Jason Stelzner

Reply to Pipes

When I grew up I knew my mother was a racist although she claimed not to be. She would tell me disparaging things about black people in casual conversation. This, even when she supposedly had black friends. I couldn’t “get” it. And, what she said bothered me terribly. I didn’t take it in and make it a part of me. I wanted to tell her she was wrong and ask her not to talk that way any more, but I knew it would do no good. I also knew that a lot of other white people in the world also were racists. During this timeframe, the showdown in the highschool in Little Rock, Arkansas happened, Medgar Evers was killed, racist southern governors and even Federal congressmen made horrifying racist statements. I rejected all of it. I was never a racist, even a casual one. This is not a feather in my cap, so to speak…I just couIdn’t wrap my head around such irrational, pure hatred. One experience I will always remember was the first time I took the escalator to the second floor of our local Hecht Company store to use the restroom, and seeing the small door in the wall marked “Colored.” It was just a small pace down the wall from a huge, beautiful arch through which white women used to enter to get to the toilets. No one had to tell me what I was seeing, and I was aghast. This was perhaps 1957, three years after “separate but equal” was quashed by the Supreme Court; and, there were still two water fountains, one marked “white” and the other marked “colored.” I don’t think either worked, but no one had bothered to put things aright.

Such racism was never right to me, and I didn’t use racist terms ever. There was never anything logical about racism to me. It defied everything within me. But, what bothers me now is that I knew there remained a lot of racism in the world around me, and I just put my head in the sand about it. I guess I figured that I couldn’t do anything about it, so why even try? This is why I’m really glad that society is having these conversations about racism now. I guess the subject needed another nearly 100 years to be brought out into the open and examined and condemned wholescale.