Reflections on Change

Reflections on Change

by Larry Blanz

I remember an incident that occurred when I was 16 y/o and living in Memphis. It lets me see how I was influenced by my culture, but somehow not controlled by it. I had been pulled over by a policeman for speeding, and while he was writing up the ticket, a nicely dressed and polite black gentleman with his family pulled up and asked for directions. The policeman turned briefly and said “Get out of here, N....r.” I was living with Memphis racism of 1958 and my own internalized racism, but I had not really been paying any attention to it. My peers and I did not talk about it , but rather reinforced it with our occasional jokes about black folks. But here it was slapping me in the face--not as hard as the gentleman with his family--but still a slap. My eyes were not fully opened, much more opening occurred when I went to Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) a year later. As a recruit I lived, ate, bathed, slept next to, and worked with black guys; what an eye opener! I do not want to deceive myself into believing I am totally free of any racism, but those experiences freed me.