What things in life were once acceptable but are now considered extremely inappropriate?
Answered by: Mark Hallock,former COO at Business (1991-2019)
I’m a M(63) White. I wanted to start with my description, so anyone reading would know who is answering.
Your question is actually a difficult one to answer for myself. I say that because it truly is dependent upon how and where you were raised in the 60s and 70s. I’ll do my best to explain.
My father was a officer in the Air Force for 27 years. Because of his decision to serve the country we were raised primarily on military bases. During his 27 years we moved 15 times.
Race Relations - Known today as Racist
Now with that said, on July 26, 1948 President Truman signed into law Executive Order 9981 - Wikipedia This order called for the full integrating of the US military.
Many non-military people may not be aware, but on all military bases the neighborhoods are separated based on Officer and NCO & enlisted. Not on the color of one’s skin. Keep in mind I’m talking about the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
In the 60s, off bases, the Civil Rights Movement was happening. Many children of military personnel actually didn’t understand why black people were being so abused. As we watched TV there were fire hoses being used, dogs biting and white police hitting black people. It made no sense.
My friends were black, white, Hispanic etc., we didn’t see color. That was primarily because of how we were raised and our neighbors were of color. Never were racist comments said, basically because we didn’t know them, and why would they be used? In a way we lived in a bubble.
I remember clearly my father having talks with us during dinner about how we would like to be treated. And how to treat others. He would discuss adversity, then we would discuss how we would handle particular situations. He really hammered into our heads about friendship. What a friend is, and the color of their skin. He spent a lot of time having open discussions about character, what it meant and what our feelings were.
As children, we learned early it didn’t matter what the color of your father was, they still got killed. As children, we were there for our friends who would never see their dad again. Lastly, as children, we cried with our friend who would never see his father again, our emotions included the thoughts that I may never see dad again.
I had a culture shock in 1968. My father left for his first tour of combat flying the F-4 fighter. Thinking, I believe he felt he wasn’t coming back. So before he left he moved us to St. Petersburg FL which was where my mother’s parents lived.
It was my first time attending a truly civilian school, while all of my other schools tended to be primarily children of military personnel with some civilian students. The racist (I didn’t know what that word meant at the time, but I knew what was said was horrible to another person) remarks that were being said were actually scary to me. I hadn’t been around people who disliked another for their skin color. And they hated me for talking to blacks.
After a week I talked to my mother and told her, I didn’t want to go school, I hated it. During this time racist comments were acceptable, if something were said it wasn’t a issue, for the white kids, I can’t imagine the impact on kids of color. Of course she asked why. I began to explain how I’d heard some really bad words about people. And I was called names for making friends with two black guys whose fathers were also in the military. McDill AFB was close.
Well my mother wasn’t my father, she did her best to explain why the kids were acting the way they were. She really didn’t help me understand why there was hate of others without ever knowing them.
When I came home the next day my mother’s father was there. I loved him, but really didn’t know his history, he was just grandpa. I did know he was in WW2, but at my age I didn’t really get the full significance.
Of course I was excited to see him and went through the standard pleasantries, then he became serious and said, “Your mom felt you might have some questions.”
I began to repeat the conversation I’d had with my mother and the racist comments.
Although surprisingly, I actually remember not only the conversation but how we were sitting. As my grandpa began, he asked me what I knew about WW2. I did my best to explain what I’d been taught and read in history books.
He asked me, “Have you seen movies or pictures of WW2?” Sure.
He then said, “How many black people have you seen in the pictures?”
I said none.
It’s then he began to tell me about his experiences while in the 95th Infantry Division under Patton during the battle of Metz in France.
** I remembered my talk, absolutely didn’t remember his division. Had to call my sister, she’s the family historian.
He had never spoken of his war experiences, and this was the only time he ever talked about it. If in error I were to push too far in later years asking questions about the war, he’d say kindly, with his big smile, “You’re a pain in my ass,” then would walk away.
He didn’t go into specifics, I was too young, I wasn’t too young to get his points.
He talked vaguely about combat and how it changes a person in negative and positive ways. It’s then he started to tell me about the battle of Metz. I was very uncomfortable, I could see how just him talking about this was impacting him. His normally bright eyes began to get tears and red.
As he spoke he said he actually didn’t know how many of his friends were lost because he had intentionally forced himself to try to forget.
He spoke of the 761st tank battalion, the pure bravery of these men. And how these tanks saved so many while losing so many brave tankers.
It wasn’t until later that he and everyone else found out the men in the tanks who gave their lives to save others were black.
He continued, “At the time I just couldn’t understand why these blacks gave all for white people?”
He said, “You know before that moment I had little contact with a black person, everything I’d been told was very negative. But here were these men, slugging it out with German tanks. When a lull in the fighting happened I went over to one of the tank crews who were busy making repairs. I thanked them, and let them know ‘the’ guys know how much as a group you gave, and I’ll pray for you and your black friends you lost. It’s then the Sergeant comes over and we shook hands. He took a few seconds and then said, the ‘bullet doesn’t see white or black, the ground sees only one color, red. We’re in this together.”’
As he continued, he said that stuck in his mind, even today (the day I was speaking to him). He said “On the battlefield there aren’t colors, it’s your pal, his pal, a group of friends and it continues into tens of thousands. We have each other’s back.”
“When you go to school tomorrow you have a decision to make, what’s your core values?” (That needed a explanation but I understood) “What has your father taught you how to judge others? What is your character?”
It didn’t take long for me to decide. I didn’t care what the color of a persons skin was, it had to do with their character.
***Wow. Thanks to everyone for the upvoting, shared stories and positive comments. I do want to share that I have two sons one is 28 the others 25. My father died in 1977 but what he instilled in me, I did my sons. Character and then one other thing, always treat girls/women with dignity and respect. As I observe my young men today, as a father, I’m filled with pride.