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The bad old days

Back in the 70's I was having afternoon tea in a plush hotel in Johannesburg where I was staying for a few days. I was served by a very sweet and gentle old man who had a beaming smile.

After I had enjoyed the beautiful tea and cakes, and the service with a smile, I decided to you back to my room before taking a walk into town. I got into the lift but before the doors had chance to close the very same man that had so nicely served me tea was wanting to get in the lift. He hesitated for a while before asking if he could come into the lift with me... strange I thought. Of course I said 'yes'. Why would he think he would have to ask to get in the lift with me? He looked delighted at my reply.

I later mentioned this to someone and they informed me that he would not be allowed to get into the same lift as me without asking permission first. The reason why... he was black. I felt sick and ashamed all at the same time, how could anybody treat another in such a way.
I had a similar experience in Winter Park, Florida @ my dear grandmother's funeral in 1970. A lifelong friend of Grandma's was standing outside the church's memorial service. I was raised in the North, where racism is more subtle. I had believed that discrimination was pretty much over (I was young, idealist & naive). Although I tried very hard to get this dear lady to come into the church, she adamantly refused--she "knew her place" & couldn't go into a WHITE church. I was shocked & heartbroken. "White & Church" don't go together. What hypocrisy. Sad story.


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