It was a silent clear dawn. In the distance a shimmering star against the backdrop of shadow and light could be seen. Venus rising beyond, the harbinger of coming daylight, shinned as translucent crystal. At last the sight of a still morning broke in, and dispersed the remnant of darkness. The sidewalks and streets were once again busy with children and vehicles. Kids hurried along to school. Car horns blared from impatient drivers trying to accelerate slow moving traffic. I had been awake prior to sunrise. Wallace was still asleep. I ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, and washed my face. I then dressed in a nice pair of blue jeans, maroon shirt, and a white pair of tennis shoes. By 7:00a.m. I left for school. My brother Wallace followed a little later. I waited for an hour outside the gates bubbling with excitement. It was the time in my childhood that I developed a crush for a particular girl. I can think back to this instance during my young life. I thought myself to be in love. Her name was Elizabeth, a classmate of mine. Of Asian origins, namely Chinese I liked her very much.
Elizabeth and I played, or talked to each other daily at recess. On some days when it rained, students would stay inside the classrooms. Teachers allowed the kids to involve themselves in such games as Battleship, Connect Four, and Checkers. I always looked forward to rainy days because Elizabeth and I talked over one of these games played. When school ended for the day, I usually walked Elizabeth home. I carried her books, and many adults thought this was cute. Her mother especially liked me. She too viewed this as two children that had an innocent like for each other. Elizabeth lived in a modest brick home which had a brown fence before the entrance of the driveway. She often invited me in to play. She was unsupervised for a short period of time. Her mother worked during the day, and did not get home until an hour later. Elizabeth’s mother however, prepared her daughter as to what should be done while she was away. Cook for her sister, clean the house, wash the dishes etc. Soon Elizabeth’s mother pulled into the driveway. She made it home at around 4:00p.m., mostly, though sometimes she made there earlier. In the beginning she consented to Elizabeth and me playing together. She didn’t seem to mind, but eventually she started to have a cool reserve towards me. One example of this was after school I came inside Elizabeth’s house. We both sat down to watch Television. She sat on the couch and I on the floor. Her mother suddenly called her daughter away. Elizabeth stayed gone for hours before she returned to tell me she had much to do, and that I had to leave. A few days later I was told by my best friend I could not come inside her house anymore. However, the both of us continued to play in her front yard. Yet, Elizabeth’s mother beckoned her to come inside, and again she remained away for hours. I finally left without being told.
On one early balmy evening, while the sun still lingered in the sky, I ran from the Coldwater Canyon Apartment Building to Elizabeth’s house. For some unexplainable reason I had a wild urge to take my shirt off as I made it around Basset Street down to Goodland where my classmate stayed. I thought I would impress her in this way. My impulsive behavior might have seen sexually motivated, but this was not the case. I never even heard of the word at this time, nor could define its meaning. I just wanted to convey to Elizabeth what I couldn’t by verbal communication, that I liked her. I desired her to be impressed with my physique. Elizabeth was in her front yard jump roping in her driveway, when I ran up to the fence. Her reaction was one of curiosity. She asked why I didn’t have a shirt on. The question and wonder on her face I must admit embarrassed me. Boys can do such silly things to gain the attention of girls. Elizabeth’s mother observing, quickly called her daughter inside. When she came back outside she relayed to me her mother’s message. “You cannot come to my house ever again”, she said. The reason being as her mother stated, “Because I was black”. I could not fathom or better yet define what this meant at my age. Although I felt a sense of rejection, I walked away attempting to find shape to this bitter experience.
It was my first encounter with what is termed prejudice. It would be much later that I could comprehend or at least speculate with near certainty the vexing situation. Elizabeth’s mother initial acceptance of me had to do with my appearance. Though African American, she did not detect this due to the fact my biological background was of mixed ancestry. In all actuality I looked more like someone from an eastern culture. Elizabeth’s mother must have queried her daughter as my nationality. When she discovered I was black, she became appalled. Henceforth she disliked me. I cannot say that I blame her for her immediate response when she watched me talking to Elizabeth without a shirt on. Still she probably had that same kind of reasoning some whites retained that blacks are animals, and have illegitimate children as a result of their immoral behavior. In essence they are all sexual deviants. Elizabeth’s mother did not want her to mingle with me at all. Though she expressed a passive prejudice there was that racism which could be aggressive. This would not be the last time coming in contact with bigotry. My bother Marcus and I would experience it a year later. The same prejudice manifested itself in a varied behavior.
I saw Elizabeth the next day sitting on the school benches by herself. It was in the afternoon following the dismissal of students from class. She sat in the lunch area, seemingly alone, silent. We had not talked much earlier during the day. I approached her to find out if we could play. When I came upon her I said, “Hi”. She immediately told me her mother would not allow us to interact none whatsoever.” I could not even be around her at school. Upon hearing this, I walked away saddened at the racial demarcation put between her and me. As I turned my head to look at Elizabeth for the last time, there on her face seem to rest a cloud of confusion. I can only assume she either did not understand her mother’s predisposition to judge another by their racial origins, or she felt as I did, that she didn’t want to lose her best friend. Anyhow Elizabeth and I cease all social actions together. When I succeeded to the third grade, she had become a faint memory. I never saw her anymore.
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