I’m from Detroit. A writer of a recent Detroit newspaper article would argue with me on this point since I never actually lived on any street within the city. I am a phony because I only lived near the city of Detroit.
When I lived in Warren, Michigan, I could look across 8 Mile and see Detroit from my kitchen window. (No, I do not hang out with Sarah Palin.)
Before that, I lived in Hamtramck a couple of blocks from the Detroit city limit. Hamtramck is a small city that is completely surrounded by Detroit.
The street I lived on in Hamtramck created and at the same time broke down some racial barriers. I lived on one side of the street where all the houses were occupied by white people. Across the street, all the houses were occupied by black people. Divided right down the middle. At the age of four, all the white and black people sitting on their front porches sort of looked the same to me.
One of my first observations of racism took place in the women’s clothing section of a department store. I was with my mother and grandmother. Two teenage girls debated over the monumental decision of which blouse they should buy.
My grandmother spoke in Polish to my mother, “Just look at that, black people are shopping here!” Her words implied that these black teenagers should be banned from certain places and activities. This is the first time I remember being fed a racist thought.
This was the late 1950’s and within a few years all the houses on my divided street were torn down. The dismantling continued into the 1960’s.