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.