One day near the end of World War II, our mother warned my brother Bob and me to stay away from the fence that divided our farm from the neighbors. Those neighbors had some scary workers hoeing weeds over there. We assumed they were dangerous — to weeds if to nothing else.
They were German prisoners of war. Bob and I had been told that Germans were Hitler’s pals. But those weed killers across the fence were not so dangerous once they had been imprisoned in North America.
They hoed slowly, watched by one old guard with an ancient rifle. But the prisoners weren’t going anywhere. What else could they do — hitchhike across America, swim the Atlantic and report for duty in a shattered Germany?
But there were Germans and then there were other Germans. Across the ocean, Germans killed Americans — and vice versa.
Never miss a local story.
Sometime during the war years, our family would share Sunday dinner with a family down the road from our farm. That was a puzzlement for me. I realized our dinner companions were 100 percent German, although American born. Our family was partly German, like millions of people in this country. So what was that all about?
During the war we learned to sort ourselves from bad Germans, but color was no guide. And boy we were white, but the same was true of practically everyone. Very few people in Idaho then were any color but white. Idaho’s Boise Valley didn’t have more than a dozen dark faces. We hardly ever saw, let alone talked to, a person with a dark face. And all they saw of us was a blizzard of snooty white.
I was 18 and entering college before I had a face-to-face, black-to-white chat with people of color. Frankly, I enjoyed it, just as I would enjoy chatting with Germans and some Idaho senators.
I was placed in a large overflow dormitory with foreign students from Latino countries. That didn’t scare me. After all, I had shown the courage to watch Nazis hoeing weeds.
Getting to know those different students was one of the best things education ever did for me. Those foreign students opened my eyes to the wider world. I enjoyed their merry conversation. They introduced me to foods I had never tasted, books I couldn’t put down and, best of all, they gave me Latin tips on how to meet girls. You never forget a friend like that.
The other day, I read that the white majority in this country will be gone by 2043. My white color will lose the lead in 27 years. Our country will have more dark than light faces.
If you are one of those old coots who grew up in white isolation and now fear the coming darkness of skin, do yourself a service by getting to know people from other parts of the planet. Stifle your fear. Get to know your neighbors, including your dark neighbors.
In years of mingling, blending and socializing, I have never regretted a conversation or a pizza with people of other hues. Variety in humanity is a kick in the pants. Don’t spend your life running from pleasurable conversation.
And don’t worry about dark faces becoming more numerous than ours. If you are truly terrified of people of other shades, don’t let it get you down. People our age will be dead soon.
Actually, nobody is going to become the majority in the new world. We are almost all minglers now. Both white and dark people have mixed children and grandchildren. Both white and dark-faced people want a piece of the birthing action.
Ultimately, we are becoming a higher level of cross-bred humans. Everybody will lose the silly color competition as we all learn to tan our hide.
Contact Bill Hall at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.