By Storyteller Susan O’Halloran

 

Story Summary:

 As a five-year-old Sue met a boy her age who was different from her. Sue’s mother subtly lets Sue know that she is not to be friends with the boy.

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here:  Davy-Crockett

Discussion Questions:

  1. When was the first time you met someone of another “race”?  What effect did it have on you?
  2. What unspoken lessons around race have been transmitted to you?
  3. What does Sue mean when she says that it was “even more damaging” that she received a message from her mother that they and the place where they lived was “better”?
  4. How was Sue damaged by being taught that she, her family and her community were superior?

Resources:

  • Critical White Studies by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanci
  • Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

Themes:

  •  African American/Black History
  • Crossing Cultures
  • Education and Life Lessons
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood

Full Transcript:

The first child I ever met, who was my age, who was black wore a Davy Crockett cap. So did I. We met at the Downtown Chicago State Street bus stop. Our mothers had gotten us there just in time for the first release of Davy Crockett raccoon skin cap from Marshall Fields Department store. I was five years old and I assumed the boy was the same age. We showed each other our caps. The very same caps that Davy wore every Sunday night in the Disneyland TV series. We showed each other our Jim Bowie rubber knives. We chased each other on that bus stop bench. We even sang Davy’s song, “Kilt him a bear when he was only three. Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier.”

His bus came first. Before either mother could see what was happening, I followed him on. He reached down the steps to me. I reached up to him and just as our fingers touched. We flew away from each other. I felt my mother’s fingers deep into my arm as she yanked me back into her body and she said, “We don’t go his way.”  Well, I searched for my friend in a reflection of the glass. And I said to my mom, “Well, maybe we’ll be in the same kindergarten class.”

“No you won’t,” she chopped the words into my ear. And then she added, “He lives,” and she turned to make sure nobody else was hearing. She said, “Oh, honey he lives in a different neighborhood.” Still, her voice in that whisper, I didn’t understand. But the lesson transmitted all the same. He was not the same as us. For the first time I saw it the way my mother saw it. But even more subtle, more damaging, never spoken but transmitted through muscle, right into my very bones. We lived in different places and where we lived was better.