RUNNING, READING AND NEIGHBORS
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My mother still lives in the house that our family moved into in 1963. There are still a few original neighbors, but very few. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in and it is still what I call home. In the early 1970’s the house across the street went up for sale. Joe and his family were moving to the more upscale, College Terrace community. I didn’t know much about selling houses at the time. I guess there were a lot of things that I was unaware of.
Growing up, one of my best friends was a neighborhood kid named Michael Washington. Mike and I were in the same class every year. We were in a special education program called MGM. Mentally Gifted Minors. After a lot of testing, I guess they thought we were smart. I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mike and I were very competitive. We played hours of chess together. The other biggest things we had in common were reading and running.
We had the two highest reading scores in the entire school district. The director from the school district said that I had the second highest reading level ever tested. Michael of course, had the highest.
We were also the two best quarter-mile runners in the school. So a race was held to see who was the fastest. Mike and I came out strong and quickly dropped all of the other runners. With about 200 yards to go we agreed that being that we were such good friends and being so equal that we should cross the finish line together. Mike says that I broke first, but I say it was him. The last 100 yards becomes exactly what it should be, an all out sprint. I won a very close race.
The comments that followed I didn’t understand at the time. People said that it was backwards. Mike should have been the better runner and I should have been the better reader because Mike is black and I am white. Then the house across the street sold.
Our family was at home in the evening, when there came a knock at the door. I followed my Dad to the door. It was Joe from across the street. I remember he had his head hanging down like his dog had just died.
Joe says to my Dad, “Jim I came over to tell you that we sold our house”. My Dad’s response was “good did you get what you wanted for it? Joe explained, “yes, every penny of it.” “I had to sell it to them, I wanted to sell it to another family but these people offered full price and I had to take it.” Joe finally looked up at my Dad and made eye contact. He said, “Jim, I sold to a black family”. My Dad tells Joe, “good, I’m glad you got what you wanted, good luck with the move”. Joe hung his head again, said “so long” and went back across the street.
I asked my dad what that was all about. He explained that where Joe comes from you don’t let Black people move into a neighborhood. “Why”, I asked “aren’t they going to be good neighbors?” “Just like anybody else, we’ll just have to see when they get here.” was my Dads reply.
That was my first lesson in African-American Economics 101. Even as a kid I realized what Joe had said. Being a Black family, they did not have the same ability to negotiate the price. Their only chance was to pay full price or they could not get the home at all.
That family that moved in, is still across the street from my Mom. Reggie and his family are the best neighbors anybody could wish for. A great example would be when my Mom, in her 70’s fell and broke her arm. In the middle of the night, the first people to be there for her were Reggie and Brenda. Great people, great family and great friends.
So to hell with the people who said that said Michael and I got it backwards. Running, reading or playing chess, I am a better man for having been pushed by my friend Mike. And I am thankful for the great neighbors that live across the street from my Mom.