Monday, November 26, 2007

Were we really completely 'whitebread?'

If you look at yesterday's post, the picture from the reunion, there's one thing that's very apparent.

All of us were white and most of us were what would be called "Anglo."

Now I know that not all of the 804 of us in the Class of '67 were white and Anglo-Saxon, let alone Protestant, but there was definitely a WASPy flavor to our school back then.

Think about it. We lived in the Washington, D.C., area, and in only one of the four years we were at Woodson were there any black kids on our basketball team. As for Latinos, I work in a city that is 68 percent Latino and even though we must have had a few kids with Latino names -- lovely cheerleader Susan Morales comes to mind -- there certainly wasn't anything going on in terms of culture beyond the Spanish Club.

So tell me.

What am I missing?

Were we really that whitebread, or was there something going on that I missed?


Gail Schultz MacLeod said...

Don't you remember when they integrated Fairfax Schools? My vague memory is that it was our sophomore year. The "black" school in Merrifield was closed (or redefined).

Also, remember when there was a fight (broken bottle??) between some white and black kids in the lobby? (Participants from both races were low-lifes.) The next morning Sheriff deputies met each bus and escorted us into the school.

But my real memory is of my fellow basket ball players, Josie Marshall and Inez Jukes I think Josie was also a cheerleader.

When we had a victory dinner for our winning basketball team, my mom said "don't be surprised if the black team members don't come". I couldn't see why they wouldn't, and she said their moms may not let them....and in fact they did not come. I was disappointed.

Sometimes I think the parents were more concerned than we were about integration.

Mike Rappaport said...

It was our junior year; they changed Luther Jackson into an intermediate school. Even so, there weren't that many black kids. I think when we were seniors it was 300 out of 3,300.

I don't remember the fight.

And what about Asians and Latinos?

Leslie said...

The "fight" was on the front page of the Washington Post. I have the page in my album. It was part of bussing and nobody on either side liked it, or understood it for that matter. As a California girl raised to accept diversity, it was a fast paced introduction to racism. We weren't just white bread, we were racist. Interestingly I went to college all the way across the country at Oregon State, and I had a similar experience there observing the "introduction of black athletes". I just got an email from a former student who was sad to have been the only white person at a rally in support of the Jena 6. I'd like to think we've come a long ways since those days, but you have to wonder.

Gail Schultz MacLeod said...

True that racism exists. Some people in all races dislike categorically those of another race. Not limited to white folks.

My father-in-law's second wife was black. Mostly black folks at his funeral. Remarks to me like: I usually don't like white folks, but I like you....

People are often uncomfortable when placed in unfamiliar places or with unfamiliar people.

Personally I chose to live in racially & economically diverse neighborhoods in San Diego and in Washington DC. I think people with different backgrounds are interesting.

Others prefer the conformity of being exclusively among their own kind. You see this self-segregation choice being exercised by people of all races and cultures. AND resentment, for example, if white/latino folks move into a "historically black" neighborhood.

Human and social dynamics can be mystifying. Sometimes it's simply folks being with folks with whom they have something in common. And sometimes it is ignorant racism.


Mike Rappaport said...

Fascinating comment:

"We weren't just whitebread, we were racist."

One of my closest friends, who also grew up in Virginia, still occasionally says, "That's mighty white of you."

My first real contact with black people was a summer job as a bank teller in D.C. Half our customers were black, and so was the cool college girl who sat next to me.

I was fascinated, and I used to ask her, "What do black people think about ..."

She cured me of that quickly.

"What do white people ..."

We live, we learn.

Sean Kennedy said...

I remember having gym class with a black friend at Woodson. Ned Jackson was his name, I think. I think we took a creative writing class together. He was as quiet and unassuming as any friend I had there.

I remember my Algebra II teacher, a black women, Mrs. Rowe. I really liked her. She always had a hard time pronouncing my first name, so just called me Kennedy. Of all my teachers, I think I liked her the best of them all. Great sense of humor, but told you the truth. When you weren't doing well, she gave you a heavy dose of medicine.

The year I graduated from Woodson I worked construction in North Springfield. I worked with an all-black crew. Most of the guys were from King George County, and had grown up in the rural Northern Neck area. Wise beyond their years. Most ofthem were in their late 30s or early 40s. Were some of the strongest, hardest working guys I have ever worked with. It was interesting, when another black fella joined us. He was from DC, Buford Robinson. It was amazing how the country guys teased that city guy. We had lots of fun on that crew. I got hurt thas summer, cut my wrist in an accident on the job, and had it not been for the quick thinking of Nathaniel Jackson, I might have been in some tough straits.

I think racism abounds today. More subtle. Harder to detect. What is not spoken doesn't mean it's not said. I have always thought racism is caused from the fear of what we don't know or understand. something we don't understand.

Carol Witaschek Beaupre said...

I remember when Woodson integrated. (Growing up in Germany primarily on military bases, I didn't understand the big deal.) In biology we had to break into tables of 4 or 5 students. No one wanted to be at "their" table so I volunteered. One of the black students was Leroy (don't remember his last name or the grade he was in). He was great fun! I learned a lot from those kids. I remember the fight in the lobby too. That was the first time I ever heard the "N" word - and they used it to describe the black kids involved. I asked about it and they said, "We're Negro/Black - that guy is a 'N.' If he was white you'd call him white trash." That opened my eyes to the disparity among races to include racism within the races.

I also remember Josie, Inez and Inez's brother Jimmy, who I heard died a few years after graduation from a drug overdose. I was on the track team and marveled at what seemed his effortless ability to run like a gazelle.

At every reunion I wonder about our fellow classmates who were born black/brown/Asian/Latino - and wish they had felt they were part of the class. And during deeper moments I marvel at the human race and how we put each other into boxes. I wonder if the people on other planets have similar problems? :-)

Dale Morgan said...

Carol - your comment about 'racism within the races' was what I really found to be an eye opener while working in the Federal Government in DC for 35 years. It's a shame, but it just seems to be human nature to have some sort of prejudice about someone or something or some race or some religion, etc.

Like many of our classmates, I grew up in a military family where I was told everyone is the same no matter what race. Yet, as I got older, I noticed that the "officers'" kids rarely hung out with the "enlisted" kids. That was easily facilitated based upon the fact that they lived on another part of the military base.

Same thing; different type of prejudice.

Dale Morgan said...

I meant to leave another comment, but digressed...

I wanted to say that I cannot imagine the courage it took for those few black classmates of ours to attend that HUGE school. We were scared for God's sake! I cannot even imagine how difficult it must have been to go to school each day and feel like you will probably be ignored or at least left out of the loop. I wonder if it helped build character or lack of confidence. I wish I had reached out to one of those classmates back then instead of reaching out to what was within my comfort zone.

Anonymous said...

The only racism, or at least "tribalism" I can remember at Woodson was between the "collegiates" and the "greases". This was more in our freshman and sophomore years, as I remember it. There were fights and rumors of fights, mostly off campus.
Of course this was "class-ism" rather than racism, but pretty ugly anyway.
John Lodge

Mike Rappaport said...

John, the thing I remember was that there were a lot of us who didn't fit into either group.

My parents wouldn't buy me shirts with "froot loops" on the back, and I think I bought my first pair of Bass Weejuns when I was 40 (my dog chewed them up a few years later).

Yes, there were "in crowds."

My guess is that most of us felt like we were on the outside.

Gail Schultz MacLeod said...

Mike -- you may not have had the "in" clothes, but you were college bound, so by definition you were one of the collegiates.

Like you I didn't have the villager brand clothes (girl's required fashion) but I'm not sure anyone was keeping track.

Why in the world did we think that was important??