I grew up in the Deep South, at a time of even deeper segregation, a convenient term used to describe the complete separation of the races. It defined every aspect of our lives, where we lived, worked or went to school, and, especially, where we worshiped. (Martin Luther King, quipped, that Sunday morning church services were the most segregated hours.)
For families venturing out for entertainment or recreation it meant figuring out what was opened to us, and staying away from those that were restricted. We were cautioned at an early age to not cross those boundaries. As I look in retrospect it became clear that our parents tried their level best to protect us from the harsh realities of this situation. I can remember in particular, that we were taught to say “yes, sir” or “no, sir,” in public when addressing white adults, to assure that the proper deference was shown.
A ritual that most families faced was to experience their young pick up roots and leave the area to faraway places like New York and other cities on the East Coast or California, to look for work and a better life, which was to remain ever elusive for blacks living in the South.
More seriously was living with the apprehension and fear of an ever present police that was ready and all too willing to enforce the rules by any means at their disposal, even if it meant the use of violence. There was an implicit understanding that they were permitted to do anything they wanted, as long as the status quo was maintained. At the beginning of the civil rights era, when that system was being seriously challenged for the first time, the violence increased, with lynchings, cross burnings and raids on homes and even the murder of individuals who had crossed the line and dared to challenge the system…