Assata Shakur said that African American ancestors were released from the physical bondage of slavery, but many have ended up in mental bondage.

A dark-skinned African American woman named Alice and a “white man” named Paul met, fell in love and married. They produced two very light-skinned children. Alice was a stay-at-home mother until both children were in grade school.

As soon as the younger child entered grade school, Alice got a job. Her supervisor was a black man, who made no bones with Alice and other black employees about his dislike for and distrust of “white people.” Alice observed that, in spite of what her supervisor said, he jumped up from his desk, bowed up and down and gave a nervous giggle whenever someone white was in his presence. Alice clenched her jaws every time she witnessed her supervisor acting this way, but she said nothing to him. She wondered what had occurred in his background that made him act like a frightened slave under the duress of plantation overseers.

Alice decided to bring her older daughter to work with her on a bring-your-child-to-work day after receiving approval from her supervisor. When Alice took her daughter over to her supervisor to introduce her, her daughter extended her hand to him as she had been taught to do. Alice’s supervisor did not get up nor did he shake her hand. He just stared at Alice’s daughter disapprovingly.

“Is she adopted?” her supervisor asked.

“No,” Alice replied.

“She’s awful light to be yours. Is her father white or something?” her ignorant supervisor continued (“Plantation mentality and midget minds” — J. Stevenson).

Alice’s daughter squirmed a bit and looked at her mother.

“Her father appears to be white,” Alice quipped, “Although in America one can never be sure.”

Alice took her daughter back to her desk. She looked at her daughter and gave her a hug.

“Don’t ever let ignorance destroy you,” Alice advised. Her daughter smiled.

Alice’s supervisor never talked to Alice again about white people after seeing Alice’s daughter. In fact he did everything he could to make Alice appear to be a bad employee. He now accused her of having a bad attitude even though he considered Alice to be a great employee prior to discovering that her husband was white. He also started suggesting that Alice’s relationships with white male employees were more than professional. Alice had to come to grips with the fact that she no longer had any respect for her supervisor and no longer wanted to do a good job for him. She transferred to another department where she was appreciated for her skills, and where the color of her skin and her husband’s skin was not justificaton for abuse. Alice now worked with people who at least had sense enough to keep it to themselves if the color of one’s skin bothered them.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...