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Readers Respond: Are You a Mexican?

July 3, 2015

Many responses to the last story, about ethnic identity:

Ed, I wanted to reply to this because it made me think. All my childhood and teen years my mother worked. From the time I was small, Gussy, a black lady kept me. Mother told me later that Gussy and I had to sit In the back of the bus when we went to town. My stepmother also had an elderly black lady, Sadie, who came and cleaned and ironed. There were others after Gussy and although I liked them, my feelings toward them weren’t the same. I never once thought about black people as being less than us. It was just that they worked for us and took care of us. When I went off to Cisco Jr. College in 1965 the Civil Rights Movement was beginning but I was out in West Texas. No protests and no discussions about it.  There were two black girls in our dorm and several black guys in the athletic dorm. My boyfriend had a car and we double dated with one girl and her boyfriend.

I was royally chastised about this after  the dorm mother reported it to my family. Although none of my family had ever said a negative thing about other races to me and I had never heard the N word from them I was surprised at the turn of events.

Louis shared this memory:

With regard to this week’s story, I, too, had a similar story. In the 4th grade several of us guys would ride our bikes down to Williams Drug at 34th Bosque to get a hamburger for lunch. One day I was headed down 34th street as fast as i could pedal and somehow didn’t notice or didn’t care that the street had been just resurfaced with asphalt. For some reason on this day I was by myself. Anyway, as I zipped on down 34th headed for that tasty drugstore burger, the tires went out from under me and I found myself covered in hot tar on both hands and arms and a little on my face.  My jeans had protected my knees and legs. But as I was laying there stunned in the middle of the street, hands and face burning, I looked up and there was an elderly man standing over me.

He just looked at me for a few moments and then finally said, “If you weren’t such a clean looking little Mexican I would just leave you here in the road.” Well, I was half Lebanese and half Irish but I wasn’t sure how he might feel about that, so I accepted the help as a most grateful little Mexican…..he took me to his garage and used a little turpentine to clean off all the tar and put a little salve on my burns.  And I thanked him very profusely.  Wished I had known to say “gracias.”

From Drew:

Another great one! Only when you walk in another’s shoes can you begin to appreciate their experiences. You help us feel like we are in your shoes and it feels really awkward.

Priscilla remembers:

I spent many hours at both the Kiwanis Pool and the Lion’s Pool (in Waco). If I am remembering correctly the Sun Pool was the first to integrate, then the Kiwanis, before the Lion’s Pool finally did. I only remember that my friends all started going to the Lion’s Pool, so we did too. I know that my parents “protected me” from the cruelty of others but I never realized why.

Cara adds:

I guess things changed drastically in the 9 year age difference between us. I remember Waco having lots of Jewish folks. My first boyfriend was Jewish. No one thought anything of it.

I think things did change dramatically in that decade. Richfield High was finally integrated, and there must have been a reconsideration of many racial and religious issues. By that time I was living in Denver and not plugged into the changes that were happening in my hometown.

Donald:

In my adult life, classmates/friends, upon learning I am a Jew, have forgiven me, one even forgave me for being a Christ-killer since he knew I was not there then. Another liked me and knew there were only 300 seats ‘upstairs’; he wanted me there with him, if only I would accept his savior; actually he was a decent and good man. My advertising is a ‘chai’ on a short chain, but others prefer longer; it can be hidden, but a black man and his face is a semaphore wherever he goes to all who see him and hate him for no other reason.

I had similar experiences growing up. Waco was a very religious town, and a number of my Christian friends worried about my eventual salvation. In truth, I never really minded, because it represented a level of caring and concern that I appreciated, even though it discounted the validity of my own religion.

Leslie:

Thank you for your vulnerability. I honor your work.

John had this to say about the previous story, “Duck and Cover.”

I recall that, not long after the Civil Defense sirens were installed in the early 60’s, they went off about 10:30 one evening.  We thought we were under attack and were scared half-to-death. I think the one in our neighborhood was near L.A. Junior, so was quite loud at our house.

Also in the early 60’s, after dark one evening the sky briefly became as bright as day, also causing us to think an A-bomb or H-bomb had detonated nearby.  It was a meteor.

There was also a time when a generator at the Lake Waco dam exploded, lighting up the night sky. Half the city thought it was a Russian attack.

Pat remembers:

We did not do duck-and-cover. Audubon County, Iowa was within 90 miles of the SAC base. When they posted the map with levels of destruction depending on how far one was from the base (near Omaha), we were in that first circle — utter annihilation. So we didn’t bother.

Elinor adds:

I suspect everyone our age remembers the Civil Defense drills, and crouching under our desks at school. Our family had a fallout shelter in our basement, complete with cots, water, canned foods, windows covered with sandbags, etc. Now it seems totally ineffective, but I know our dad was trying to protect us based on instructions from Civil Defense. I also recall seeing my dad read the newspaper accounts and listen to the radio reports when the Bay of Pigs incident was so scary – but I never really understood how serious it was at the time…a good thing, I think.

Finally, Miriam says:

Dear Ed, Hard to believe you’ve already given us 22 weeks of silly grins and sad surprises, like the last image of “Are You A Mexican?” Thank you.

Thank you, Miriam, and thanks to everyone for your comments.