As long as I overlooked where I came from, I could hide my bigoted past. But whenever I wrote something and especially dialogue, those things often slipped out. “Zulu kisser” appeared in one of my first plays; “bad words” came out, words that otherwise wouldn’t have been in my vocabulary except in the privacy of my own mind. I used the words “fuck” and “shit” up there quite a bit. Normally they didn’t (I just put this in the past tense) come out in public. That’s less so today than yesterday. More and more comes out now. “The Good O’ Boys” is an example of my coming out. I say to myself I’m not like that today. Never really was. Oh, boy.! The place where I grew up, with of course exceptions, from 1946 until I left for college, was segregated.
But what was I to do about it? “Colors” (as a boy, I had sang “catch a nigger by his toe) had been used in my home. We didn’t consider ourselves prejudice, but the names were still part of our vocabulary, and we weren’t confronted because of our use of them. In our circle instead of Negroes (even “blacks” wasn’t yet an acceptable term), we used “colored people” and didn’t seem to offend anyone. (When you went to church, you used the same terms; you didn’t have to worry about it.)
In that area, African Americans lived some place else (literally across the river), and people openly worried about their property values going down when “coloreds” finally started to move into “our” neighborhood. Now thank God we have the choice of an African American for a president; and a woman for a vice president. Then, with these changes, my son and his family are not so uncomfortable about where they came from.
Irvin’ Texas. Irvin’ Texas was not a bad place. Irving Texas isn’t either. No doubt prejudice unfortunately still exits there, but thank God times have change and I feel confident enough in myself to write about it. Yes, writing can be liberating. Since I always felt freer when I wrote, I say write and don’t hide what comes out except… Oops, censorship is still lurking around. Ashes remain for lifetimes, just as footsteps across a fragile terrain do.
There is no getting around the fact that some things stick; luckily people can change. But there is not an easy course, only liberating actions such as dialogue, and, in my case, through my writing.
And while recently sitting waiting for a bus, I experienced reverse bigotry (I don’t remember the racial slur that was directed at me.) All I know is that the barb tore into me and hurt all the way home. Those were fighting words, like a slap in the face and a challenge to a duel, at least my African American assailant seemed to think that, and he scared me, and scared me more when he got off the bus with me at my bus stop. I won’t forget this experience, and now I’ve written about it (except I’m telling it again, a big no no for a writer.)