I have so many conflicting feelings about race and refugees. I have traveled a lot, not as much as I want, and I have experienced different races and cultures. This was good for me and it helped me be accepting and open to humans who were different from me.
When I was very small we were stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. It is the first place I remember clearly as a home. Earlier memories are only of scenes and senses. Anyway, we lived in a trailer park on the base that was filled with other military families. I remember Sam Guthrie and Lynette Singletary, but my best friend was Karen Tucker. The four of us played together and followed the big kids around. Our father’s were in the same squadron and worked together.
We caught lots of horny toads and road bikes and built forts.
Karen’s mother was Rachel and she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Karen and I would watch her paint her long nails and put on her makeup. Karen’s mom and dad went out a lot to the base clubs. My folks were more likely to get together with friends and play cards or dominoes. I also remember that her parents would have some real good fights and when that happened she would come over to my house.
Once while I was hanging out with Karen I asked her mother to iron my hair the way she did Karen’s. Her mother tried to explain that my hair was different from Karen’s and it wouldn’t work. I was quite disappointed because Karen’s hair was so shiny, smooth and perfect.
At the end of my third grade year the whole squadron was transferred to Tucson, Arizona. When that happened we were all separated and scattered around town. I didn’t see any of them for many years. When I was in the sixth grade my mom said we were going to visit with the Tucker’s. I was so excited and ready to see how everyone was.
As we drove to their house I was a bit surprised where we were going. Tucson, like most towns, have areas that are predominately one ethnic group or another. In this case we were heading into an area that had a large African American population. When we got arrived and walked to the door we were met by someone I did not recognize.
Karen Tucker was black. I did not know.
In all of my memories, even now she isn’t distinguished this way in my mind. We were all the same. But when we moved from our small, insulated community on the base to a much larger town, we became what was expected of us in the mid 1960’s. It was shocking and suddenly it seemed Karen and I could no longer be friends. Even though we sat together and walked around the house the bond between us was broken, irretrievably. I was sad when we left and we never saw them again.
I would love it if I could find her.
Children are not born hating, they are taught this. My heart is sad that race and culture is at the heart of most of the world’s conflict, when these things should be cherished and given the chance to enhance our lives.