by 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.

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/Africans
  • Crossing Cultures
  • Education and Life Lessons
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood

Full Transcript
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Davy Crockett by Sue O’Halloran

Hi! I’m Sue O’Halloran and this scene is an excerpt from my one woman show called Dividing Lines: The Education of a Chicago White Girl in 10 Rounds.

This scene takes place in 1955. I was 5 years old. My mother had taken my brother and me to downtown Chicago to Marshall Field’s department store, now Macy’s department store.

Now this was a big deal. Quite an adventure because we rarely left our all white southwest side working class neighborhood. And we took not one but two buses – about an hour ride to downtown Chicago from our single-family homes to the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago where this scene takes place.

**

The first black child I ever met wore a Davy Crockett cap. So did I. We met at the downtown State Street bus stop. Our mothers had gotten us there just in time for the first release of Davy Crockett raccoon skin caps. I was 5 years old. I assumed the boy was the same. We showed each other our caps the very same caps we saw every Sunday night in the Disney TV series, Davy Crockett.

We showed each other our Jim Bowie knives. We chased each other around that bus stop and through all the people. We even sang Davy’s song, “Killed him a bear when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier.”

His bus came first and before either mother could see what was happening, I followed him on. He reached down the steps for me. I reached up the steps for him and just as we touch. We flew away from each other.

I felt my mother’s fingers dig deep into my arm as she yanked me into her body and said, “We don’t go his way.”

I searched for my friend through the reflection of the now closed glass doors. I said, “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…” She looked over both shoulders to see the people behind us, “He lives in a different neighborhood.”

Still her voice in a whisper I didn’t understand. But the lesson was transmitted all the same. He was different. For the first time, I saw difference the way my mother did. But even more subtle, more damaging, never spoken, but transmitted through muscle to bone. We lived in different neighborhoods and where we lived was… better.