Childhood did not have racism

February 17, 2018

Madison Avenue that great adverting Mecca is making great strides in portraying the mixing of ethnicities within families. Breakfast cereals are consumed by and what appears to be a Caucasian father and African American mother and a couple of mulatto children.


Many cell phone companies and the recent spate of Valentine gift commercials featuring candy, jewelry, flowers and etcetera also feature non-traditional couples. In addition to mixed race, couples there are same sex mixed with the bi-racial couples. To the people who inhabit a “Live and let Live,” landscape this phenomena is barely a blip on their radar.

I attended James Monroe Elementary School kindergarten through sixth grade. We had students of all colors that learned together, played together and even fought together.

The families tended to be large and believe me when you had a quarrel with one sibling you faced them all. The Spence sisters, the Townsel kids, the Rios family and Tate sisters were formidable opponents. I’m sure there was some bullying occurring but it was more prank and not torment. The bigger kids wouldn’t let each other pick on the little kids too much. If you wanted to pick on someone, you had better make sure it was someone your own size or a bigger kid stepped in.

I grew up with two older brothers. Rocky Hill the eldest was king of the castle. He was the adult supervision when Mom and Dad were gone to work. He would punch Brian and I for the fun of it and not just a small smack. He didn’t strike us every time he walked by, but you did get two for flinching. These annoyances lasted until Brian at about age 12 and I at about age 11 turned on him with a minor beat-down of our own. He said he had been waiting for that so he could be sure were could take care of ourselves on the playground!

With two older brothers I was never meek enough to fear bullies. I had 50 pounds on most my classmates and could always threaten to sit on them if they wanted to get into it.

My favorite grade school memories are of little girls walking around at recess and lunch hour with our arms around each other’s waist or holding hands skipping across the playground.

Picture a young me with Rebecca Martinez, Alice Tate, Pamela Jane Spaulding, Iva Spence and Dorothy Zaragoza playing ring around the rosie, red rover, double-dutch jump rope and more. Not one of us realized the others were a different race. We were little girls, part of the human race. When one of us cried, we hugged her until she stopped. Physical affection between little kids was spontaneous and unselfconscious.

We all envied Spaulding, the prettiest one of us, with gorgeous blond hair. She also twirled the baton that was very impressive the way she threw it in the air and caught it behind her back followed by the splits. She didn’t seem to know how pretty she was. She never committed the cardinal school yard sin of being stuck-up!

I learned later in life her home life was an unhappy one. She was a surprise baby as her nearest sibling was 15 years older than she was. Her home life was very lonely.

I remember one fight I had with a third grade classmate over a cute little red-haired fella. My dreamboat at that age was a boy named William Paul Watrous. He walked me my Girl Scout meetings and carried my books. My friend Dorothy took a shine to Billy and I was not having any part of it. A bit of pushing and hair pulling and she decided the whole thing wasn’t worth it to her.

Billy and I broke up in fifth grade but have remained life-long friends. In high school we rode the same school bus. We always sat together, held hands and shared our days, romances and life problems the way only lifelong friends can.

In January of last year I saw my dear friend Billy again. We held hands during his father funeral service. Our hands just reached out and found one another as they did on all those school bus rides and felt just normal.

When I was a junior in high school the drama, choral and band departments staged the musical South Pacific. One of the songs from the show has always reminded me of my rainbow of grammar school friends.

The lyrics: You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year, It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.

A child starts out as a blank canvas and must be taught any negative behavior. Nurture your children so they don’t become the bully on the playground or the one in cyberspace.

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Have a great weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.


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