I grew up in St. Louis County during the 70’s. My parents were older and had been raised during the depression in downtown St. Louis. These two facts shaped a lot of how I came to think about race.

My parents were basically racist. They never attended Klan rallies. They never said an unkind word in front of a black person. But they were certainly racist. So were their friends and coworkers. And neighbors. You see we lived in a white neighborhood – I don’t ever remember seeing any black kids at my grade school. My parents had moved out of the city along with everyone else to live in the suburbs. Was it to get away from the increasing numbers of blacks living downtown? I don’t know but I’m sure that was at least partially the reason.

Sometime in fourth grade I began to be aware of changes that were happening in our area of St. Louis County. I’d hear my parents and their friends talking about the fact that there were neighborhoods near us that were “going black”. This was a huge deal for my parents because we’d just moved to a new house 5 years prior to this and now they were faced with the possibility that our neighborhood could also “go black”.

I didn’t know what this meant – this going black. But it was clear to me that it was going to be a bad thing. I began hearing phrases like “property values going down” and “taking over” and “pretty soon you won’t even be able to walk down your own street”. Needless to say I began to get scared.