“Have You Never Seen A Negro Before?”

A brief encounter in 1966 with a neighborhood kid taught me about race relations

Lsjaffee (Writer, Educator, Over-Thinker)
Fourth Wave

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Author’s photo: I lead the second row in the first column

The headline above refers to an actual question posed to me in 1966, when I was about 8 years old, by a boy I assumed to be a few years younger.

I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my huge apartment building in the New York city borough of Queens. A horseshoe walkway surrounded the freshly mowed lawn. Well-kept shrubbery made the benches a pleasant place for residents to talk to each other or play chess during much simpler times. I don’t recall any of the neighbors who lived in the few hundred units being African-American.

One street over to the right were dilapidated houses where the Black kids going to my public elementary school lived. My father once drove past that brief stretch of row houses. Nearly 60 years later, I don’t recall a specific conversation, but the message was “don’t walk down that street.”

In hindsight, I must have been staring at the kid to provoke his question. I responded matter of factly, “No, not over here.” I was telling the truth. I wasn’t scared and neither was he. The brief exchange ended. Point taken. We both went back where we came from without further incident.

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Lsjaffee (Writer, Educator, Over-Thinker)
Fourth Wave

Marching to the beat of a different drummer. Non-binary human. No tolerance for racism, injustice & the patriarchy. lsjaffee@gmail.com https://larryjaffee.com