Pat Barton • • • • • • • • New Jersey • • • • • • • • On Race
I was about ten years old. My mother and I were buying milk from a street vending machine near my childhood home in Irvington, New Jersey. Standing about 10 yards away was a black man; I recall that his standing nearby made me nervous. After the machine discharged our milk, my mother and the man exchanged a polite hello. As we walked away the man approached the machine to make his purchase. The very brief conversation my mother and I had following that innocuous encounter went something like this: “Mom, that colored man was not bad”. “No, Patrick, not all of them are bad”. Although this is the first conversation I recall ever having about race, it was not my first message – my nervousness standing at that milk machine points to earlier messages received. I’m still unsure what my ten year old mind took away from that conversation with my mother in 1959.