Everyone who watches the news now knows of the suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson, Missouri.
Those of us who also live here are absolutely stunned, mortified and saddened by this recent notoriety! As a retired high school teacher, my students and I did many Partnership Programs with schools in the city and county and I still have many friends and colleagues who live and teach and send their students to school there. Of course there are problems – as there are everywhere. However, I believe this incident unfortunately could have happened anywhere; we are just sad it was us.
I grew up in a little town an hour north of here, Clarksville, Missouri, and when the Brown v. Board of Education occurred in 1954, we integrated. All races played together, worked together and went to each others homes. I wasn’t in school yet, but that’s all I knew and experienced in my hometown. I didn’t really know the hatred of racism until I attended the University of Alabama shortly after George Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium trying to block the first two Black students (no one used the term African American yet) trying to enroll. Federal marshals had to force him to step aside. Tension and threats prevailed on both sides.
My senior year one of my suite-mates was Black.
After a concert one night, the roommate of my husband-to-be was arrested for sharing a cafeteria seat with her. The Tuscaloosa police threw him in the back of the car and he was charged with “disturbing the peace and resisting arrest.” He spent several days in jail before his older brother could bail him out. I was so absolutely shocked, ashamed and so saddened, but that was only half of what Diane felt. We were determined to “change the world” and just knew that by the time our children and grandchildren were grown, there would no longer be such a thing as racism. Of course there were protests and demonstrations through our college years, but most of them had to do with protesting the Vietnam War. It was a very volatile time to say the least!
My first year of teaching, 1973, was in rural Theodore, Alabama. It was the first year of full integration as many of their schools had been “separate but equal” to somehow legally circumvent the law. It was extremely tense for most who had never experienced integration in their lives!
My full time teaching position the next year was at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis County.
Shockingly, when I began my career there, we had 4000 students in the high school but only a few Blacks. Our districts were constructed according to the residential borders and almost all were White! Then in the 1980’s Judge William Hungate mandated integration by busing students from miles around to eventually have a 20% “mix.” We all saw that forced integration wouldn’t work; an hour bus ride to the county meant nothing unless the students ate together, played sports together, and went to one another’s homes. Many did and have remained life-long friends. The busing has now been eliminated. Only integrated towns and communities really blend.
As I look through my address book of hundreds of friends and former students, I only know that my life has been so much richer for living and working with so many nationalities.
Having traveled in 65 countries, we have seen the spectrum of God’s rainbow; we could not possibly choose a “favorite” – and neither does God.
This is why the whole focus on Ferguson and all that has transpired this past week is so emotionally disheartening for all of us. It is so hard to believe that all of this occurred in this seemingly diverse community. Only time will unfold the ultimate outcome. Most of us know so little of the full facts at this point. But one thing we know for sure is that there is a Momma and Daddy who have lost their son, and the best and most we can all do at this venture, is to pray for them, grieve with them, and ask God to heal all of us.
Read more posts by Debra Peppers, Ph.D., here. Dr. Peppers blogs for JenningsWire.
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