For many years, I have felt ashamed about not recognizing racism in my own life earlier. I just didn’t see it. My family uprooted itself to go to Africa and help people. My dad left his practice in the States to work as a missionary doctor. We left a big, beautiful home where we had acreage, a pool, an orchard… and we were happy to go. Mom once said we left a pool and gained an ocean.
There were kids of every skin tone in my graduating class. There is a rainbow of skin tone in my family, and I have a child of color.
It doesn’t sound like racism.
When we went to Liberia, we brought our lifestyle with us. It was scaled down, of course. I had Star Wars posters on my bedroom walls. We had nice clothes and stereos. We had rogue bars on our windows.
We unintentionally flaunted what we had in front of people who had nothing.
The compound where we lived was full of coconut trees. I could pick up a coconut anytime I wanted to. I could crack it open and eat it, or I could throw it into the lagoon. It didn’t matter. If a Liberian picked up a coconut, they were called a coconut rogue, and chased away. The maintenance department picked up the coconuts and put them into barrels in a fenced area. Many of the people living around us were hungry.
If a child came to the door asking for kool aid, they might be pointed to the hose where they could get a drink of water.
Out by the airport, there is a place called “Smell No Taste.” During the war, the people would come and stand at the fence, smelling the food cooked for the American military.