I am a Navy brat…. My dad joined the Navy when I was 13 in 1974 and we started a whirlwind tour that started in Pensecola, Florida….By the time I got off the “boat” I had been to four different high schools… One of them twice…
My parents were interested in education….So when they got to Pensacola they asked where the best school district was….They were told Gulf Breeze….. In retrospect it couldn’t have been the stellar education…. I got easy A’s there and was so far behind when we got to LeMoore, CA (another story) that I failed 4 straight algebra tests….I am actually a math whiz (though I didn’t know it yet… The science teacher didn’t run labs because the boys were unruly…He had the thickest Mississippi drawl that could just put you to sleep…So why was it the best?
It was considered the best because it was “lily white”. That meant it wasn’t integrated and people who didn’t want their kids going to school with “other” people moved to Gulf Breeze. There was a story that when a black family tried to move there the Klan burned a cross on their lawn for a week….I don’t know if it was true but I believe it probably was…. There were no black families in Gulf Breeze at the time…..The apartment complex where we lived had some nice people in it and some real “red-necks”.
Good thing about being Jewish is that you don’t wear your Judaism on your skin….I have never hid my religion but it is not obvious…. Once they found I was Jewish I was checked for horns….I have never before nor ever since had my head patted to see if I had horns….I didn’t even know why they were doing it….After a while they just nicked named me “the Nigger loving Pollack Jew”. When they first gave me the name I smiled and I said I was only half Polish…. I was on the pier and the leader of the rednecks was talking how bad black people (That was not the word he used) smelled. Because I was young and I was trying to stick up for others I asked him if he got close enough to smell them… He looked at me in horror and coined the nickname… My poor younger brother was beaten up and chased….That redneck in our development tried to run him off the pier with his motorcycle…He thought it was funny to watch my brother dive off the pier…. As an adult I could have handled it better…I had never en-counted true obvious prejudice against either black people or Jews before… I should have figured out a better way to deal with the redneck (I had no choice about dealing with him). As an adult I am embarrassed by the bait I used but I knew he would never get close to people different then him and their conversation truly disgusted me… Maybe that is why my poor brother was persecuted…. See a good old boy wasn’t going to phyically hurt a girl but he did hurt my younger brother…Even in our own Synagogue it was obvious that there was a true distinction between white people and black people….
You don’t have to feel to sorry for me…Dad’s tour of duty only went for five months….Then on to the California desert…. From this experience I have never wanted to live in the “deep” south…. I am sure it is diffenent now but I don’t really want to find out…. I have always tried to fight injustice and prejudice against other people, it doesn’t matter the group…. One might say I am prejudiced against prejudiced people….
Recently I saw the movie “The Help” (I am now reading the book)… It was really good….As I sat in the movie theater in 2011 I realized that 1975 wasn’t so far from 1962 (when the book supposedly took place)…. Then I realized that it was only seven years before I arrived in Pensacola that Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were shot….It was only as I watched the movie did I realize that these were current events….At 13 five years seemed like forever….I recommend the book and movie for everyone… If we do not learn from history we are destined to repeat it….
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