Early diversity exposure broadened perspective

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The present racial turmoil that’s going in our United States today pulls me back to the memories just after WWII when my parents decided to pursue the possibility of becoming Californians. My dad sold his newspaper in Nebraska and our family headed west to pursue a purchase of a newspaper on the West Coast. As an upcoming third grader who sat in the backseat with my Cocker Spaniel dog “Pickles,” I had no idea what life-changing experiences were ahead for me and the positive effects it would have on my future racial attitudes.
  After the war the West Coast experienced a diverse population surge that brought not only the conservative Midwesterners who had spent many years in small Nebraska communities that were  void of racial diversification, but also former citizens from foreign countries as well.
  I can recall my first days in the third grade class in a 2,500 population California community where my dad was considering buying the newspaper. There was a Mexican boy, barefoot, no shirt, wearing bib overalls and had a brown paper grocery sack over his head. Later I found he had head lice. Then there was “Charlie” a black, who later become my protector over the fourth grade bullies who picked on the naïve new member of their class. Also there was this nice looking oriental girl in a starched white blouse and bright plaid skirt who continued to catch my eye until our family returned back to Nebraska a year later. Added to this ethnic mix was the community’s population that was nearly 30 percent Jewish.
What was interesting about all of this was the fact none of us third graders noticed the diversity. Heading to the playground for recess no one noticed the skin colors, who was barefoot, or what was their religious belief. All we were concerned about was having fun on the playground and who wanted to come home with me after school.
Unknown to me at the time, this early third grade experience 70 years ago was shaping my viewpoint that all of us are equal. Fortunately my parents already believed that and their influence in future years only made my viewpoint that much stronger.
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The difference between a prejudice and a conviction is that you can explain a conviction without getting mad.
RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

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