by Linda Samulski
At supper, I heard my grandpa say, “Them Negroes and Mexicans ain’t bad, we take lunch together every day after working hard on the railroad tracks.” I was only six years old, and a little white blind girl. I asked my mom, “What are Mexicans and Negroes?” She said that there are people with different colors of skin. That conversation took place because my family was planning to move from Nebraska to California, and there are more people of color in California. We moved so that my parents could integrate me into a mainstream school.
When we arrived, I found a lot of other wonderful things. I was able to go to school with “normal kids with vision.” I had my own room at home, but the best thing ever was my new radio. As I listened, I heard something I had never heard before. Different words, and different music. I asked my dad what it was, and he explained that the people were speaking Spanish. Those stations played the most wonderful music, beautiful and happy. I told my dad I wanted to learn Spanish, but it wasn’t like a wish for a bike like kids want, but instead something deep within me. We bought Spanish learning records and every night my dad read from the book. I listened to the pronunciation and learned the vocabulary. I was diligent, I never made a kid’s excuse to get out of those nightly sessions. To this day I still practice to remain fluent.
At summer camp, my two best friends were African-American. When my mom found out that one was a boy I really liked, she told me that white girls and black boys could not be together. This seemed very unfair, so I made a vow that I would always stand with my brothers and sisters of color and not let anyone dictate the way I think.
I used to listen to the news with my dad. It would make me so angry though when the reporter talked about the discrimination of “Negroes” at drinking fountains, buses, and lunch counters. This would make me so angry, and I would scream at the TV, “When I’m big, I’ll tell you this is wrong!” I don’t know where I got those feelings of anger. Maybe it’s because I felt a little taste of discrimination being a blind girl in school who couldn’t always participate in all the activities I wanted to. Perhaps it was that I would never want my best friends from camp to experience that horrible treatment. This also strengthened my resolve to be an ally with people of color.
The way I see color is through beautiful culture, art, language, food, and music. The great poet Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” I believe that God created humanity to love each other, but we have a choice as to whether we will or not. It’s up to us to make this world a little more colorful, bright, and a better place to live. I choose peace and love over bitterness and hatred.