Most of the white American population has not had to deal with a lot of racism. Therefore, most of us do not understand the implications of being different or being treated as a non-entity or as just plain unimportant. Until you have experienced some of these things, it is easy to think that those who complain about racism or being treated differently are just telling tales.

When I was in college in Duluth at St. Scholastica, where my dad thought I would be safe, we were an all white girls school except for one black girl in my class. We all ate dinner at the same assigned table each night and she was at my table. Well, by the end of the year, we were friends after spending five evening meals together each week. When the year was coming to an end, she asked me if I would like to go to a party. Now, what self- respecting college girls turns down a party? A friend of hers picked us up and we went to a home in downtown Duluth. As we walked in, she introduced me to our hosts and then took off. I talked with a few for a while and looked around. It dawned on me that I was the only white person there. She had been watching from across the room and came over to me and asked, “How does it feel?” She said she had been watching for my reaction. I told her I felt strange. She replied, “I feel like that every single day at school!” That gave me a different perspective of our lives.

Many years later in St. Paul I was going to a state meeting. Outside of the hotel I met a woman I knew from other meetings. We started talking and walked into the hotel together and got in line to check in. I was first and got my room and stepped aside to hear the hotel employee ask the gentleman behind my friend if she could help him. He said the woman was first and her answer was she could wait! Her exact words were said in a tone that made it clear she was unimportant. This woman was Native American. I called the hotel worker on her action and said the woman was next. I was then told I didn’t work at that hotel. My friend, a Native American, asked me to leave it alone and we would talk later, which we did. She said it does happen in stores, hotels, etc. Why are we as European whites so rude and disrespectful? I know that is not everyone, but we are so forgiving to those that are.

Circa 1962

Barb Anderson

Grand Rapids

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