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By Mel White 

Marching all my life - Part 1

On the Bright Side

 


When I was a child, I learned in Sunday School that “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” I took that to heart and used it to form one of the basic foundations of my general understanding of life on this good Earth.

When I was in kindergarten and first grade, I was in a one-room country school near Grand Island, Nebraska, where I picked up a love of learning (and the power of observation) by listening to the lessons for the upper grades. I also learned the joys of teamwork when we little kids sat on the swing seats during recess and bigger kids stood over us and pumped us higher than we could go on our own.

When I was in third grade in Omaha I joined a Brownie Troop, one of whose leaders was Jewish. My mom was thrilled that we could now learn firsthand about that religion. So I learned about another religion from my friend but I also got from my mother the joy of discovering and understanding things that were different from what I knew.

When I was in fourth grade I wanted to play softball on our class picnic, what the boys were getting to do, and wear pants instead of drawing or singing or whatever the girls were doing (while wearing dresses). I had to fight for the right to break tradition, and my parents had to get involved to make it happen. But it did happen and I was one happy picnicker.

When I was in sixth grade, in another school in Omaha, we found out a black boy was going to be joining our class. I had met a lot of kids that were different than me – different religions, different language, different colors – but my folks had taught me to not only accept them but also learn about them, so I was more curious about the new boy in class than, like some of my classmates, worried or fearful. But the day he came to our classroom was rather anti-climactic for all of us as he turned out to be just like any other kid in class.

When I was in seventh grade in Iowa, my cousin Steve, a year younger, and I started arguing about whether men or women were better, smarter, etc. at this, that or the other thing. It was harder for me to understand that should even be a question than to realize that people actually thought one gender was better or more entitled or whatever than the other.

When I was in high school I wrote a short story for our newspaper about a mother in anguish because he son had died. The twist at the end was that the mother and son were black. At that time and place, in our little 1960s Midwest, lily white town, I got as much flack as I did praise for that story.

When I was in high school I also spearheaded several efforts to get more girls sports in our school (this was before Title IX). I started petitions, I got city leaders (including my dad) to speak in favor of girls sports. My dad, a doctor, wrote an affidavit that said contrary to popular belief, it would not be physically damaging for girls to participate in more sports. The athletic director, however, believed (and said so in class, more than once) that girls should be barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen instead of out playing sports.

When I was in college, both in Iowa and Kansas, I continued writing and petitioning, and speaking and working, and marching and singing, and rallying any time I could for equal rights and social justice and peace on Earth.

You see, I’ve been marching, in one way or another, all my life, for a more equitable world for everyone, based on that basic premise that “we are all precious in His sight.”

I’ve been marching all my life, sometimes with success, sometimes not, and there is still work left to do.

I’ve been marching all my life and I’m not about to stop now.

Next week: all about my experiences at the Women’s March in Washington/Los Angeles.

© Copyright 2017. Mel White, a local writer/photographer, has been writing “On the Bright Side” columns for various newspapers since 1996. She is also co-owner/founder of the unusual and eclectic Treasure Trove in downtown Tehachapi; she can be reached at morningland@msn.com

 
 

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