When Bigotry Turns Into Friendliness
by Ruth Horowitz
Shuffling through papers I’ve saved over a lifetime, I come across a single typewritten sheet yellowed with age. A carbon copy, it’s difficult to read for its blurriness. It’s a text marked by what I first believe to be my teacher’s pencilled in corrections. My mother must have typed it on our small black Smith-Corona typewriter, but it’s not her handwriting that made those corrections.
It’s a one-page play entitled, “When Bigotry turns into Friendliness.” I have no recollection of the play or its performance other than the evidence this single page provides me. I recognize my fourth grade friends listed as the cast members: Ellen Thompson, Helene Braverman, Joanna Mehrer and Susan Ostrov. Then I notice grammar errors in the corrections, and that the printing itself is wonky, and I decide that the girls edited the text themselves.
The play itself is thin in plot: a Black girl is ostracized because of her skin color and tells her mother. The mother approaches other mothers, reveals her child’s difficulties, and together, they decide to create a club that will accept everyone. Tillie is happy to be told by her mother about the club, and all the children get along from then on.
When I first see it, the title alone makes me laugh and cry together. I am at once charmed by the quirky expression of my earnest desire and overcome by a sadness for the child so burdened by this concern. Then my adult grief sets in, and I am left to wonder, when indeed will bigotry turn into friendliness?
Ruth has been homesteading with her husband in the wilds of Nova Scotia for the past 45 years.