As a child, no one had to tell me that something changed. I remember clearly traveling to the south, from the west coast, to visit family during summer vacation. Fondly I recall some of the best BBQ ever as we traveled across states and worked our math game puzzles and educational materials, change occurred. As our family traveled from state to state, encountering the south, I remembered feeling inherently different. Something had changed but I could not put my finger on it.
What did I inherently feel? I felt fearful and aware that the way I was treated was different from others. Although being treated differently was not new to me, it never seem so acceptable and well practiced as in the south. It wasn't what they said to me as a child but how I was treated. There I experienced an unspoken second class citizenship handed down automatically to people of color when traveling through the southern states. I remember sitting at diner's and cafe's while others were served before us, after us, and all around us consistently. I never realized until I was older, that was the reason why we often stopped at bbq pitt spots alongside the highway rather then subject the family to such treatment. Ignored with water was a typical protocol while attempting to order food while being expected to be treated whatever way others saw fit, but miles away from any human decency and respect. I remember fearing somehow for my fathers life when he stood up for himself and his family by confronting managers and wait staff about the second class citizenship treatment being wrong and disrespectful. Like yesterday, I can remember the protocol of getting into the pool while other families were there and ever so suddenly and quietly we had the pool to ourselves within 10 minutes of entering the pool.
This was not the 1950's.
Reflecting on seeing a system carefully constructed where people of color mostly had service jobs (bell person, waitress/waiter, customer service) positions while those who had real money were in ownership or upper management. Although people appeared polite, there always lacked a certain genuineness about the interaction. “How you” was usually given as a greeting but people would walk away not caring or waiting to hear a response on how you really were. I always wondered why people would say things they don't mean instead of opting to be genuine and not say anything at all? The latter would be truer, and more respected than a false presentation. I also experienced people of color lacking “face to face interaction” like I'd experienced and was taught all my life. As a child I noticed a southern tradition of letting people of color serve people of color as if they spoke a different dialect/language. I never understood why my family members in the south grumbled when they talked and they always seemed to look down when talking, inherently programed not to communicate face to face and eye to eye when holding a conversation. These were my unspoken experiences of the south as a child.
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