November 5, 2008

Collective Memory

When I was in second grade, a black family moved in next door to us. They were the first in our very white neighborhood, but were followed pretty quickly by two more families as General Electric expanded in the late 80s in central Virginia. It’s the first time I can remember being aware not just of race but what it meant socially, as some members of the neighborhood weren’t too happy with this development. But I became fast friends with Courtney up the street, while my brother made long-lasting friendships with Joe and DeeDee, his closest friends to this day. This was not even twenty years after my mom’s New Jersey high school was integrated in the early 70s. Her class yearbook photos, always the large-format classy portraits where everyone’s wearing a black dress or a suit, suddenly included a sprinkling of people without the Polish, Russian, or Italian heritage that had always made up the entirety of the school. Now, twenty years removed from my first memories of race and forty from my mom's, my future children will grow up not only with a school and a neighborhood that reflect the diversity of the American populace, but a government that does as well. And that’s pretty cool.

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