As a white child living in Virginia in the 1960s...


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As a white child living in Virginia in the 1960s, I was scared when I saw TV footage and print photos of angry white people screaming at black people, of fire hoses knocking black people off their feet, of German Shepherd dogs baring their teeth at them, of hooded KKK members burning crosses.

I remember feeling lucky God did not make me black, so no one would scream at me, turn a hose on me, set a dog on me, or burn a cross in my yard because of my skin color. As a ten year old I thought about what it must be like to be a black child in America. What if it were my grandpa, daddy, cousin, or me, being hated just because of skin color? I remember feeling uneasy and unsafe, even though President Johnson said violence against black people was wrong.

When I see those 1960s images today, I wonder if the angry screaming people in those images are proud. I wonder what they say to their children and grandchildren about why they thought it was okay to hate black people, consider them “less than,” and join a mob to taunt them.

Five decades after Johnson’s presidency, I see President Trump vilify brown people, black legislators, and anyone who doesn’t agree with him. I see news footage of white people cheering Trump as he says four elected congresswomen of color should go back to where they came from. He waits for the chant “Send her back!” He smiles and nods as the crowd obliges him.

I wonder, years from now, will the chanters in those images be proud? What explanation will they give of why they thought it was okay to demand that people go back where they came from?

Ann M. Pompelio

Newton



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