Where I grew up there were no black families. When I was, oh, 12 or so, a Mexican family rented my uncle’s farm, across from my grandpa’s place.
They must have been the first non-whites in the county. “John” (Juan?) was in my class and we sat together some. We played when I visited my grandpa and he wasn’t working in the field with his family.
That contact motivated me to take a Spanish correspondence course in the 10th or 11th grade, when I found out that a friend a grade ahead of me was doing it.
Then there was the little town of Lafe, settled by German immigrants in the late 1800s. We often lived in and around the town. Most surnames, my schoolmates among them, were Howe, Tritch, Roush, Mueller. But aside from the big Lutheran church, they weren’t much different than me.
So I grew up in something of a racial vacuum. Singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” And we all meant it too. And knew it was true. And harbored no ill will in our hearts.
Forty years later, I’m in Brazil, where the Portuguese mixed with the African and the native American, and later came Italians, Japanese, Lebanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Germans and a smattering of everybody else from around the world. All colors, all possible mixtures.A., from mainly Portuguese descent, is married to Y., whose parents are from Japan. B., his brother, married a woman of Indonesia. T., with evident traces of native American, married a woman of German parents. Dark-skinned L., married light-skinned P. And on it goes.
At church, one of the elderly ladies calls me her white son. A high compliment.
Far from the upheaval of national events, in secluded rural oblivion, my roots went from a nearly monolithic social stratus to the most varied racial and social mix possible.
All without a hitch. Because the same God made us all.