I’m a middle-aged white guy on the road to being an old white guy sooner than I want.
I’ve lived in this north Texas part of the world for most of those years. I went to school here (Sherman) and I live in Denison now. I’ve lived out of state and in the metroplex. I went to college in Lubbock. I’ve made some friends and some enemies. There are probably people who don’t like me, too; but that’s Life.
With all the social unrest and racial turmoil in America now, I am pressed to search my own history. What has my journey shown? Does it have anything to add? Am I part of the solution or a part of the problem?
As I contemplate my past and especially my formative years, many of my memories go back to Jefferson Elementary and Fred Douglass schools. I’m not sure I had ever seen a black person when I came to Jefferson in the third grade. I was from the Dallas suburbs; not many people of color there in the 1960s.
But those years, as I think of them now, were filled with so many life-affirming experiences and life skills that I use now, some five decades later. This concept alone shows how important the right type of experiences are in a person’s life.
I came here during the time of Integration. There were at least as many black students as there were white ones when I walked into Ms. Boyd’s class that day. It was natural to desire that others like you, and that you were included. You just wanted to belong; you just wanted friends. No one cared if that friend was black or white — and certainly not me, the new guy!
I can name just as many white friends I remember from those days as I can black ones, but this column is about those incredible people I met when they were third graders like me; they just happened to be black. I didn’t care; and I don’t think they cared that I was white either. We were in school together and we were going to make the best of it. A powerful lesson for an eight or nine-year-old to learn, especially in the heat of Integration and the volatile 1960s.
People like Welton Wright, Valerie Howell, Sonja Wilson, Valerie Parker and Kelvin Galbraith among others became my friends in school. Sure we had our ups and downs, but all friends do. All I knew was they were important to me at a time when I needed friends in my young life. I was so happy to have them as friends; and even today, I am glad I know them. They are still special to me, even if we don’t get to see each other much anymore.
Integration didn’t allow for separate schools, hospitals, water fountains or any other divisive institutions in the United States. Maybe, it would be difficult, but it had to be done; and I for one am glad. I probably would have never met these wonderful people, whom I am glad to call friend, if not for Integration in the 1960s.
Now, after some 50 years, we are back at it as a society. There is a divide that isn’t physical such as those water fountains. It’s something we can’t see; it’s systemic racism. It’s time to continue the fight; to take the next step. Back in the 1990s, Michael Jackson was ahead of his time with "Black or White." Listen to these words, "I’ve seen the bright get duller; I’m not going to spend my life being a color."
I don’t want anyone to have to live their lives ‘being a color.’ I want them to have great lives filled with laughter, success and love; just like I do everyone. We all should have this possibility in Life. There shouldn’t be barriers for some and not for others.
Those great kids were friends to me when I needed them; now, it’s time for me and others like me to be there for them. Stand Up against Racism; you would do it for your friend.
Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.