This comes from the memoirs of my dad’s oldest brother Floyd. Uncle Floyd lives in California and is now 84 years old. As you read this, consider the impact it had on my uncle as a child, so much so that he remembered it decades later. Your children watch what you do and it impacts them.
These things happened in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1940s.
We weren’t taught to hate in my family. My parents set a good example for us.
Once my family was going to a baseball game in Ponce de Leon Park. My brother Jerry and I were young, pre-teen I suppose. When we boarded the streetcar, Jerry spied a seat and sat down – next to a black man. I am sure Jerry didn’t see his dark skin. He saw a seat and he took it. He was too young to know what the law said, so down he sat.
Immediately the man rose and started toward the back of the streetcar.
“You don’t need to move,” my father said. “There are plenty of seats in the front.”
“Naw, suh. I’ll move,” the man said. And he did.
The sad thing is, if that man had not moved, the conductor on the streetcar could have, and in all likelihood would have, had him removed from the streetcar and hauled off to jail, all because a white child sat next to him.
Another illustration of how we were taught by example:
My father was driving home from work one day when he stopped on a side street at a traffic signal. The street he approached was closed going north. He had two options, proceed straight across the intersection going east when the light changed or he could turn right and go south. The car in front of him turned right after stopping for the red light and so did my father. A policeman pulled them both over. It was illegal to turn right on red at this intersection. The policeman came over and said to my father, “you wait here until I give that n— a ticket (using a racial slur to describe the black man in the other car). After he leaves you can go.”
My father replied “We both did the same thing. Either give us both a ticket or let us both go.”
The policeman really had no choice. He let them both go. He couldn’t take the chance that my father would tell his story in court. That would have been too flagrant even for our Jim Crow laws.
My grandaddy Farlow was a quiet man and I don’t recall hearing him talk about social or political issues. But, I can say I never heard him use a racial slur to describe anyone so this didn’t surprise me but it did make me proud of him nonetheless.