One of my earliest memories is of a restaurant in rural Louisiana.
In the early ‘60s my aunt and uncle and cousins lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, and we went to visit them on holidays and in the summer.
They had found out about a barbecue place that was way out in the country, a place owned by an African-American man named Ike who called his restaurant “N—— Ike’s.”
The best barbecue around, they said.
In the early 1960s, white people – even seemingly good, decent, Christ-following people – didn’t get the hurtfulness of that word.
Even when a Black man used it to describe himself.
I had to have been all of three or four years old, so I only remember the trip to Ike’s in snapshots.
Scenes of tall green grass blowing in the humidity. Shanty-like houses up on cinder blocks along the way.
And one scene from inside the restaurant that I won’t ever forget.
Seated from my highchair I could peer into the dining room every time a waiter passed through the kitchen door, and there I saw a whole room full of people talking and laughing and enjoying themselves.
I don’t know that it ever registered with me at that age that we were the only white people in the place.
I don’t think it mattered to me.
And I don’t think it ever occurred to me that the reason we were sitting in the kitchen was because our skin was a different color from the owner’s.
But somehow I remember that scene.
Of looking through a door into a room where other people could go, but I couldn’t.
And wondering why.
Glad my memory of that experience is only a snapshot.