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"I never looked at my dad the same way"

Born 1982 in Southern West Virginia, where I was raised until 4th grade. I am a WASP-y female.

I remember playing in the school yard with my friends in elementary school. We used to play on the swings, anything creative with a jump rope or two, and marbles or jacks. It was before the Internet and electronics were on school grounds. I recognized people only in terms of friendliness. One of my closest friends was a little boy named Curtis Cunningham and he was amazing at most games, but never gloated or was rude. He was skinny, funny, and my one of my favorite people.

I started noticing that other kids weren't as friendly to Curtis, and I din't understand, I mean, after all what's not to like about a funny, nice kid who is a great partner in any schoolyard competition? I remember asking some of the then forming "popular girls" why they didn't play with Curtis. They explained that he was different, that he was black. I looked at him with new eyes. I had honestly never really looked at him that way before. Needless to say, it didn't change my friendship with him, but it did with those girls.

Later as I got older, I remember talking with my dad about Curtis and how great he was. My dad was so worried that I would end up dating him as I got older. We lived in West Virginia in the late 80's and this was unacceptable socially then. As I got a little older my dad never forgot my friendship with Curtis, even when my parents divorced and I moved with my mom to FL. I would still visit and get so excited to see Curtis. My dad once told me he would rather me tell him one day that I was a lesbian than dating a black man, at least then I couldn't have kids. I was shocked and I never looked at my dad the same way.

This was my first experience with racism and realizing that besides liking or disliking someone, you were supposed to be BORN a certain way. It never made sense to me, and still doesn't. Though things have changed in West Virginia, and it's now more acceptable. I still always view myself as "very different" from society and someone who is proud to form their own opinions based off of personal experience.