*This article is a 3 minute read
It was 1981, and I had just arrived at summer camp with my parents. It had been a scenic drive from New York through the rolling hills and valleys of New Hampshire. We pulled into camp to a familiar scene of kids, parents, and counselors with clipboards accounting for everyone, followed by a camp tour. I knew some of the children from school, although none of my friends were enrolled in camp that summer.
Suddenly it was time to say goodbye to my parents who were probably looking forward to an empty nest. As they drove away in their Peugeot Wagon, I fought back a few tears and turned to walk to my cabin, when *Julie Smith got in my face and shouted, "Mix marriages don't work, I hope you know your parents are getting a divorce, that's why they left you here."
My parents were an interracial couple. I told her she was nuts and to leave me alone. I knew Julie from elementary school. She was a year behind me, and we weren't friends. She had never been so bold before. "What had gotten into her?" I thought.
I walked to my cabin, and she trailed behind me, "Mix marriages don't work, they just don't work," she continued. I ignored Julie, who unfortunately was bunking in the same cabin. I worried that the other campers would join in and gang up on me. I decided to keep quiet as we entered the cabin, but she continued her hate speech until something miraculous happened. The other campers about ten girls told Julie she was wrong, that wasn't true and to shut up. I couldn't believe their solidarity. All of these girls stood up for me, most of them didn't even know me, they were white. They just knew they had to take a stand. I never forgot the impact of their united force. I knew in that instant that the majority stood for equality, and the real minority was not being a minority, but being a racist.
Time and time again this story would play out. As a college student I shopped at a bookstore in Manhattan with my friend Bill who is white. The saleswoman followed me throughout the store. I tried to ignore her, and when I stood on line to pay for my book she had the audacity to put her head over my purse to see if I had stolen any items. I paid for my books and left the store not saying a word. My friend Bill instinctively apologized to me on behalf of the racist sales clerk. "Courtney I am sorry I had no idea. That was horrible!" He said the incident disturbed him for days, and made him angry. I told him occasionally this happened and you just had to move on.
As you can imagine, I have many stories like this. Despite everything, I have a wonderful life, and I am an optimist. I am so optimistic, that I believe we have reached a turning point where we are looking at the past with eyes wide open, and aiming to rectify the situation. The conversations I've had the last few weeks with friends, family, neighbors and readers of this blog have been full disclosure. Seeing Americans of all races marching together is a sign that we have reached a turning point. This is no longer something buried in my soul, but released. It's been painful, healing, and for those who care to listen educational. I ask that we continue to have the courage to keep talking, learning, and seeing truth. Open discourse without judgement is what will shepherd us to the next chapter which will be an improvement from the past.
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