In 1965, I spent a year teaching in the Washington, D.C. public school system. For many reasons it turned out to be pivotal in my life. Having grown up in a lily white suburb of Chicago, it was my first time mingling with African American adults and children.
My “speech improvement”traveling program consisted of ten women, seven African American and three white women. In addition, at each school I visited I would meet the resident speech teacher. That person tended to be African American as well.
I was anxious to learn about the African American people and they turned out to be exceptional with fascinating stories. One, the daughter of a mailman and a cleaning lady, went on to graduate school with me and then became CBS’s first African American White House correspondent. Another fellow speech teacher became a professional actress and I met up with her several years later when she was on tour with James Earl Jones for the play, The Great White Hope.
Anyway, my memory that I wish to share is about one day when many of us gathered in a cafeteria for a lunch of scrapple. The women were anxious to introduce scrapple to me since I had mentioned to one of them that I had no idea what scrapple was.
It turns out that scrapple is some sort of cake made of innards that you mix together and fry. Anything like this was foreign to me, although I do have to admit that my mother, a German, used to make creamed giblets. I remember politely taking and bite or two and then reaching for the alternative choice of fare that had also been placed on the table, but I was proud of myself for trying something new that had always been a part of all of my associates’ lives.
What I recall more was getting to know these smart, dynamic and dedicated women and hearing their stories. Each one was unique and each one had a different view on life. One was a strong advocate, one a materialist, one schmoozed with celebrities. They were a great bunch of people and scrapple brought us all together to talk and visit and get to know each other. Throughout the year the discussion would continue on in various forms, but it was our scrapple get-together that I remember most vividly.
In future blogs, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about my year in D.C. The point of the scrapple story is that neither my teaching associates nor myself had any uncomfortable feelings about one another even though we were from different backgrounds. We were anxious to learn about each other and to share our differences. We had open minds and yet we enjoyed sharing our personal stories. Ah, if only that were true for the majority of our country. It just seems so simple to me.