My Early Lesson on Racial Issues

My dad was a welder, and he would occasionally accumulate enough scrap iron to sell to a scrap metal dealer.  We would load the scrap iron onto the trailer and haul it to one of several nearby dealers.  I remember going to a particular man’s place when I was about eight years old.  His name was R. D. Nickols, and he was a good friend of my dad’s.  He was probably a little younger than my dad–a big strong man, and dark-complected, sort of like Dad.

When we were finished unloading the scrap iron, R. D. invited us into his house, and the two men drank coffee together.  As we sat there visiting, R. D. offered me a banana, which I was glad to accept.  I was kind of proud sitting there, eating my banana and being included in the conversation between the older men.  We visited a few minutes and then left.

When we got home, my dad asked me how I liked the banana, and I told him that it was good.  He asked me if it tasted like any other banana.  I assured him that it did, and I wondered what he was getting at.  He then asked me if I knew that R. D. was a black man.  I told him that I hadn’t realized that.  I just thought that he had a little deeper sun tan than we did.  Dad concluded that teaching moment by telling me that black people were no different than anyone else, bananas and all, and we should treat everyone the same.

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