When I was a young child in the late 60s, I remember our summer vacation road trips to visit my Grandparents in Saline, Louisiana and Tyler, Texas. Our entire family – aunts, uncles, cousins – all drove from southern California down south. We had an awesome time with family and friends; however, I remember trips “to town” being extremely stressful. The adults gave us extra-long lectures about how to behave while in town, and everyone had to take extra time to “make water” before we left the house because we would not be allowed to use the restroom.
I vividly remember a time when my Grandmother and I were shopping in a “Five and Dime” store in downtown Tyler, Texas. Like most five year olds, I saw a restroom sign and automatically “had to go.” I told my Grandmother I had to go. Immediately, I saw a look of panic and horror cross her face just like in the movies. She looked at me and said, “how bad do you have to go?” I replied, “realllly bad.” All of a sudden with no warning, she grabs my hand and we’re running full speed out of the store and down the block to this big fancy building, which I later learned was the court house. When we arrived at the restroom the doors were labeled, “White” and “Colored.” Being a young child from California, where when you had to go… you just went, I was baffled by this phenomenon from which we had been previously sheltered. In any case, my Grandmother takes me to the restroom and as we are existing I ask, “what does ‘colored’ mean?” With great sadness in her face she replied, “Baby, that’s just the way it is for now.” There was no further explanation. She kissed my cheek, gently took my hand and we continued our shopping excursion “in town.”
This is a photograph of my niece, Kennedy, visiting the Civil Rights Museum where she learned the intricacies of “White” and “Colored” in a safe, welcoming environment.