Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South

McLaurin, Melton A.

University of Georgia, 1987

p. 37

Writing years after his growing up years, the author reflects on the racism he had inherited with his mother’s milk. A momentary experience, one day, reveals his boyhood prejudice: he tells of a time he put a needle for inflating a basketball into his mouth, and then, a split second later, realized it had just been in the mouth (“drenched with Negro spit”) of a black acquaintance. The event “transformed my prejudice into a physically painful experience . . . The needle in my mouth . . . had been purposely drenched with Negro spit, and that substance threatened to defile my entire being. It threatened me with germs which, everyone said, were common among blacks. These black germs would ravage my body with unspeakable diseases, diseases from the tropics, Congo illnesses that would rot my limbs, contort my body with pain.”