This I Believe

Melissa - Tipton, Indiana
Entered on March 3, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: change

This I Believe

The Power of Change

I believe in the power of change. My hometown is changing. Like many Midwest towns, it has historically been white. My mother grew up in the 1930s and 40s. She remembered when “coloreds,” as she referred to African-Americans, were allowed to work here during the day but required to leave the county before the sun set. When I attended school here in the 1970s and 80s, I would occasionally notice a black family around town. But before I had the chance to meet them, they were long gone. It always made me sad.

Though the KKK was before my generation’s time, the group’s long ago activities here are no secret. My mother and many of her generation, grew up with certain stereotypical, and prejudice attitudes. She was taught that the races didn’t mix socially and certainly not in families. She didn’t think herself better than anyone; she just had been taught it was wrong. For her, it was simple to accept what she had been taught.

When my husband and I decided to adopt a black baby, Mother was not thrilled. Still, our little J. won her heart the moment she saw him. He was a baby that needed a loving home. On her death bed, three years later, Mother didn’t want to let him go.

When J. joined our family we lived out of state but after Mother passed on, we decided our children should grow up closer to family. My husband found a job and we moved back to my hometown. We were well aware of the town’s history but figured times had changed. We decided to give it a try but would stay only if it was good for J.

We’ve been here over five years now and for the most part, J. is well liked and accepted. He is beginning junior high and is still one of only a couple blacks in the entire school system. But nowadays, when I look around the streets, businesses and parks of my town, I see a little more color. It is a good sight.

I’m proud of this town. I have seen people relearn what they’ve been taught for generations. When most people look at my son, they see a boy, yet I’m realistic enough to know that a few still harbor certain attitudes. Most though, realize that different groups of people can live, learn from and love each other while still preserving their own traditions.

Jackie Robinson is my boy’s hero. Thanks to the courage of people like him, thanks to the goodness of mankind, change is still happening. History is valuable and we can’t forget. Parts of history are ugly but what gives the present more beauty is the fact that we are learning from our past. That’s why I believe in the power of change.