights era of the 60s. In that simple way, my father took a stand and ultimately positively influenced my thinking, even though I was temporarily more than annoyed. He wasn't an activist, but he used his power for good.

Note:  I use the word "Negro" in a historical context in this post.  At the time of this incident, the term "Negro" was considered polite.  Martin Luther King, Jr. used the term to refer to his race in his "I Have a Dream" speech.  Nowadays it's more common to hear "Black," "African-american."

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