I ate breakfast rather than fight racial injustice

W.D. Hogan

I was raised in the Valley View in Cooke County, Texas, during the 1950s and '60s. At the time, Valley View was overwhelmingly white with ony a few scattered AFrican-Americna families in residence. The school district was not integrated, and black children attended the all-black school in Gainesville. Needless to say, I had very limited exposure to any people of color.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army in October of 1963 after graduating from high school and a brief, unsuccessful attempt at higher education. The Army had been fully integrated since the Truman administration, so my basic training unit at Fort Polk was also fully integrated. I had no significant problems dealing with fellow soldiers of different ethnic backgrounds.

Shortly before Christmas in 1963, we were all granted leave to spend the holidays at home. I traveled to Dallas on a bus loaded with fellow GIs. We departed very early in the morning and were all dressed in our finest Army dress uniforms, which we wore proudly.

We stopped for breakfast in an East Texas town. It was there that the ugly face of racism hit me right in my face. The proprietors of the restaurant refused to serve the black soldiers, and they returned to the bus without breakfast.

To my undying shame, I did nothing. I just sat there with the rest of the white soldiers and ate my breakfast, when I should have protested the restaurant's actions by at least leaving hungry and joining my black brothers on the bus. To this day I regret my cowardly inaction.

To any of my fellow trainees who were refused service simply because of the color of their skin even though they were in U.S. Army uniforms, I'm sorry that I did nothing. Some of you may well have given your lives serving the United States, but were denied breakfast simply because you were black. How deplorable.

As I have matured, I have attempted to treat all fellow human beings with courtesy, dignity and respect regardless of their skin color. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of us could do these simple things?

W.D. Hogan of Waco is a retired federal employee.

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