Monday, November 10, 2008

Memories on Monday - Culture Shock

For my Freshman year of High School I went to live with my father in North Carolina. My schooling up until then had been in a large suburban district outside of Syracuse, NY. The schools I had attended were predominantly white and middle class. Race was never an issue for me.

Moving to the rural south in the mid 70's was like moving to a different country. The white kids didn't want to have anything to do with me because I was a Yankee, the intervening 100 years since the Civil War meant little. The black kids didn't want to have anything to do with me because I was white. There was only one other white kid on the school bus; he was the driver. The first day I tried to take a seat, any seat, but I was the last stop and none of the other kids would let me sit down. For the entire year I rode sitting in the step-well knowing that if I complained in school I'd most likely have the stuffing knocked out of me on the way home.

I expected classes to be easier, having heard that the schools of the south were backwards and not very good. I struggled to catch up in all of my classes. History was more than memorizing time lines and therefore fun. The exception was gym. I'd always been the kid that nobody wanted for their team. For the first time I performed as well or better than my classmates.

I was able to join the band because they were willing to lend me an instrument, something the school district I'd left refused to do. Alto clarinet might not have been my first choice but I learned to play it. (In the barn as my father and stepmother weren't interested in hearing me practice!) We'd march all over town for band practice but we were expected to to be almost silent as we marched by the revival tents. This was my introduction to Southern Baptists.

I stayed only the one year but the experiences I had and the things I learned were the foundation for the adult I became. My relationships with all of my family members was changed, I had very little respect left for my father. I have zero tolerance for bigots of any kind. I've explored various religious theologies. I know how to look out for myself and not count on anyone else to stand up for me. It was a very hard year but a very memorable one.


Edith said...

Thanks for sharing your memories - it's interesting when we look back at how things shape us.

Have a blessed day.

Tex said...

Interesting post, Apple. It's amazing what we "are" from our experiences, isn't it? I grew up in a small town and I'd put their schooling up against anyone's--but it's still a pretty intolerant place for anyone other than WASPs. Thanks for sharing--

my Heritage Happens said...

What a tough year that must have been. Wow. I do believe your experiences make you who you are, and you must be happy with that person! :-)