As I have told you in previous blogs, I came back to the States after having lived in England and Morocco in the mid to late 1960’s. Because of my dad’s job, I was shuffled back and forth between four different schools in California, two different schools in “Washington State, and always the same school in Oklahoma. I spent one year of middle school at Choctaw Middle School. I also spent two years of high school at Choctaw high school in Oklahoma. When I was in middle school in Oklahoma, they were talking about busing. Busing was a forced desegregation. There were segregated schools in Oklahoma, but I learned that came about because of where the people lived, not because they were trying to treat anyone badly. Somehow from the history of where people settled, there were white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods, and the many American Indians were dispersed between them. There were different attitudes among the people at Choctaw middle school and high school.
As far as busing was concerned, they didn’t like the idea of busing, but for most of them, it was not because of race. They knew that if busing took place, they would have to get up very early in the morning, be bused across into the city somewhere, go to school, and then be bused home, and be extremely tired and have their days destroyed. Getting up very, very early and spending so many hours riding on a bus just didn’t appeal to anyone. That was the major reason they were against it. However, there were other attitudes too. Some were downright scared of the idea of going into a black neighborhood. They knew there was more violence over there, and they didn’t want to be the victim of violence. I was warned that if I was ever driving through certain neighborhoods, that I should roll my windows up, lock the doors, just keep driving, and never get out. I was told to never go there after dark. I really understood why when I met a certain black girl when I was in college in Oklahoma because her brother took part in a riot in the black part of Oklahoma City during that time, and he was hit with a rock and killed. I learned that there were different kinds of people everywhere regardless of their race. One girl in my middle school shocked me because she said to me that her parents told her that if they began bringing blacks to her school, they would allow her to quit school. She was not a Christian. She was in middle school and sleeping with a guy who was in college. Neither her nor her parents seemed to have good judgement, and they were not representative of the norm, but they existed. After that one year, I went back to California.
By the time I made it back to Choctaw, Oklahoma, I was in high school. Busing had never taken place, but they had tried to make the schools integrated anyway. They found a black guy and a black girl who were willing to attend Choctaw High School so no one would be after them to integrate. Busing didn’t take place in Choctaw. The black guy did wonderfully in Choctaw. He joined the basketball team and became popular. My cousin was a basketball player, and he hung out with my cousin and the other basketball players. My cousin looked white with white skin, blue eyes, and black hair, but he was mixed white and Indian (We aren’t exactly sure how much of any race). His two best buddies from the basket ball team were the black guy and a guy who looked like he was an American Indian, but again, I wasn’t really sure about his race, but it didn’t matter. They were together all the time. As for the black girl who came to Choctaw high school, I never had a chance to meet her. She wasn’t in any of my classes, and I never even saw her. I only heard she was there for a short period of time and decided she would feel more comfortable in a black school, so she went back to the black school. After a year in Choctaw, my family went back to California again, and then after a year there, I was back in Choctaw.
The climate in Choctaw High School was an accepting climate. We had several students who were 100% Indian, many who were 100% white, and many of us that were somewhere in between. They laughed about the fact that they had a “token” black, so the government left them alone. They understood that busing was taking place in other areas, but they didn’t have to deal with it because of the guy on the basketball team. Everyone liked him and admired him because he fit in and could deal with not being around other blacks all the time. The guys in Choctaw who hung out with this black guy were Christians, and they understood that people shouldn’t be judged on the color of their skin. Christianity makes a huge difference for the good in each individual and in society.
Christianity was strong in that school. When I was a junior and a senior, the president of the student council was a Christian, and so was the vice president of the student council. Those are the most popular kids in school. Their causes had nothing to do with race. They fought for the right for girls to wear pants to school. They took care of the students population. The Christians were very represented. The president was of a member of the church of Christ, and the vice president was a Baptist. Neither church believed that dancing was okay, so these guys took care of the Christians in the school. Most high schools had a big dance after the football games, but these guys set it up so the students had the option to either go to a dance or go to a party after the football games. When it was time for the senior prom, we all had a banquet together, and after that banquet we all ate together, and again they set it up so the students had the choice between going to the dance or going to a movie. We had a club on campus called Youth For Christ, and both the president and the vice president of the student council were members of Youth for Christ as was I. We got together with other students who loved God and read scriptures and sang and prayed together. Sometimes we met at the school, but sometimes in other places. We were all invited to the Methodist church once to hear someone sing for us. We all met in someone’s house once to sing and pray. Love and acceptance was encouraged. A song I learned to sing from Youth for Christ was called “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and then all those around can warm up to its glowing.” They were calling for the love that God teaches us to spread.
Just because the most popular kids in school were the Christians didn’t mean the others didn’t exist. When we went on our senior trip, some of the kids spent the night in the parking lot before we left. While we were on the bus waiting to go, we learned that some guy had gotten drunk while spending the night in the parking lot, and he wasn’t allowed to come on the trip with us. I didn’t know him well. I gravitated toward the kids who believed in goodness.
When we had a school assembly, we had a sign that we all used. It was almost like the antithesis of the Black Power sign I had seen in California. Hand signs were all over the place then. The hippies had the peace sign. The politicians had the victory sign. We had a sign in my high school. We held up one finger, the pointing finger, and it meant, “One way to Heaven through Jesus.” When we had a school assembly, we all held up that one finger, every student in the assembly. After a football game one night, I was with a group of kids from Choctaw, and we encountered someone from the opposing team. The guy from the opposing team gave us what is called “the middle finger,” which is a very bad sign, a pornographic sign saying that they didn’t like us at all. If you interpret the sign in words you have to cuss to explain it because it is so bad. When the guy gave us the middle finger, someone from my group from Choctaw High School held his pointer finger up and pointed to Heaven and kindly said, “Do you know what this sign means?” He was answering hate with Christian love. It undid the meanness that was pointed toward us.
We were aware that secret prejudice societies existed, but we wanted no part of them.
One of my friends came from a school deeper in the south, and he told us about it. You see, Oklahoma was south, but we were south west. We weren’t considered the deep south. The deep south was places like Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. My friend from the deep south said where he came from, there were signs up that said that black men were not allowed in town after dark, and he said if the blacks were in town after dark, they would get beat up. We were all shocked to hear that people were that prejudiced. That particular friend was invited to join a group called the Jack Burch Society. It was a secret society, and I only learned about it through him. The Jack Burch Society promised him that if he joined them, they could give him a good future. If he wanted to be a politician, they could guarantee that he would get elected, etc. However, he chose to turn them down. He got the feeling that the Jack Burch Society was like the Ku Klux Klan, and he wanted no part of it.
The prejudice was around, but it was not the norm at Choctaw High School. You must remember, Oklahoma is in what is called “the Bible Belt.” There were many, many people professing and trying to practice Christianity at Choctaw High School. The minority was there, but the push was toward Christianity. People in Oklahoma draw lines, and with Christianity, they are truly trying to find the right lines that need drawn. They are trying to do as the campaign against drugs urged America to to “Just say no.” However, that campaign against drugs lacked one thing, and that is why marijuana is becoming legal in many places in America today. Christians have a reason to try to do the the right thing, to draw those lines, and “just say no” to things that are bad. They believe in a God in Heaven who loves them and wants them to do the right thing. They want to live in Heaven after they die. It causes a personal struggle in each person to find the right path and take it. It helped with race relations when the tensions were so high in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and it can help with other problems too.