I grew up in an industrial city in Ohio, at a time when people were far less aware than today. My family was a loving one, but thoroughly working class and uncritically accepted the biases of the day.
My father would drink a bit and then sing a song so profoundly racist I am embarrassed to remember it. My uncles would casually use the word ‘Jew’ as a verb, meaning to haggle and cheat. Italians were called ‘Dagos’ and Catholics were called something I no longer remember, referring to fish on Friday. LGBTQ people were dismissed as ‘perverts.’ There were no Hispanics or Asians that I remember.
Then a Black family moved in next door.
I didn’t know anything about Black people, except the stereotypes. A Black family that could buy a house?
They had a small back yard next to ours. They had a little dog that barked every time I walked down the alley that separated our two houses.
It was a chilly day. I was walking down the alley and their little dog was yapping loudly at me. I know this will sound impossibly simple, but I had a sudden thought that stopped me cold. I thought that the little dog does not like me but likes Black people. Dogs like people. That means Black people are just people, too.
I do not remember how old I was. I still remember the lesson that a yappy little dog taught me.
Deep knowledge,and happy reading.
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