I remember the day well. It was the summer of 1964, and I was living in La Grange, a suburb on the west side of Chicago. We lived across the street from a park, and La Grange had a very good summer recreational program for the kids, so I spent a lot of time over there participating in the activities.
Every couple weeks or so, we’d have some activity where we’d hop on a bus and go somewhere such as a Cubs game. This day, we were going to go to the Cermak Pool (now known as the Cermak Aquatic Center), a large outdoor pool over by the Brookfield Zoo. I was excited; some of my favorite memories of my life up until that point were from summer days spent by Minnesota lakes, and I missed splashing around terribly.
I paid for my ticket (15 cents if I remember correctly) and went into the showers. Next to me was another boy my age. We talked as kids do, and became fast friends for the afternoon. As we were playing around in the shallow end, people gave us really strange looks. This didn’t make any difference to us; if anything, it made us even more energetic in our goofing off.
An lady finally came up to us and said to us; “Shouldn’t you boys each stick to playing with other boys of your own kind?” We looked at her completely befuddled and asked her what she meant. She looked at us and pointed to my friend and said “You’re black.” Then, she pointed to me and said “You’re white.”
We both looked at her and shook our heads. We couldn’t see why that made any difference at all. After all, all it meant was that he had a darker suntan than I did. Then, we noticed something – we both had white palms. This proved to us that she was worried about nothing, and we returned to splashing each other and getting into the kind of trouble nine year old boys get into.
Wouldn’t this world be a better place if we all saw our fellow humans through a child’s eyes?