I am from Lafayette, Louisiana.
Donald Trump doesn’t know what it’s like being black in America
Bradley E. Williams

Hi Bradley,

I grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana too. My family’s from NC, but my dad took an oilfield job in 1980, and I lived in Lafayette from 4th grade until I went to college. After many years living up North, I moved back to Louisiana a few years ago and live in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans now.

I’m a bit older than you are, so I imagine the place has changed a lot. When I was in elementary school, the playground was officially segregated by gender: boys and girls weren’t allowed to play together. The segregation by race was there too, but it was unofficial. I was just a kid, but I noticed that when a black boy in my class wore his shirt untucked, he got in trouble for it. When I, a white girl, did the same thing, the teachers didn’t say anything. They noticed that I spoke up in class a lot, though, and, to be honest, that I “talked back” when it seemed like the teacher was saying something that wasn’t true, or being unfair to another kid. When a black boy in my first school asked too many questions and talked back, they sent him to the principal’s office, and he got suspended. They had me take a special test, and I got put into a program at a different school, one where the teachers and the learning was a lot, lot better.

When I was a student at Lafayette High School in the mid 1980's, there were two Homecoming Kings and two Queens. One set was black, the other white. Nobody said why there were two sets, but everybody knew why: you couldn’t have a black King with a white Queen. And I guess you couldn’t have Asians or Latinos or Native Americans or anybody else at all.

By that time, I had already figured out that I was gay, but I knew that that was a dangerous thing to let too many people find out about. Some of us got beaten up. Some of us got kicked out of our houses. Some attempted suicide. Some succeeded. I was lucky — I just got “roughed up” and called names. It was lonely at times, and confusing, because I didn’t feel evil, or deviant, or unnatural, but everywhere I looked, that was the message I kept hearing about who I was.

So, as I said, that was “back in the day,” and some things have changed. I guess some people feel that the changes weren’t for the better. They feel like life was great back then, or maybe some time further back, when you and I wouldn’t have been students at the same school at all, let alone be allowed to play and learn and dance together.

And I guess some other people feel like it doesn’t matter who becomes President, that they’re roughly the same. I can tell you, and I can hear you when you tell me, there’s a big difference, maybe even a life and death difference.

I can also tell you that even though we come from the same place, I know we’re not the same. Your experience is your experience, and mine’s mine. I don’t know what it’s like to be you. So I have to listen, because I love to learn. One thing I already know for sure: we’re in this together. We’re stronger together.

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