I have given a lot of thought to the fact that the town where my mother lived for 42 years is now considered the hotbed of racism. It makes me sad and confused. My two younger brothers were raised there. My parents moved to Ferguson, Missouri two weeks after I got married but my family and I have visited there almost every year. I don't get it. I have never felt uncomfortable there even though half of the people I saw in restaurants and stores were not white. I felt fine letting my children go for a walk even after dark. It never occurred to me that there would be a problem. I did not worry about my mother staying there after my father died. She was happy there and was watched after by her neighbors. The lady across the street refused to let my mother take out her garbage. She sent her sons to take care of it and would not allow mother to pay them. She did, however, allow her to give them some hot chocolate when they shoveled her snow. When Mother was 90 and those young black boys had grown into men and had jobs and responsibilities, they still came by to take out Ms. Jones' trash because that is what you do for your neighbors who shouldn't be doing heavy lifting. One day, my mom slipped on the ice and fell in the street. Cars from both directions blocked the street while 5 other people came out of their houses to see if they could help. None of them were white. None of them ever seemed to notice a skin color difference. They were just neighbors.
Perhaps the way my family was treated has to do with the fact that they treated others the same. In the military we always lived among people that were different from us. When I was born, the Okinawan ladies could not believe what big eyes I had (I guess they had never seen a Caucasian baby). We lived among people from all parts of the US, people of different races, and people that did not speak our language. We made friends all over. My parents always invited people into our home that Dad worked with regardless of color. Mother was always active in the German-American club and the Franco-American club when we lived overseas. They both made lifelong friends who in turn welcomed my husband and family into their homes later.
My parents taught us that when you feel uncomfortable, smile and find someone to be nice to. It is not necessary to like everyone, just give everyone a chance.
When I went to St Louis in September, people told me to be careful so soon after the Ferguson incident. I went to my brother's wedding where several black people were in attendance and one spoke at the wedding. We smiled and were pleasant and there was no hatred from any side, just kindness and friendship. I know that these are still troubled times but I cannot feel that Ferguson and St. Louis are the epicenter of racism. If we refuse to take an us versus them attitude, in time I hope that sanity will prevail. It only takes one incident to cause a calm situation to explode. I hope someday the dream of Martin Luther King can really be a reality "Black and White together." For good measure, we should add every different race, religion or belief. -Kathy Case