No. 912



One of the things that unnecessarily rips at the very fabric of our society is something we call racism. This word simply means that some people think they are superior to others because of the color of their skin. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you now feel, or have ever felt this way, I believe what I am going to share in this column will be helpful. The roots of racism go far back in our nation’s history, but a few weeks ago I was reminded of the era when attitudes began to change. While we still have a ways to go, dignity has been restored, or made real, to the downtrodden, and that’s a good thing. One thing I can tell you for sure is that racism is just plain wrong -- it always has been and always will be.
One morning when I could not sleep, I flipped the channel to our state’s educational television network. They were airing a documentary titled, “Unearthing the Dream,” written and produced by filmmaker Pam Uzzell. It chronicled the events leading up to and including the integration of the Malvern, Arkansas, schools. As I watched, my early childhood flashed before me because I came from an era where the same conditions were present in the small town in Southeast Arkansas where I grew up. Up until the time when they integrated, children of the colored people in this town attended the all-black A.A. Wilson School. Using very inferior supplies and buildings, they had developed a model school with a solid academic program, an award-winning band and a championship football team. They had pride that ran deep.
These people had their own business community, along with good-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector, and life was good for most of them. However, this changed in 1968 when the order was given to integrate. You can imagine the fear and trepidation for the first black children to attend the formerly all-white schools. There was one scene in the film that I remembered when a young black boy was in the local drugstore that had a policy of selling to blacks but they could not be served at the soda fountain. This young boy did not know the rules, and he learned that an ice cream cone was only 5 cents. He was in luck, or so he thought, because he had 12 cents.
He had seen a white child order a particular flavor and he decided that was what he wanted. When he ordered his cone, the druggist said, “We don’t serve your kind.” The black boy said, “Yes you do, see it’s right there” and pointed to the flavor he wanted. Again the druggist said, “We don’t serve your kind.” You see, the boy was talking about the flavor but the druggist was talking about the color of his skin. While very simple, that is one of the best examples of racism that I have run across in a long time.
Now, back to what I said earlier about my childhood. I grew up in one of thousands of small communities in the South that had similar policies. I graduated from high school in 1956, several years before school integration was in full swing. My parents operated a small restaurant and we had one side for “Whites” and another side for “Colored.” We had separate, but equal, schools, which was really a joke.
Some of the very finest people I know are African-American. These people have sterling character and they are my friends. Racism is based on one or more of these three things in varying degrees: ignorance, prejudice and hatred. When you find someone who is a racist, you will find the reason in my last statement. We should always use common sense when going into areas where ignorance, prejudice and hatred abound, because we can sure get in trouble or even lose our life. On the other hand, this has nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin but more by those who taught them, loved them or provided hope for a better life. I repeat, racism is just plain wrong.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)