In the fall of 1976, I was in the sixth grade in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Claiborne Elementary, a school that had an all-white student population just three years before. By the mid-1970s, the enrollment was half-black.
In that fall's presidential election, President Ford was running against Jimmy Carter. Our teacher, Mr. Stewart, asked his sixth-graders to write what we thought should be the qualifications to be president of the United States. I wrote something and waited for everybody else to finish.
Sitting at the desk next to me was a black kid. I happened to glance at his paper. He wrote that the president of the United States should be white.
Blacks and whites didn't mix at my school or in my neighborhood except in fighting and insulting each other. Claiborne Elementary wasn't Shreveport's only angry place. Shreveport was in the throes of busing and desegregation, and the animosity spilled into the city's churches. In a large white Baptist congregation not far from my neighborhood, ...1