There’s a Polish saying: “The guest sees more in an hour than the host sees in a year.”

When you grow up in a place, your experience is your normality. For example, my wife grew up in what almost any American would describe as grinding poverty — after all, she remembers many times being unable to sleep at night because of hunger. Sometimes supper was rice with one bite of banana. Sometimes it was rice with a little salt. Sometimes it wasn’t anything at all.

But this was her *normal* — and her family didn’t feel sorry for themselves. In fact, they felt *blessed*, for they knew many who were facing much worse problems.

But when an outsider comes to such an area, the poverty is shocking, blatantly obvious. Other examples are legion, from those who grew up and lived their whole lives not just in poverty, but in true tyrannies like North Korea or the old USSR.

So it goes with the Delta’s racism. We couldn’t see it — we were White, we thought our lives were good, everybody “knew their place” in Delta society, and “that’s the way it had always been.” We didn’t know any different.

It was only after I’d spent a lot of time overseas and returned home that I realized what I’d been a part of. To this day I’m sad that none of my family or friends there — not a single one — ever learned the same lesson. They were not stupid, but woefully ignorant of the world around them…and they never felt any need to address that ignorance.

Written by

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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