3539– Friday, August 23, 2019 — Four Young Boys Growing Up in America, Part 1


Once upon a time, there were four boys.  Their names were Jack, Whitaker, Jamal and Robert.  They were born and growing up in the United States of America.  The land of the free and the home of the brave.   Each boy was now entering his twelfth year of life.  Each boy lived within ten miles of the other boys.

Jack was a white boy.  His mother was of Italian heritage and his father’s descendants were from Ireland.  Both of Jack’s parents were Catholic.  Jack’s mother worked as a cook in a small little bakery in the town where they lived.  Their town was actually now a suburb as the nearby city had grown large enough to encompass most of what had once been a small town.  Jack’s father was a computer systems analyst working in the nearby city.  He had gone to a local community college where he finished a two-year program in IT. 

Jack went to a public school close to his home.  Most of his school population was white but there were a few black students at the school.  Jack was a friendly kid who never started fights or picked on anyone.  Jack was an average student and seldom got A’s on any subjects.  On the whole, Jack was just another average white boy in a school full of other average white boys.  His parents were hopeful that he would go to college and find a career with good prospects.  His parents had already started a college fund for Jack and believed that with some scholarships and loans, Jack would be able to afford the local public college. 

Jack was taught that he would be successful if he worked hard, was honest and got a good education.  Jack was taught to respect all people and that he should never judge anyone by the color of their skin but only by what was inside of them.  Jack grew up with a modest number of toys and once in a while even had a few designer clothes to wear. 

Whitaker was a white boy.  His mother was Scottish, and his father was English.  It was said that his parents could both trace their heritage to some of the original Mayflower colonists.  His parents were Presbyterian.  Whitaker’s mother was a lawyer in a large law firm in the city.  Whitaker’s father was a wealthy investor and a business owner in the city.  They lived in an exclusive gated community within the same small town as Jack and his parents.  Though their paths never crossed. 

Whitaker went to a private school in a nearby suburb.  Whitaker was a rather moody boy, but he excelled in sports and was on the A list for most of his subjects in school.  His parents shopped at an expensive supermarket and at the high-end retail stores in the city.  Both parents drove Porsches and belonged to an exclusive private country club.  They believed that wealth had its privileges and they had many influential friends.  They had no doubt that when it came time for Whitaker to go to college (There was never any question of whether or not he would go) that they could get him into either Yale or Harvard. 

Whitaker was taught that people got what they deserved in life.  If you worked hard and smart than you would get ahead.  If you did get ahead, it was because you earned it and you should never be ashamed of taking the lead or getting more of the good life.  Whitaker was taught that life was on the whole fair and that people should not be judged by what color they were but what they had achieved in life.  It was up to each individual to forge their own destiny.  He did not worry about clothes or toys since he simply needed to ask for what he wanted, and he would get it. 

Jamal was a black boy.  His mother and father had both grown up in the same city where they now lived.  Jamal’s grandparents had grown up in the deep south and it was said that his great-grandparents had worked as slaves on some plantation in Georgia.  Jamal’s mother and father belonged to an African Episcopal Methodist church in the city.  Jamal’s mother worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in the local hospital.  Jamal’s father was an electrician in the same hospital and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Jamal went to a public school in the city which was forty percent black, ten percent Latino, five percent Asian and forty-five percent white.  Jamal was well liked in school and looked forward to going to school each morning.  Jamal had friends from many different backgrounds.  He was an exceptional student.  He loved math and science.  He was good in sports but would rather hang out with the nerds than with the jocks.  Jamal dreamed of going to college and was hopeful that someday he would be able to get into college. 

Jamal was taught to be courteous to all people and that in the final result it was what was in someone’s heart and not what they wore or the color of their skin that mattered.  He was also taught that life was not fair.  He was cautioned to be careful when around white people especially white police officers.  Jamal learned that black people were not always treated like white people but that he should not let this discourage him.  He could still make something of himself in the world, but it would take more effort on his part.  

Robert was a white boy.  Robert did not know much about his father.  He left when Robert was still a baby.  Robert grew up with a stepfather who told him that his birth father was a loser and a boozer.   Robert’s stepfather was a construction worker in the city.  He worked a great deal and when he wasn’t working, he mostly listened to football and baseball games.  Once in a while, he would take Robert to the shooting range with him.  He told Robert that it was very important to learn how to shoot so that he could protect himself. 

Roberts mother was a recovering alcoholic.  She worked part-time as a nurse-aide in a local assisted living center.  She thought that her genealogy was a mixture of French, German, Irish and even some Native American heritage although she was not certain of the amounts.  She loved her son very much but was usually working when he came home from school.  She would have liked to help him more with his school work, but her shift work made that very difficult.  Robert’s parents were hard working individuals but neither of them had much education or love for learning.  They did belong to a local evangelical church where they took Robert every Sunday. 

Robert went to a public school in the city.  It was the same school that Jamal attended.  Robert stayed with mostly the white boys.  He loved sports but did not have much use for any of the academic subjects.  He was typically disruptive in his classes, usually because he was bored.  He saw little relevance in the academic subjects that he could apply to his life.  He knew his mother wanted him to go to college.  Robert thought that he would really like to be a pro football player and that perhaps he could get into college on a sports scholarship and play football.  If not, he might go into the United States Army. 

Robert was taught not to take any shit from anyone.  He was taught that people will take advantage of you if you let them.  He learned in church school that Christians had built America and that immigrants were people who wanted something for nothing.  Robert was taught to be careful about what he said about other people because the government was politically correct, and it was not OK to say the truth about women and minorities.  Saying the truth could result in people looking down on you.  Thus, it was best to keep your mouth shut unless you were with other god-fearing Christian white people. 



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Fritz
    Aug 23, 2019 @ 08:38:04

    You’re making me nervous about what Part II might be like, John. I can visualize them all, along with their well-described environments.



  2. Trackback: Four Young Boys Growing Up in America, Part 1 (from Aging Capriciously) | Robby Robin's Journey
    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Aug 29, 2019 @ 13:01:05

      Thank you so much Robby. I appreciate your sharing. Perhaps we can stop some of the gun violence in this country. John



  3. Wayne Woodman
    Aug 29, 2019 @ 19:24:47

    Wow, the basis for an ongoing great book here!



  4. jennygirl1278
    Aug 30, 2019 @ 07:39:12

    A captivating story which moved me to tears. Excellent! I remembered how emotional I became 20 years ago upon hearing of the Columbine mass shooting. I kept asking myself why, but now I find myself asking what can be do because there is no definitive answer to my first question. I also found the statistics you presented very interesting as they were much higher than I would have imagined.



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